In pursuit of the Mustang’s success, General Motors created not one, but two similar models at once to beat the ferocious Ford stallion. As a result, in 1966, the Firebird and Chevrolet Camaro were launched. A new era of pony cars was emerging.
The 50s and 60s are rightfully considered the golden age of the US automotive industry. A lot of iconic vehicles appeared these days. Especially popular in those days were rear-wheel-drive models with a V8, the power of which sometimes exceeded 400 hp. During this period the iconic Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette, Camaro, and Pontiac GTO appeared. Perhaps no less famous was the Pontiac Firebird, named after the fiery bird of the Phoenix.
The history of this line began as a result of a “family quarrel”. GM rejected the project by John DeLorean, who dreamed of a two-seat sports car, based on the Banshee model, so unusual for the Pontiac brand. DeLorean’s resistance led to a compromise between the traditional brand and the power of the machine. Pontiac was tapping into the F-platform development that Chevrolet had already begun with its Camaro. Thus, the new vehicle appeared in the family of pony cars, 5 months later the Camaro’s production. Indeed, the first copies of these machines were so similar that they could be called not cousins but siblings. Firebird vs Camaro – the beginning of a family quarrel.
Source: Wallpaper Flare
With sales starting, the newly released machine couldn’t avoid the comparisons with its “cousin”: Chevrolet fans even called it a belated continuation of the Camaro idea. No wonder, these two machines had almost completely similar production cycles and the same materials, including sheet metals. However, later, with the introduction of new and more original releases from the Trans-Am series, Firebird vehicles gradually began to gain fame, acquiring their popularity and prestige. No rivalry between cousins – Chevrolet and Pontiac simply rejoiced at the success of their brainchildren. The Firebird has gained popularity due to its good dynamic performance and affordable price. During the first year, 88 thousand coupes and convertibles were sold, and in 1968 over 100 thousand machines left the assembly line.
In the 1968 model year, a newly restyled vehicle was a little different from the previous year’s release. Pontiac’s designers made several changes to the interior and some minor updates to the exterior. The interior of the 1968 model received an enlarged padded instrument panel and sun visors. There were also windshield pillar moldings, crushable armrests, and a flow ventilation system with adjustable round deflectors on the lower instrument panel. The newly installed Astro ventilation system caused side vents removal. At the same time, the Pontiac received fender lights, strong headlight protection, and stylized arrowheads on the sides, not to mention the staggering suspension and multi-leaf rear springs for improved handling. Under the hood, the Firebird received a staggering amount of horsepower, which was the result of a new, powerful V-8 engine installation. Buyers immediately liked the new pony car and in just one year the number of its sales exceeded – the company sold 90152 coupe models and 1960 convertibles. While 1968’s release’s appearance underwent minor changes, its power grew, like all Muscle Cars this year. The stock 400 added power and put out 335 hp, and with the Ram Air, much more. In the middle of the year, the 340 hp Ram Air II appeared and a new, already third 400 cc V8 High Output. Subsequently, the 175 horsepower (130 kW) 3.8-liter engines with a single barrel carburetor were superseded by the more powerful 4.1-liter engine producing 215 horsepower (160 kW) with a four-barrel carburetor. Also, for the 1968 model year, the 5.3-liter engine was replaced by a 5.7 liter “HO” version, which had a modified combustion chamber and produced 320 horsepower. Subsequently, engines of this volume (5.7 l) became the most popular for this class of vehicles.
Like all members of its class, the 1968 Pontiac Firebird was the star of American roads and screens. The 1968 release appeared in films such as Das Beste Stück (2002), Mr. President: Happy People (1998), Booker (1989-1990), Alfie Darling (1975), etc. However, one of the most memorable appearances of the 1968 model was in Australian superstar Kylie Minogue’s single “Some Kind of Bliss” music video from her sixth studio album Impossible Princess (1997).
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