body tooling. He took a look at the “E” body (used by Riviera, Eldorado and Toronado) but decided against it because first, there was no convertible; and second, the size of the “E” would have put such a car at the top of the Pontiac line, pricewise, rather than in the volume middle.
The decision to work from the Camaro was, of course what made it possible for the Firebird to bow as a ’67 1/2 model. Most of the expensive inner and outer body stampings were lifted intact – including doors, roof, rear quarters (fenders), deck and the instrument panel, but not the instruments themselves. This action saved millions of dollars and months of time.
What we think he was saying is that the near future may see nothing but specialty cars.
Further important time was saved by using the new technique of moving directly from the clay to die models by the new and relatively untried technique of numerical control. Sensing arms translate the shape of the clay to the drafting board through a computer, eliminating months of work by thousands of people.
Now came the job of making the Firebird different. DeLorean chose the obvious route of trading on two of Pontiac’s best known images – performance and the front-end of the GTO. You might be able to trace the Firebird’s Camaro ancestry from a side or rear view but never from the front. That’s all Pontiac, as are the beefy drive-train selections. There’s a top of 400 cubic inches with ram-air, compared to Camaro’s normally aspirated 396, and this is by intent. DeLorean wants the Firebird to take over Pontiac’s performance department; the GTO can fend for itself, perhaps by moving up to the 428 V-8.
Incidentally, we have the same difficulty as Pontiac in avoiding the inadvertent use of the name Banshee, and there’s an amusing story behind the switch. It was DeLorean’s original choice, and you can see it on some of the early clay models shown here. He picked it up from the Navy, which called its Korean War vintage F2H jet fighter Banshee. However, DeLorean never checked Webster which has another definition that might be fine for a plane but not for a car. A Banshee is “a female spirit whose wailings forewarn families of the coming death of a member.”
Another difference we noted in our Firebird test (page 30) is the benefit of having six extra months to work on ride and handling. Camaro, if you’ll remember, made quite a case in their announcement publicity of this rather important design step being handled almost entirely by computer. Pontiac, according to chief engineer Steve Malone, took the quite fine computer results and turned them over to human testers. Says Malone: “Computers are a good place to start from, but if you go out and ride, you start changing things.”
One area of change was a stiffer-than-Camaro ride throughout the Firebird line. Another was the addition of a stock traction bar to control off-the-line hop from the single-leaf rear springs borrowed from Camaro. Finally, adjustable Koni shocks are an option. This, along with the optional Hurst treatment of the various shift linkages, continues Pontiac’s thinking – almost alone in the GM family that outside suppliers just might have some desirable components and not just materials to offer.
Malone also dictated that the usual 100-level tire was not for any big-engined Firebird. Wide-tread 70-series tires are standard both for their performance and to carry on with the “wide track” theme, and equally beefy Firestone or Goodyear radials are optional. Malone personally thinks that the 70-series makes the best tire for this car.
We questioned DeLorean specifically as to why he never, as shown by the early clays, considered flip lights for the
The “F” car as of March 31, 1966. At this point in time it was up for grabs. Buick and Olds had same chance as Pontiac.
The F” car but with different paper grille inserts. About now Pontiac decided that Camaro front must go to get identity.
What seems like a scoop on the rear fender is actually an experimental tail light. Idea was dropped due to cost problems.