with displacement units more familiar to American drivers.
Both test Firebirds were equipped with optional hood-mounted tachometers. This unique location not only proved convenient for driver viewing, but prompted all sorts of observer reaction. Hood-mounted tachometers may be the greatest piece of automotive showmanship to come from Detroit. Usefulness of the tachometer was marred somewhat by the unit’s attraction for early morning dew, dust and raindrops. Night lighting was not particularly bright, but the brilliance of tachometer lighting was tempered by the presence of the unit in the driver’s line of sight. Too much tachometer illumination would prove irritating at night. For some reason, the tachometer light in the Sprint was much dimmer than in the 400. In neither case did tachometer lighting become annoying, and the brighter light of the 400 was preferred.
The great visual attraction of the test Sprint was aided by audible magnetism. There is something almost musical about the exhaust note of a highly tuned 6-cyl. engine, and the Firebird Sprint exhaust system does little to suppress this sound. While certainly legal, the decibel level of the Sprint exhaust adds to the European, sporting nature of this automobile. The system
consists of two manifolds feeding into exhaust pipes which merge into a common pipe running to the transverse rear muffler. If that lovely blonde alongside doesn’t notice a Sprint pulling up, a blip of the throttle is guaranteed to attract her attention.
ONCE INSIDE either test Firebird, the driver was greeted by a blend of black paint, black vinyl and imitation wood finishes which were done in a simple, but pleasing manner. All Firebird instrumentation is grouped into two circular clusters in front of the driver. The test Sprint had the optional right-cluster instrument package, adding ammeter, oil pressure and water temperature gauges to the fuel gauge of the 400’s standard package. The optional instruments are highly recommended, as driver anxiety during vigorous driving is greatly reduced if visual assurance of proper engine operation is present.
Seats in both Firebirds were very attractive, an appearance which was unfortunately not totally matched by their comfort. Cushions were rather thin and hard, and back angle too vertical. Seating position was judged poor, with respect to driving comfort. Steering wheel location was in the GM tradition, close to the driver’s chest. If seat adjustment permitted full depression
of the clutch pedal, the drivers arms were bent at much too great an angle to accommodate the too-close wheel position. It seems apparent that Detroit’s “sports car” designers haven’t spent much time in real ones.
Gearshift location was fairly convenient, but selector motion was unpleasant. Instead of an easy, fore-and-aft motion, the. Firebirds required a lifting motion to negotiate the 2-3 shift. Effective efforts to shift the excellent Muncie transmission were much too high. The Sprint was equipped with a console through which the shift lever protruded. A hard plastic sliding panel in the console caused an unpleasant amount of rattle, squeak and grind when running through the shift pattern, and apparently added its resistance to the shift mechanism. The 400, sans console, was a much better shifting automobile, and exhibited none of the noises of the Sprint. Effort in the 400 was about half that of the Sprint, and shifting the 400 was much more pleasant.
WHILE ON THE subject of transmissions, a prospective buyer would do well to carefully consider the near$200 cost of the 4speed transmission fitted to both test cars. Both the Sprint and 400 engines proved to be very flexible powerplants, with broad