Category: Pontiac

This Civilized-looking 1972 Pontiac Firebird Formula Packs a 455 Punch – David Conwill @Hemmings

This Civilized-looking 1972 Pontiac Firebird Formula Packs a 455 Punch – David Conwill @Hemmings


The glorious blaze of the muscle car started to fade pretty quickly in the early Seventies. One of the remaining flames in the gathering darkness was the Pontiac Firebird. The senior F-body raged against the dying of the light for as long as it could, using Pontiac’s formidable V-8. When it debuted in 1970, the 455 was perhaps the ultimate refinement of Pontiac’s original Strato-Streak design of the mid-’50s.

The 455 hung on through 1976, although it was steadily detuned from its debut at 370 (gross, but probably understated) horsepower at 4,600 rpm and 10.25:1 compression. Of course, 1970 is generally recognized as the pinnacle of power output in the muscle era, but while most automakers simply began to detune their performance engines with lower compression and milder camshaft profiles, Pontiac wasn’t willing to throw in the towel just yet.

The result was 1971’s 455 H.O. engine, a package engineered to maintain respectable horsepower output paired with substantial torque, while also utilizing a low compression ratio—8.4:1 to be precise. The ’71 455 H.O. featured Pontiac’s “round-port” cylinder heads, a term that refers to the shape of the exhaust ports. This design had previously been featured on some of Pontiac’s highest-performing engines, including the Ram Air II and Ram Air IV 400s. The performance-tuned 455 for 1970 was also referred to as an “H.O.” but it had used Pontiac’s standard D-port heads. The new-for-’71 round-port 455 H.O. also featured Pontiac’s high-flow exhaust manifolds and an aluminum intake

The 455 H.O. was the top dog 455 in the 1971 Firebird lineup. For ’72, it was the only output. Despite a reduced 8.4:1 compression ratio, the ’72 H.O. still managed to pump out 300 hp and 415 lb-ft, net.

Firebird buyers could have also selected a lower-output 455 D-port engine during the 1971 season, but when the ’72 models came out, the only 455 offered in the Firebird was the H.O., which carried a new net rating of 300 horsepower at 4,000 rpm. Torque was down only slightly, however, from the 500 lb-ft at 3,100 rpm of the high-compression era to a still-respectable 415-lb-ft at 3,200 rpm.

The flip side of lowered compression ratios (and other de-smogging and fuel-efficiency efforts) was that in order to sell performance cars with increasingly less sheer power, the manufacturers that wanted to stay in the game had to focus on two things: style and handling. A certain subset of period cars took the stylistic excesses to a questionable extreme, but once again Pontiac excelled, pushing out its Firebird pony car in various degrees of economy, luxury, and performance—all very easy on the eyes.

The second prong of the period performance strategy was competent manners in more than just a straight line. The 1964 GTO has been justly criticized for its handling and undersized drum brakes. By 1972, thanks to several years of research in the SCCA’s competition laboratories (i.e., Trans-Am racing), the Wide Track gene had reasserted itself in time to save the excitement in the Firebird line

At the top of the performance heap was the appropriately named Trans Am, with its shaker hood scoop, spoilers, and race-car vibe. For those with a more buttoned-down taste, the Trans Am’s capabilities could be had in Formula trim.

The Formula sat just below the Trans Am in the Firebird hierarchy. At the bottom was the basic Firebird, a no-frills car that came standard with a six-cylinder and a column-shifted three-speed manual transmission. The step up from that was the Esprit, which offered essentially the same car with some upgrades, like extra sound deadening, deluxe interior appointments, and V-8 power: a two-barrel, single-exhaust, V-8 with 8.0:1 compression. To that, the Formula added a 1-1/8-inch front anti-sway bar, firmer shock absorbers, fatter tires (still on 14-inch wheels) and some distinctive visual features.

A Formula didn’t come standard with all the Trans Am goodies, for sure, but most were on the option list. The X-code 455 itself, for example, was the standard engine in the $4,300-ish T/A, but despite the Formula’s exotic, fiberglass, dual-snorkel hood, a dual-exhaust, 175-hp version of the Esprit’s standard engine was the Formula’s base mill. A four-barrel,, 300-hp engine was a Formula-specific option as well, for those who perhaps didn’t have the financial wherewithal to purchase and insure a 455

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1979 Pontiac Trans Am 10th Anniversary Limited Edition Buyer’s Guide – Mike McNessor @Hemmings


The late Roger Ebert wasn’t pulling punches when he called Smokey and the Bandit II, “a mess.” “There is no need for this movie,” the Pulitzer-winning Chicago Sun-Times film critic wrote in his 1980 review. “That’s true of most sequels, but it’s especially true of Smokey and the Bandit II, which is basically just the original movie, done again, not as well.

