Car: Pontiac Firebird Sprint Coupe
What makes it special: Before Pontiac’s Firebird debuted in 1967, GM Head Honcho John Delorean already planned of casting the new Firebird more in the image of a European GT car, rather than the muscle car-image of its sister-car, Chevrolet’s Camaro. He didn’t like the heavy cast iron American V8’s and didn’t think they were necessary for a car that handled like the new Firebird. Pontiac engineers put a lot of work into making the Firebird handle better than the Camaro, and he thought a lighter engine that produced nearly as much power as the bigger V8’s might be the perfect combination.
What made it famous: The new engine was a 4.1-liter, 250 cubic inch inline-six with a chain-driven single overhead camshaft ( or SOHC) operating 2 valves-per-cylinder. In base form with a one-barrel carburetor it made 175-horsepower and was the base engine for the Firebird, starting in 1968. But, add in 10.5:1 compression, a hot cam and a big 4-barrel carb and it became the “Sprint” and in this form, the engine produced 215hp. The Sprint name continued on in later Firebirds as an appearance package.
Why I would want one: It’s a first-generation only model, making it fairly rare to find. I’m all about the different.
Fun fact: Period automotive journalists and testers said that the 1968 Firebird Sprint was pretty fast and handled great. However, 6-cylinder power simply didn’t gel with American buyers, who looked at inline-sixes as economy engines. Despite its excellent balance of performance and handling, the Firebird Sprint didn’t make it past the 1st-generation, at least not as a special OHC 6-cylinder car.