When you go to as many car shows and cruise nights as I do, you are bound to see the same cars over and over. But what keeps me coming back are the newbies–cars I’ve never seen before, and the more unusual they are, the more it makes my day. Some old car owners don’t go to shows, but apparently once in a while they think, “Ah, well, let’s check one out.” To those unseen owners, I say thank you! Case in point: this lovely, first-year Firebird.
Although I go to the monthly River Valley Classics cruise night nearly every month of the summer, I’d never seen this one before. Even from a distance this car appealed to me, because 1. It wasn’t red; 2. It wasn’t hot-rodded; and 3. It had a white interior. But what’s that emblem on the rocker trim? OHC6 Sprint? Cool!
The OHC six was meant to compete with imported sports cars such as Alfa and Fiat–a bit of Europe in your all-American pony car. It never was a really big seller, and wasn’t around for too long. Most likely, the Firebird Sprints and other OHC-powered Pontiacs of the late ’60s were swapped to V8s some time ago. But this one is still with us, and judging from the framed literature displayed with the car, this one still had its six. Sadly, the hood was down, so you’ll have to make do with this picture of the OHC from the ’67 Pontiac performance cars brochure. Sorry!
The Sprint package included the aforementioned overhead cam six-cylinder engine, wide-oval tires, beefed-up suspension and a synchronized three-speed manual. This Firebird was meant for grand touring and steering prowess, not flying down the quarter mile while rapidly atomizing fuel with one of the big stonking Poncho V8s. It was almost like an Opel version of the Camaro (author ducks and runs for cover).
Here’s that lovely white interior, with Pontiac’s trademark wears-like-iron Morrokide upholstery. And while it does have an ’80s-era Dino steering wheel and modern stereo, they don’t detract from this car’s appeal. And it’s cool to see that the owner left the factory radio in place!
The back seat, like the ‘Bird’s Chevy cousin, appears to be a bit tight, but at least with all that great glass area there was no danger of becoming claustrophobic. Sitting in the back of a new Camaro, with its Chiclet-size quarter windows, can seem a bit like sitting in a Landau-roofed Cordoba.
The Firebird was clearly derived from the Camaro, but I like the Pontiac version much better. Those louvered taillights, trademark split grille (the Camaro looked a bit flat-faced in comparison), more deluxe interiors and available Rally IIs just do it for me. And the deep-aqua hue of this one is also quite appealing. The only change I’d make would be to swap those RWL tires for some redlines.
Wouldn’t you love to slip behind the wheel of this ‘Bird and go for a ride? I really would have liked to hear it run–I’ve never heard a Poncho OHC6 in action. Too bad the owner wasn’t around, but I’m glad he brought it!