Friday, April 21, 2017

Sweet old 'bird by Owl's Head Park

I was walking around my future neighborhood of Bay Ridge (though I didn't know it then) when I stumbled upon this sweet rig:
Right on! I love these old rides and they're getting scarcer by the year.
This is a 1972 Pontiac Firebird in what I think is an aftermarket color. There was a Cardinal Red and Sundance Orange but neither are close to this one. Nice job though and an interesting choice.
The front of these cars is called the Endura nose and it serves double duty as the bumper. They are made of urethane rubber over a steel core. Pontiac bragged about it taking a good beating while still looking good and never rusting. Here is an amazing commercial from the era where they they show off how durable it is. Just because I couldn't decide between the two here's another.
There were almost no differences between the '72 and '73 Firebird but the grill holds the clue. This honeycomb pattern was replaced with a straight ahead crosshatch pattern in '73.
This well loved example is the standard Firebird. In addition you could've ordered a luxury version called the Esprit. If high performance was your bag they came in Formula and Trans Am as well. One particularly rare option was a high output 455 V8 in both 325 and 335 horsepower guise.
This body is essentially identical to the Camaro with the exception of the front and rear fascias.
Ha ha ha I've had that same window crank! Gotta love having a vice grip in an old car. Next to duct tape it's about as useful as it gets.
Even in this somewhat grubby condition I love white interiors in cars. This ride has the gauge package as illustrated by the 3 smaller lenses above the heater controls. The steering wheel is somewhat plain Jane for a Firebird with most of them coming with 3 spoke, sportier versions.
This slippery body looks great with no spoiler or wing mucking it up. Those pre-safety standard bumpers are delicate enough to not look overloaded and ridiculous. By '74 big bumpers were added but they managed to incorporate them better than most.
The famous Flaming Chicken changed slightly over the years. The Trans-Am was the ride with the sweet decal on the hood.
This is the 2nd generation of the Firebird. Introduced in '70, this design had a remarkable 11 year run before the Knight Rider version showed up in '82. When you factor in the amount of change from the very beginning of the '70s into the beginning of the '80s it is an astonishing achievement. Firebird managed to hold on to its muscle car cred too with The Rockford Files and Smokey and the Bandit building their legend.
It's amazing to think about now but the Firebird and its sibling Camaro were almost scrapped entirely due to a labor strike in '72. The workers at the Lordstown plant in Ohio held a 22 day long strike which cost GM a cool 150 million (in 1972 dollars!). A similar but much longer strike was the nail in the coffin for the IH Scout II as the company finally forfeited and just halted production outright. The legacy of the Lordstown strike was that 1972 was the smallest production year for Firebird with just under 30,000 built. For contrast the year before saw 53,000 produced and the following year 46,000.
Nothing wrong with some Cragar Super Sport wheels on any '70s ride!
Well that's where we'll leave this rare 'bird. I've always preferred Pontiac to Chevy due to the slightly aggressive and unique styling. Pontiac was the only division of GM to have the Endura front ends which look beautiful to me. Prices are climbing on these so if one catches your eye at a decent price I highly recommend snapping it up quick!

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