SUPERCAR performance supported brutal look of 400. Gearshift operation was easy, positive.
turn signal ]ever, and is out of the way of driver’s thighs while climbing in and out of the car. Once in, the driver may drop the wheel to a position suitable for spirited driving. At $42.13, this is one of the more functionally desirable options on the Firebird list.
Before leaving the interior, a word of caution is due. One should not purchase a Firebird (or Camaro) with the intention of carrying four people of average size any distance. Rear-seat room is minimal, adequate only for children, or adults over short distances and smooth roads.
Power trains in the test Firebirds were intended for different purposes, and had distinctly disparate performance characteristics. The Sprint’s Me Six incorporated 4-barrel carburetion, 10.5:1 compression, high-performance camshaft and the aforementioned split exhaust system. On paper then, one would expect a free-breathing, highrevving engine with substantial power output. In practice, valve float occurred at approximately 6100 rpm, well short of the tachometer redline at 6500. Acceleration from 5000 rpm upward was slow, and felt flat. Torque at low speeds was adequate, perhaps more than would be expected from engine
specifications. Power at high engine speeds, however, never developed. The engine had a feeling of being just about to “turn on” but never did. In fairness to the test Sprint, its previous history was one of abuse and improper break-in. Also, the Sprint engine was equipped with the full California emission-reduction package. Whatever the specific cause, the test car did not perform up to our expectations.
HANDLING IS supposed to be the Firebird Sprint’s forte. The test car did exhibit superb stability on smooth roads. Steering response was excellent, with handling characteristics varying from slight understeer at low speed and moderate cornering loads, to oversteer on harder cornering. Fire bird suspension apparently is set up for an appreciable amount of roll oversteer. Extremely light steering accentuated this roll oversteer, with the result that a typical American motorist will find himself quickly correcting out of vigorously entered turns. At high speed, near neutral handling results. Hard driving over smooth roads was just plain fun in the Sprint. Rough surfaces emphasized the high unsprung weight and stiff springing of the Firebird Sprint suspension system. Rear wheels tended to skate across rough