Pristine Pontiac a rare bird

by Larry D'Argis . Feb 02 2018
Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free PressAt 215 horsepower, the sophisticated six-cylinder engine offers more than adequate power.

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

At 215 horsepower, the sophisticated six-cylinder engine offers more than adequate power.

Nineteen sixty-seven was a banner year for General Motors. September 1966 saw the introduction of the long-awaited Chevrolet Camaro, a pony-car competitor to the Ford Mustang and the-new-for ’67 Mercury Cougar.

Released on Feb. 23, 1967, — the Pontiac Firebird was well-received, with 82,560 models produced.

When compared to the Camaro, the Firebird offered an upscale ride and a European influence. The Firebird Sprint model featured an overhead cam, straight-six-cylinder engine, based on Chevrolet’s 230 cubic-inch engine.

Inspired by John DeLorean, the overhead-cam Sprint engine was offered in two versions, with either a one-barrel or four-barrel carburetor.

Both engines had been seen previously on the 1966 Pontiac LeMans.

The Sprint performer package came equipped with a Quadra-Jet four-barrel carburetor, 10.5:1 compression ratio, high-flow intake and exhaust manifolds and heavy-duty suspension — which included dual traction bars.

A three-speed, floor-shift manual transmission was standard, while the four-speed Hurst manual was a $184 option.

The four-speed is specific to the Sprint model, as it has different gear ratios compared to V-8 equipped cars.

For Richard and Joanne Gregoire of Winnipeg, their 1967 Pontiac Firebird Sprint convertible was found in Florida in 2007.

They were specifically looking for an overhead-cam four-speed car — the convertible proved to be a bonus.

A Canadian-produced car, it had found its way to the Sunshine State some decades earlier. With a production date of Feb. 17, 1967, and dealer delivery date of March 6 the same year, it was one of the first Sprint models produced.

The car had received a previous restoration, (complete with Bondo body-filler), and was driveable. It required a fresh restoration to bring it back to showroom condition.

After driving the car for a few years, Gregoire completely dismantled it and performed a rotisserie restoration that left no bolt unturned. With the body stripped and all rust and body-filler removed, the car was turned over to Kenny Lang Autobody for final prep and painting, where it was finished in the original Tyrol Blue with factory white striping.

A new parchment-white interior was supplied by Legendary Auto Interiors and installed by Gregoire, along with a new white convertible top.

The original engine was sent to a rebuilder in Didsbury, Alta., that specializes in Pontiac OHC engines from the 1960s. Factory rated at 215 horsepower at 5,500 r.p.m., the sophisticated six-cylinder offers more than adequate power, and its lighter weight compared to the V-8 offers better handling.

The four-speed manual transmission and the 3.55:1 geared Safe-T-Track rear axle were also refurbished.

The car rolls on Firehawk raised-white-letter radial tires on Pontiac Rally II wheels.

Factory options include the $105 Sprint package, rally-gauge package, hood-mounted tachometer, custom sport steering wheel, four-speed manual transmission, AM radio, console, clock, rally stripes, power top, Safe-T-Track differential, exhaust extensions, imitation wire wheel covers and the custom trim option, which adds a host of additional mouldings and brightwork.

With a base price of $2,956.70, the added options drove the final 1967 sale price to $3,751.47.

Other bolt-on options added during the restoration include Rallye II wheels, power steering, power brakes, a tilt steering wheel and a 1980s era AM/FM cassette radio.

Of the 82,560 Firebirds produced in 1967, there were 7,210 Sprint models. Convertible production came in at 1,174 units, and of those, approximately only 70 were equipped with the four-speed manual transmission.

“It’s a fun car to drive around and display at car shows. I get comments (ranging) from, ‘Why did you put a six-cylinder in your car’, to, ‘I used to have one of these back in the day,’” says Gregoire. “It’s nimble, has a totally different sound and is a very unique vehicle.”

57ford@mymts.net

LARRY D'ARGIS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSA three-speed manual was standard while a four on the floor was a $184 option.

LARRY D'ARGIS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A three-speed manual was standard while a four on the floor was a $184 option.

Photos by Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free PressRichard and Joanne Gregoire had their 1967 Pontiac Firebird finished in the original Tyrol Blue with factory white striping. They also added a new, white convertible top.

Photos by Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Richard and Joanne Gregoire had their 1967 Pontiac Firebird finished in the original Tyrol Blue with factory white striping. They also added a new, white convertible top.