“Something similar could be said about one of the stars of that film: the turbo-charged 1980 Trans Am. It was basically the original 1977 Special Edition Trans Am, done again, but from a raw performance standpoint, not as well. Pontiac’s back was against the wall in ’80 as it faced new government fuel mileage standards that the T/A’s thumping V-8 couldn’t comply with (any more than the Bandit could comply with Sheriff Justice).

So, the Excitement Division’s solution was to add a turbocharger to a carbureted V-8 that was topped with some of the most restrictive cylinder heads ever bolted to a Trans Am engine. With a manual transmission and a low axle ratio, the little engine might have had a fighting chance, but the turbo’d 301 was paired only with an automatic and a 3.08:1 gear set. This was not a recipe for world-beating (or an Oscar-winning) performance. In California, the news was worse for Pontiac purists: Trans Ams in the Golden State were powered by a Chevrolet engine—the 305. Adding insult to injury, none of the V-8s could be paired with a manual transmission in ’80.

But just before the party ended, Pontiac served up one last round of the top-shelf stuff and called it “The 10th Anniversary Limited Edition” Trans Am. Along with its special paint treatment, graphics, wheels, and more, this ’79 Trans Am would be among the last offered with the “T/A 6.6” 400 engine. As a collectible car from the 1970s, the anniversary Trans Am stands out in terms of desirability and value. The 400 version, sold exclusively with a Borg-Warner Super T-10 four-speed manual, is the scarcest, and typically commands the most money.

Of the 7,500 anniversary cars built, a scant 1,817 had the 400/T-10 combo, while the remaining 5,683 were built with the “6.6 Litre” Oldsmobile 403 and a Turbo Hydra-Matic 350 automatic. Popular price guides tack on a premium for the 400 and four-speed powertrain pairing and currently value a 400, four-speed anniversary edition T/A at $30,000 on the low side, $96,000 on the high end, with an average of $57,000. All of the anniversary Trans Ams were loaded with virtually every option and stickered north of $10,000 when new. That was big money in 1979, but adjusted for inflation, amounts to about $38,000 today—right around the price of a new Chevrolet Camaro 1SS.

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A 15-Year Project Culminates in a 1967 Pontiac GTO Equipped Just How Its Owner Would Have Ordered It – Thomas A. DeMauro @Hemmings


“I think the 1967 GTO is one of the most iconic muscle cars of the ’60s,” Jake Stossel of Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, asserts. Shortly after purchasing this example in August 2005, the then-28-year-old electrician began planning out his project, but he soon arrived at that fork in the road where it was time to choose between “Factory-Equipped” and “How I Really Want It.”

After negotiating with a nearby seller for two weeks, who wanted to move a 1968 GTO out of his collection of restorables instead of the ’67, Jake was certainly grateful to have snared this Goat, yet there were a few lingering issues. The Pontiac was Signet Gold, but he didn’t really like gold. It didn’t have a Cordova top, but he wanted one for it. It was fitted with the standard 335-hp engine, but he preferred the 360-hp 400 H.O. It had the Turbo 400 automatic, but he wanted a Muncie four-speed. You get the picture

Nevertheless, like most of us, Jake didn’t possess unlimited funds, so he had to settle. Or did he? Rather than be forever haunted by what could have been, he instead decided to deviate from the original equipment path and build this Pontiac how he would have ordered it in 1967

.Based on input from his wife, Lindy, he decided to paint the Goat Linden Green, his friend Matt Lamer suggested changing the black Morrokide interior to Parchment, and Jake specified a black Cordova top. The resulting trinity of contrasting hues heighten the visual appeal of an already arresting body design. And, each of those choices were readily available for 1967. Regarding the mechanical aspects of the build, Jake used factory-issued or reproduction components for the majority of the upgrades. Thus, the GTO retains a primarily stock appearance.

