With prices starting about $200 upstream of six-cylinder Camaros -- $2,666 for the base hardtop and $2,903 for the convertible- -- the 1967-1969 Pontiac Firebird generated strong 82,000-plus sales despite an abbreviated debut season. Though that was only half Camaro's volume, it pushed combined F-car sales well over the projected quarter-million breakeven point to the delight of GM accountants. About two-thirds carried optional power steering and Hydra-Matic Drive, suggesting Firebird competed less with Mustang -- or Camaro -- and more with Mercury's new '67 Cougar in an emerging "luxury ponycar" field.
The '68s were little-changed visually but much-changed mechanically. The ohc sixes grew to 250 cid, the 326 V-8 became a 350, the H.O. also became a 350 and claimed 35 more horses, the 400 tacked on five bhp, and a new 400 H.O. arrived with 335 bhp. At midyear, Pontiac offered a 400 Ram Air II option, also rated at 335 bhp, 25 below the comparable GTO unit due to a minor carb change.
The big news for '69 was the fire-breathing Trans Am, but all Firebirds sported new lower-body styling that further disguised their Camaro origins. Notable was a more prominent chrome "bird beak" grille surrounded by trendy body-color Endura plastic à la GTO. Unfortunately, the restyle also added somewhat to weight, as well as 2.3 inches in length and 1.3 inches in width. Engines were basically as before except that the Ram Air II gave way to a 345-bhp 400 Ram Air IV option. Sales continued strong, with more than 100,000 units in 1968 and over 87,000 in '69. That was still only a fraction of Camaro's business but roughly even with Cougar's --about what DeLorean had expected.
You don't see that many '60s Firebirds nowadays, not only due to their lower original volume but because enthusiasts long dismissed them as the Camaro-clones they appeared to be. Happily, that's changed, and deservedly so. After all, these Firebirds were Pontiacs, not Chevys, and in the '60s that made all the difference.
Go to the next page to learn the specs of this popular ponycar.