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Pontiac was a fire-breathing machine all its own

Old 01-31-2007, 07:04 PM
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Default Pontiac was a fire-breathing machine all its own


Later in life, it was regarded more as a Camaro clone, but during early the 1970s, this Pontiac was a fire-breathing machine all its own.

By MALCOMM GUNN, Wheelbase Communications



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In the early 1970s, the absolute peak of all-out automotive muscle and attitude, the Pontiac Firebird represented not only what was fast, but was also cool and hip.
The car was a foamy broth of performance and passion, a heady mixture that kept it clearly in the sights of the bulging, baby-booming youth market, plus anyone else who doted on driving a car that was several cuts above hum-drum.

In an unfortunate twist, though, one of the hottest-looking machines on the planet nearly fizzled on the launch pad.
Buyers waiting to catch a glimpse of the all-new Firebird for 1970 were forced to wait well past the traditional autumn introduction window. In fact, it wasn't until several months later, an eternity in the car business, when the curtains finally parted, the GM publicity mill got up a head of steam and prospective buyers could finally drink their fill.
Why the delay? These days, mid-year new-car introductions are commonplace, but 35 years ago, it was practically unheard of for a domestic manufacturer to miss a fall unveiling.
Unfortunately, General Motors was embroiled in a lengthy strike with its unionized workers and was forced to push back the release of its star "ponycar" attractions, the Pontiac Firebird and close-cousin Chevrolet Camaro.

When the Firebird finally did arrive, the sounds of jawbones smacking the asphalt could be heard throughout the land. What Pontiac had wrought was nothing less than sensational. The car shared no resemblance to the previous 1967-'69 'birds, but had that clean and mean look of a real racer. Even the base models, priced below the $3,000 threshold, looked every bit as glamorous despite hiding a 250-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine that could do no better than 155 horsepower.
For anyone who didn't want to play pretender, the new Firebird had three V8 options: a 255-horse 350-cube V8 for the mid-grade Esprit; a 400-cube motor for the more sporting Formula (identified by two large scoops jutting from its hood); and the King-Kong-sized 455 cubic-inch V8, complete with shaker hood scoop, fitted to the Trans Am model. The latter was as close to an all-out racing machine as you could find in any Pontiac, with up to 370 horsepower on tap and a slick-shifting Hurst handle to help get you where you wanted to go.

Despite the late start to the model year, Pontiac managed to find homes for nearly 50,000 new Firebirds, including about 3,200 Trans Ams, the buyers of which were able to come up with the $4,500 entry fee (excluding the exorbitant insurance premiums).

Unlike its Ford Mustang, Mercury Cougar, Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Challenger competitors, the Firebird (as well as the Camaro) were only available in a one-coupe-fits-all version. The decision not to drop the top probably cost GM some sales, but the design really didn't lend itself to a folding top and the corporation wisely left well enough alone.
By mid-decade, the Firebird's reputation as a hip and quick transportation device was further reinforced through product placements on TV and in the movies. On the popular series, The Rockford Files, James Garner's private eye character tooled around in a tan-colored Esprit while Burt Reynolds and Sally Fields co-starred in a couple of Smokey and the Bandit films, sharing top billing with a black T-roofed Trans Am.

Nothing could stop Burt and Sally in that car. But the Firebird's wings were being clipped with each passing year. The 455 monster motor breathed its last after 1976, but the much tamed 400-cubic-inch engine remained on the order books, as did the hood scoop with the engine displacement
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Old 01-31-2007, 08:23 PM
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Default RE: Pontiac was a fire-breathing machine all its own

This is the problem the entire Pontiac line suffers from. Now so much of Pontiac is just a restyled Chevrolet. It seems like the more time passes on, the less difference there is between all the GM divisions. They need to be as seperate as possible, despite the lower costs.
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Old 01-31-2007, 10:55 PM
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Default RE: Pontiac was a fire-breathing machine all its own

I agree. It is an incestious relationship. They need to learn from DCX.
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Old 01-31-2007, 11:33 PM
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Default RE: Pontiac was a fire-breathing machine all its own


ORIGINAL: Jeremiah 29:11

I agree. It is an incestious relationship. They need to learn from DCX.
You mean between Chrysler Group and MB?
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Old 02-01-2007, 10:01 AM
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Default RE: Pontiac was a fire-breathing machine all its own

My friend had an old firebird, can't remember what year he said, but he brings it up once in awhile. He said it was a mistake selling it. I agree with his statement.
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Old 02-01-2007, 02:05 PM
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Default RE: Pontiac was a fire-breathing machine all its own

I'd also have to agree. My cousin's boyfriend has a 70s Firebird that is worth a bucket load of money. If your friend would have kept his, it might be worth a lot as well.
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Old 02-01-2007, 09:56 PM
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Default RE: Pontiac was a fire-breathing machine all its own

What I meant to say is that the different Pontiac and Chevrolet and different GM groups are incestious.
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Old 02-02-2007, 11:47 PM
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Default RE: Pontiac was a fire-breathing machine all its own

Yes that part I understood. You said they should learn from DCX by being less incestious. When you say DCX, do you mean comparing between Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep, or do you mean comparing between Chrysler Group and Mercedes Group?
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