Powershifting, or bangshifting, as it is sometimes called, is a technique drag racers often used in the past to get down the track more quickly. Without any of the modern driver aids, it was entirely up to the driver to squeeze every last tenth of a second out of the car. This is where the practice of powershifting came in, which basically entailed keeping the throttle wide open as you quickly shifted the car into the next gear, in order to maintain as much momentum as possible. It takes some skill to do it well, and if done wrong, could have catastrophic results. If you ever watch Roadkill Garage, you will know that Steve Dulcich often likes to exhibit his bangshifting abilities.
I stumbled across a video today of someone driving what looks to be a 1969/70 Pontiac GTO, which also captures the powershifting technique. It’s quite something to watch from this perspective, and a few things really stand out. Take the sound, for instance – the car has a lovely burble as he cruises round, but at the point the video starts below, you hear the secondaries open as soon as he floors it, and it changes dramatically to a full-on roar. The other thing that is noticeable is the speed. The car doesn’t just sound fast, it is fast, and you’ll notice that if you carefully watch the speedometer. By the time he lifts, he is easily doing an indicated 90mph, thanks to the low gearing and close ratio Muncie gearbox.
We often think that the muscle cars of this era were more about theatre than they were about actual performance – and there certainly is a lot of theatre with the GTO above – but when equipped with a decent set of tyres, they can be properly fast in their own right. On a good set of rubber, many of them easily run 12-second quarter-miles, especially those with lower gearing (you could get a GTO with a 4.33 rear gear from the factory!). A quick search yielded this video, which shows a 1969 GTO on modern tyres running a 12.60 at 114mph. For 50-year-old technology, that is seriously impressive.
Enjoy the video, but let me close with the usual disclaimer that you should always save this kind of driving for the track.