GTO Tri-power Rebuild

1965 GTO Tri-power engine

What helped set the Pontiac GTO apart from other muscle cars of the era was the tri-power induction system: three two-barrel Rochester carburetors on a cast-iron intake manifold, each with it's own small chrome air filter. Before the GTO model was introduced, tri-power had been available on full-size Pontiacs since 1957.

The three carbs were fairly intact, including the factory air-horn tags. The only parts I needed to buy to complete the tri-power were the (correct) steel fuel lines and three carb kits. If you're missing the correct fuel lines and fittings, don't be tempted to use rubber hoses and a chrome fuel block. On 1964-1966 Tri-power engines, there are potentially eight places for possible leaks (versus two for a 4-barrel).

Pontiac GTO Tri-power carb rebuild

Rebuilding the tri-power carbs were straightforward, actually easy compared to a 4-bbl Quadrajet carburetor. Keep one assembled to use as an example while rebuilding the other two.

Identifying Tri-power Carburetors

Rochester did not start stamping numbers on their two-barrel carburetors until 1968, and many people with earlier carbs mistakenly believe that the numbers which appear in a circle on the float bowl are carb numbers. These are actually casting numbers which Rochester used for many years on many different two-barrels, and will not help you determine if your two-barrel is a correct Tri-power carburetor or not.

All Tri-power carburetors were identified by tag numbers attached to left-front air-horn screw, and these are more often than not missing. The best way to tell if it is a Pontiac Tri-power carburetor is by the fuel inlet - center carbs have inlet facing forward, and outer carbs have outlet facing to the right.

Tri-power Center Carburetor

The center carburetor supplies fuel to the engine by itself, until full throttle when the outer carbs kick in. Although the 1966 center carb has a larger throttle-bore (1-11/16") than the earlier carbs (1-7/16'), the venturi size is smaller. Center carbs of 1964 and 1965 Tri-powers have 1-1/4" venturi. The 1966 center carb has a 1-3/16" venturi.

Tri-power Outer Carburetors

As mentioned, at part-throttle, the engine runs solely on the center carburetor, while the end carbs do nothing. At wide-open throttle, the linkage opens all six barrels. The outer carbs are very simple. They have no idle circuits and no choke. All outer carbs from 1959 to 1966 are similar, and have a 1-3/8" venturi.

1965 Pontiac GTO 389 Tripower engine

After rebuilding the GTO Tri-power setup, the engine ran smooth and trouble-free. My car was equipped with a 4-speed manual transmission. All GTO's so equipped used mechanical linkage, which work crisper than the vacuum-operated linkage found on automatic transmission models.

Tri-power rebuild