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The Pontiac Grand Safari was a flagship station wagon hauling on in an era of downsizing – Matt Litwin @Hemmings


By 1974, 5,000-plus-pound family cars were suddenly as impractical as the ol’ muscle car had been to newlyweds holding a freshly printed mortgage and a newborn baby just a few years earlier. Detuned as they were, the large-displacement—still a prevalent means of motivation within the market segment-remained incredibly thirsty. As a result, Pontiac’s full-size output fell to just under 145,500 cars in 1975, and only 137,216 were sold a year later.

Suffice it to say, Detroit needed a diet, and the automakers knew it well in advance thanks in large part to looming federal mandates. At GM, the first to be first slimmed down were the 1977 model-year full-size cars. Among them was Pontiac’s flagship station wagon—the Grand Safari.

The downsized wagon’s chassis was reduced from 127 inches to a svelte 115.9 inches. Much of the basic architecture, however, carried over from the previous generation: independent coil spring front suspension, rear leaf-sprung suspension, power steering, and power front disc brakes. Also included as a standard were FR78-15 radial tires that provided sure-footed control in all driving conditions.

The redesigned chassis cradled an equally new 5.0-liter ( V-8 engine. It was more than the division’s new “economy” powerplant; rated for a rather capable 135 horsepower, the block, crankshaft, cylinder heads, and intake manifold—collectively—weighed 136 pounds less than the V-8. Factory literature touted the availability of a “new 6.6 litre (400/403 CID) V-8” on the Grand Safari’s option chart—technically a carryover engine revamped for ’77—that was rated for 180 or 200 hp. Californians could have opted for the 170-hp 350. A Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic was the only transmission available.

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The most valuable Firebirds from every generation – Greg Ingold @Hagerty


Almost everyone has an opinion about Pontiac Firebirds. Ours, for the record, is that they’re pretty great. Spanning 35 years, four generations, and myriad high-performance variations—not to mention three Smokey and the Bandit movies, Knight Rider, and countless other cultural touchstones—the Firebird transcends typical collecting considerations and cuts to the core reason most of us like old cars—they’re fun. Although most were relatively affordable when new and remain so today, a select few have appreciated into exotic-car territory. We looked at each generation, and here are the most expensive cars from each series.

First Generation (1967–1969): 1969 Firebird Trans Am Convertible

#2 (Excellent) condition average value: $1,000,000

1969 is when it all started, with Pontiac introducing the famous Trans Am to the Firebird lineup. Aside from the famous Cameo White body with Tyrol Blue stripes, the Trans Am included plenty of other upgrades. This included a standard Ram Air III 400-cubic-inch engine, with the optional Ram Air IV, heavy-duty suspension and quicker ratio steering. Trans Ams are very uncommon to start with.

Only 697 total cars were produced, so any car in excellent condition brings six figures. Convertibles are a completely different story, though, with only eight being produced. While all are equipped with the less powerful Ram Air III engine, a pristine T/A Convertible is easily a seven-figure car. Being even rarer than a Hemi Cuda Convertible, these cars come up for sale just about as infrequently

Second Generation (1970–1981): 1970 Firebird Trans Am 400/370-hp Ram Air IV Coupe

#2 (Excellent) condition average value: $172,000

Although the second-gen Firebird achieved pop-culture fame in its later years—think T-Tops and screaming chicken—serious collectors prefer the high horsepower, tightly wound thoroughbreds of the early ’70s. It should thus come as no surprise that a the most expensive of this era would be an early Trans Am. For the first few years of Trans Am production, numbers were the lowest and the most sought after engine options were offered—one of the rarest  the Ram Air IV. Pontiac offered this engine (distinguished by round-port, high-compression cylinder heads) in the Trans Am for only two years, producing only 88 of the cars. The Ram Air IV T/A is closely followed in value by the 455 Super Duty equipped cars in 1973.

Third Generation (1982–1992): 1992 Firebird SLP Firehawk Coupe

GM discontinued production of Pontiac V-8 engines in 1981, forcing the third-gen Firebird to find other ways to distinguish itself from its Chevrolet twin, the Camaro.

