(first posted 6/23/2014) Car marques have had a rough decade or two. Since the time I graduated high school, we’ve lost Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Mercury, Saturn and of course, Pontiac. Pontiac?! Really? If you’d told Poncho bosses Pete Estes or good ol’ John Z. back in 1967 that Pontiac was going to one day wither and be unceremoniously axed by a mortally-wounded General Motors, either man would probably have nodded understandingly, politely excused himself, and then phoned for the guys with the butterfly nets.
But it happened, it’s a done deal, and Pontiac is gone. Too bad. At the time of the announcement, I couldn’t believe they killed Pontiac and kept GMC. Were they nuts? I mean, a GMC was just a Cimarronized Chevy truck anyway! Nevertheless, it happened, but we can still celebrate great Pontiacs: the 1957 Bonneville, 1959 Wide-Tracks, 1964 GTO, 1969 Grand Prix–the list keeps on going. Oh, and the 1967 Firebird of course.
The Mustang truly caught the automotive world with its pants down. There was never anything quite like it, and it sold like beer at a Cubs game. The 1967 Camaro and Firebird appeared in late 1966 as the General’s response to the Mustang Invasion, and while not as eye-poppingly hot sellers as the Super Falcon’s inaugural year, did quite well for themselves, and were very attractive sportsters in their own right. Bill Mitchell’s eye for smooth lines and balance of line was clearly evident in both the Chebby and Poncho variants.
If you’ve hung around CC long enough you may recall I have a bit of an infatuation with ’60s U.S. cars painted in aqua with aqua interiors. I had just waltzed out of “Mal-Wart” in a fruitless search for some 1/64-scale Auto World models when I spotted this vision in aquamarine at the far end of the lot. I immediately left the car and marched over, heedless of approaching motor vehicles or even locking my car. Ooh, pretty!
What was so great? Notwithstanding the awesome colors, this car did not appear to have been screwed with. No ’80s bucket seats, no aftermarket rims, no big honkin’ JC Whitney hood scoop. None of that happy horse crap! This car actually represents what you would have seen in the showroom and on the road in the late ’60s. It even had whitewalls! And as attractive as the Pontiac Rally IIs are, I loved the factory wheel covers with spinners.
I did not even bother to identify what was under the hood of this fine machine or even pin down the year until I began to write this post. Thanks to my camera taking gigantic 4000 x 2600 photos, I was able to sufficiently crop one picture enough to make the engine callout letters legible: 326.
Which would make this aqua/aqua decapotable a Firebird 326 (duh, right?). The 326 was one step above the just plain Firebird, and featured a (this will shock you, I just know) a 326 CID Pontiac V8. The 326 featured 2 BBL carburetion, 250 hp and a three speed column-mounted manual shift, with automatic available of course. Standard Firebirds made do with the compelling if unpopular OHC six-cylinder with 165 hp, a 1 BBL carb, and three-on-the-tree.
Upper tier Firebirds like the Sprint and 400 received floor-mounted transmissions, as well as ever-perkier motivation. And like the Mustang that started it all, a long sheaf of options were listed for your perusal. Even a bench seat could be specified, if perhaps less than popular with the “youts” who were this car’s main target. Being a Pontiac, Firebirds were just a little nicer than comparable Camaros, with standard Morrokide upholstery, woodgrain instrument panel, and other niceties. Sadly, no hidden headlights were available as on big brother GTO. I think the Firebird’s beak would have looked cool with them.
Apologies to you Chevy fans, but I’ve always found the Pontiacs to be just a bit better. A little flashier, a little sportier, a little more luxurious, a little more aesthetically pleasing. At least in the ’60s and ’70s. It’s why I’d take a Grand Prix over a Monte Carlo, a Bonneville over a Caprice, and a Firebird over a Camaro. I mean, I like the Chevrolets too, but the Pontiac is just a little more attractive.
Clearly this survivor has had excellent care or a very factory-correct restoration. And there’s that beak that was so prominent–and so appropriate for a car named Firebird. I have always found the flat-faced ’67 Camaro a little lacking in comparison–unless it has the cool RS nose with hidden headlights.
This car had it all, V8, drop top, most excellent aqua/aqua color combo, buckets and console… I could go on, but you probably get the gist of it by now. Yes, Pontiac is gone, but its extinction doesn’t mean we can’t admire some of their greatest hits. And good on the owner for not being afraid to drive it!