Hark! I bring YOU glad tidings of great joy: Super cars are out, super-super cars are in. This, along with the micro-skirt (replacing the mini-skirt which was obviously fated for short-lived popularity), will set 1967 down as a watershed in American automotivedom. How dare we be so prophetic? Easy, chum, if you’ve just driven down to General Motors Proving Ground in Mesa, Arizona, and seen the Firebird.
“The what bird?”
“F-i-r-e-b-i-r-d, friend.” Remember that name. It’s one species of Pontiac you may regret “fouling” around with.
Last year, old No. 3 pumped 100,000 GTO’s out of the well into the youth market; 100,000 fresh-faced American youngsters who wanted immortality for 13 seconds-that’s not asking much. You’d have thought the chief, John DeLorean, would have been happy, but he didn’t get that little silver number in his lapel for complacency. No, he got it for walking softly and carrying out things like the GTO, SOHC six, and understanding what it’s like to be young.
So he watched Chevy bring out their Camaro, John DeLorean did, and then he grabbed the body configuration for Pontiac (but that’s all) because he knew there was a Cougar and a Mustang already on the trail and he wanted to show what can be done even when you’re only No. 3. Small things. Like redesigning the Camaro’s frustrating radio knobs so that they’re still safety contoured but easy to manipulate. And offering a B.F. Good rich-conceived inflatable spare tire right out of tomorrowland that lets you use more reasonably the limited trunk space, not to mention showing your friends how the crazy thing inflates to a regular 14-inch 2-ply and then shrinks right back to about 1 inch larger than the rim when the Freon is let out. It’s like that bald Eurasian that keeps popping in and out of the Mr. Clean bottles.
Big things. Like a 400-inch GTO-type powerplant sitting in there bold as brass and a 1-2-3-speed Turbo Hydramatic transmission behind it. And behind that the biggest full-sized GTO axle you ever saw. Remember how the unaided Camaro had the single-leaf spring that hippety-hopped to the barber shop and then some? Well, the Firebird’s still got just two one-leafers back there, but it hasn’t got two cents worth of wrap-up because right below those two spring bands are a pair of the neatest traction bars. Maybe they shouldn’t even be called traction bars since they appear more like miniature funny car lift bars, yet pivot at both ends. But don’t go away; there’s one more gimmick you drag guys will flip over. The Firebird’s traction arms incorporate an adjustable positive stop making it easy to change the degree of loading to suit strip conditions. You see, Mr. DeLorean really cares.
Nobody’s kidding anybody else, you know. The 390 Mustangs and Cougars were the first super-super volleys, the 350 Camaro the second and then the 383 Barracuda. It didn’t take any great amount of genius to know that Ford would be easily hanging in there with a 428 option like Carroll Shelby’s got right this minute on his 500 GT’s, or that the Camaro would have anything else but a 396 (with Nickey dropping 427’s in as fast as their hot little chainfalls would re-cycle). So Pontiac had the 400 (325 hp) engine in mind all along, and maybe the 428 if things get hairy. Even the so-called Ram Air package is there for the x-ing of the appropriate slot on the order form. Other considerations might be: 400 V8, 318 hp @ 4800 rpm; 326 V8, 285 hp @ 5000 rpm; 326 V8, 250 hp (a 4600; 230 OHC 6, 215 hp @ 5200 rpm; 230 OHC 6, 165 hp @ 4700 rpm.
Right off the bat we expected that the 400 Firebird ought to be a shorter-fused GTO and then some. After all, our test Camaro went into the high-14’s with only a 350-inch powerplant and those 4.3 inches of length that Pontiac Styling added on the front couldn’t make that much difference.
Well, it wasn’t just the extra sheet metal, it was a little bit of this and a little bit of that and the bright red prototype convertible sagged in at 3855 pounds … not to mention a co-pilot to slog our running weight past 2 tons! That it ran as quick as 15.4 and as fast as 92 mph is remarkable, since the car had been previously flogged quite a bit. With those big Firestone wide ovals biting in, the Firebird whistles off the mark and there’s no way you can get one iota of wheelhop. Give us the “air- cooled” 400 machine down around 3400 pounds and we’ll take on the world.
We stole a 100 mph lap on the endless 5-mile banked oval and the Firebird was as solid as reindeer stock on Christmas Eve. The car most certainly feels stiffer