The Firebird of this era that managed to do that well is the Firehawk, built by Street Legal Performance (SLP). While SLP was technically an outside tuning company, you could walk into your Pontiac dealer and order yourself a Firehawk using option code B4U. This got you a fire breathing Firebird making 350-hp out of it’s 350-Chevy engine and a number of additional braking and handling upgrades. With 25 cars produced in total, these represent the top end in terms of both performance and value, for F-Bodies. The very best of these cars can flirt with the $100,000 mark. Given how rarely they come up for sale, we wouldn’t be surprised to see these continue to climb.

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It really didn’t take much to turn this Super Duty-powered 1974 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am into a capable restomod – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


Few cars fit the definition of restomod better than this 1974 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am for sale on (mostly) stock exterior and interior appearance, selected upgrades, better performance than the original. But scratch beneath the surface, and you’ll see that – aside from the modern automatic transmission, the flappy paddles, and the 17-inch wheels – all those upgrades are mostly tweaks to the car’s original specifications. There’s no electronic fuel injection, the brake components are all factory-available equipment, and nobody redesigned the suspension to incorporate cantilevers or coilovers or anything trick and expensive. Does that mean the mid-Seventies F-body was already a perfectly capable platform, in need of little to keep up with modern traffic? From the seller’s description:

This 1974 Trans Am started life as a Super Duty with the very rare Cordova top option. When I discovered the car efforts were made to find the original drive train and I determined it was destroyed by the original owner. At that point I decided to do a modern interpretation of a SD with it remaining as understated as possible. This car is custom in most ways except for the way it looks. Below is a partial list of modifications.

17 inch Year One Rally II wheels. Pro-Touring F-body springs all around. Pro-Touring F-body adjustable tie rods. Moog rubber bushings on flex points. Global West offset A-arm shafts. Global West Del-A-lum A-arm bushings. Competition Engineering subframe connectors. 10 bolt rear with 3.42 gears. 1LE front brakes/spindles with Porterfield street pads. WS6 rear disc brakes. Dual diaphragm WS6 master cylinder, metering block and booster. Tribal Tubes tri-y headers. 2.5 inch Pypes SGF70 exhaust system. Mallory 140 electric fuel pump. Custom fuel pickup. Ford impact kill switch for fuel pump. Blocker BHVIS drop base air cleaner. 1974 SD coded Quadrajet rebuilt by Cliff Ruggles. Performer RPM intake, water crossover separated. Edelbrock aluminum heads, port matched, flow sheet available. Harland Sharp 1.65 roller rockers, custome Butler pushrods. 1974 date coded 400 block with stroker kit. SRP pistons, 4.155 bore. Floating pins. File fit rings. Eagle 6.8 inch rods. Tomahawk cast crank. 3 inch mains. ARP 2 bolt main studs. Butler Pro-Series oil pump. Comp Cams 230/236 hydraulic roller cam. Comp Cams hydraulic lifters. Canton Road Race pan and windage tray. Northern aluminum radiator. Sanden AC compressor (R12). Custom AC brackets. 4L80e transmission. TCI transmission control unit. 3000 stall converter. Twist Machine paddle shifters. Custom Speed Hut GPS speedometer and tach gauges. Custom brushed aluminum trim rings on custom dash insert. Stock shifter with Shiftworks kit. Custome kick panels with speakers. Custom cd/usb head unit

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NASCAR downsized: Which one of these sell-on-Monday cars would you choose for your dream garage? – Matt Litwin @Hemmings


Word on the street was that Detroit was introducing downsized cars for 1977. When NASCAR got wind during the ’76 season, it began exploring the idea of initiating a rule change that would mandate a 110-inch wheelbase chassis, versus the then-current 115-inch design. But once that process began, developmental cost was a concern, prompting Bill France Jr. to issue a statement: “Eventually, we will have to follow Detroit’s trend. In order to curb expenses, the teams will be permitted to use equipment they already have instead of letting new equipment become obsolete in a short time.” The changes Bill hinted at were finally scribed into the 1981 rule book, with one exception: the outgoing cars would be permitted to race at the season opener at Riverside International Raceway (in Riverside, California) on January 11. Bobby Allison won at the helm of a 1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. New downsized cars were permitted to compete side-by-side, even though they were not fully mandated yet. Dale Earnhardt finished third in one such Grand Prix, owned by Rod Osterlund.

