I was walking after work to meet a college buddy who I hadn’t seen since the ’90s, when this Firebird convertible passed me on Michigan Avenue. It can be both thrilling and frustrating when a nice car zooms past me moving in my same direction before I can get a decent shot of it. I scrambled to get a few frames of its aft view before a stoplight mercifully afforded me a few more frames. I don’t have anything too cerebral to say here, but I wanted to share a few pictures and some of my impressions of Pontiac’s F-Body that have been reinforced over the years.
Compared with its Chevrolet Camaro platform-mate, the Firebird had always managed to add something just a little extra. In my opinion and speaking only of aesthetics, it’s the first-generation of F-body siblings that seems the least differentiated. However, as the early Camaro (while not an unattractive car) looked fairly generic and lacked the strong identity of a Mustang, Barracuda, or even a Javelin, the Firebird brought some flavor. Its slatted taillights would become a Firebird hallmark for years, and its beak-like prow did, indeed, make the car look very much like a menacing, predatory bird.
While there were certainly mean-and-muscular looking Camaros throughout the years, the Formula, GTA, and Trans Am (especially the hallowed SD-455) versions of the Firebird seemed to really bring the ‘tude by looking (and often being) just a little “badder” than the comparable Chevy. If the Camaro was “American Bandstand”, the Firebird was “Soul Train”. The Firebird was Lawry’s seasoned salt versus Morton’s, Rice-A-Roni versus Uncle Ben’s, or Goofus versus Gallant (though unlike Goofus, the Firebird never, ever relented and seemed apologetic about being in your face).
This example is one of just under 17,000 Firebird convertibles produced for ’68, out of just over 107,000 Firebirds total that year. Either number isn’t spectacular compared to what would follow roughly a decade later, with Firebird sales exploding by the late ’70s, led by the popularity of the Trans Am which arguably had become an American cultural icon. (Firebird sales peaked in ’79, with over 211,000 produced, about half of which were Trans Ams.) Our featured car is notable for being a convertible – a bodystyle which would depart after ’69 and not return until ’87, through a somewhat complicated ordering procedure involving American Sunroof Company, who performed the operation on t-tops equipped cars.
Few cars of this era don’t look good on Cragars, just like it’s hard to look bad wearing Ray Ban Wayfarers. I hope this guy got to where he was going with his Firebird intact in Chicago’s rush hour traffic. He seemed to be doing just fine, kickin’ it old-school. After all, he and his Firebird are the cool kids – and rushing anywhere has always been the opposite of cool.
Downtown Chicago, Illinois.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016.
Related reading from:
- Tom Klockau (I feel like I should start writing him royalty checks!): Curbside Classic: 1967 Pontiac Firebird Convertible – Dig That Aqua Paint!; and
- Paul Niedermeyer: Classic Curbside Classic: 1968 Firebird 400 – Reliving Childhood Memories, Twice Daily.