Are you Bandit enough to hit the road in this visionary sixth-gen Trans Am? – Brandan Gillogly @Hagerty


Just about every Pontiac lover still mourns the loss of one of America’s coolest car brands. Pontiac built some of the brawniest muscle cars of the ’60s and ’70s and paired them with lurid graphics that were, quite frankly, over the top. If you think the high-contrast graphics on the Judge were too much, or look at the garish, screaming hood bird on the Trans Am and clutch your pearls, perhaps a nice, understated Buick is more your speed—but to each their own. True Pontiac fans embrace the bold muscle cars, and a few even manage to bring some back.

A die-hard muscle-car fanatic, Rick Dieters of Trans Am Specialties of Florida worked with the team at Trans Am Worldwide to make the model rise from the ashes like a phoenix. Dieters has been involved in getting new Trans Ams back in showrooms since 2013 when, using the fifth-generation Camaro as a foundation, his company began to build and sell new, legitimate Trans Ams. Designer Kevin Morgan worked with SCCA to obtain legal use of the name; even back in the ’60s, the SCCA licensed Pontiac to use the name of their race series on each model sold. While Pontiac was gone, Trans Ams returned.

The sixth-generation Camaro debuted as a 2016 model, but it took more than a year to develop the look and the parts required to make the sixth-generation Trans Am come to life. Automotive designer Bo Zolland, known for his gorgeous renderings and restylings of classic cars, was tasked with interpreting the spirit of the second-gen Trans Am using the Alpha-platform Camaro as a base. Zolland, along with engineer and designer Tom Sawyer, worked to infuse as much Pontiac DNA into the new car as possible.

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5 famous V-8s whose displacements stretched the truth – Diego Rosenberg @Hagerty


We know that the 1960s were full of horsepower hijinks, but did you know that manufacturers sometimes fibbed about the size of their engines? Indeed, that burbling V-8 in your beloved classic may actually not measure up to its promised displacement. We rooted out five of the worst offenders.

Ford/Mercury 427

Available from mid-1963 to mid-1968, the 427 was Ford’s crowning achievement in the 1960s, carrying the torch during Ford’s “Total Performance” reign of global competition. However, to American enthusiasts, the 427 is best known for powering Fords and Mercurys to success on the drag strip and in NASCAR. The FE-series engine was introduced at the same time as Ford’s semi-fastback roofline for the Galaxie 500 and Galaxie 500/XL (as well as Mercury’s Marauder sub-series), and the silhouette’s aerodynamic advantages helped maximize the engine’s performance on the banked ovals. The street 427 was available with either a single or pair of four-barrel carburetors for 410 or 425 horsepower, respectively. Several thousand 427s were built through 1964, with popularity falling drastically in 1965, the last year of big Mercury; in its swan-song year of 1967, the 427 was installed in 89 full-size Fords.

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A decrepit “Bandit” 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am proves no car is too far gone if you want it bad enough – David Conwill @Hemmings


A deceptively deteriorated driver turns into a full-scale restoration – Part I

“Love the one you’re with,” is a tough directive for a car enthusiast. It seems like no matter what vehicle you start with, it’s always in worse shape than you imagined starting out. The temptation to get rid of a project car and begin with something nicer is immense, so it’s refreshing when something the average hobbyist might consider beyond economical restoration is given a new lease on life.

Consider our feature car here. When it rolled across the auction block at one of the major Scottsdale, Arizona, sales, it was what you’d probably call a 20-footer. Something that might make you go, “Ooh, a ‘Bandit’ Trans Am!” Get closer, though, and start picking away at the details, and that “ooh” might have turned to “oh.

“Still, that initial impression was correct about something: This is a real Y82, the black-and-gold Special Edition that looks like the ones driven by Burt Reynolds in the hit 1977 film Smokey and the Bandit.

That’s what attracted owner John Prenzno of Paradise Valley, Arizona, when he saw it at auction nearly four years ago. Having owned a brand-new one just after high school, the pull of nostalgia was strong and John bought it, warts and all. As you might have guessed, the warts were extensive.

That much was evident from even a casual inspection. The first problem made itself known even without taking a look, when a leaky fuel line caused it to run out of gas before it could be driven away from the auction site.John took the car straight to Ward Gappa at Quality Muscle Car Restorations LLC, in Scottsdale. QMCR made a temporary fix to the fuel line (extensive rust demanded complete replacement) and gave the car a thorough going-over so John would know exactly what he was up against to get his Trans Am up to snuff.

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