Photos: Courtesy of Classics for a Cause
HELP RAISING MONEY FOR YOUNG VETERAN SOLDIERS & WIN A CLASSIC 1968 Pontiac. Buy ticket https://bit.ly/linktobuyticketyvarticle
In the field of pony cars, Pontiac’s Firebird has always stood out as something of an individual choice. Naturally, the Mustang that started the category in 1964 had the jump on everyone else, while the Camaro that followed for 1967 proved to be the Mustang’s greatest rival. Behind these two, there were plenty of other options, as the pony car market was so hot that all the major American brands wanted a piece of the action.
But apart from having one of the coolest names in automotive history, what made the Firebird so special?
Coming to the party almost six months after the Camaro and having to share much of the Chev’s body meant the Firebird needed to have a point of difference. Instead of ‘one’ point, Pontiac offered two – styling and performance.
By 1967, Pontiac had established its own style, with elements like the split grille coming to signify the brand, so it followed that their distinctive style was always going to be part of the Firebird package.
A distinctive ‘loop’ front bumper immediately separated the Firebird from the Camaro, while there were also changes to the tail lights, faux louvres in the rear quarter panels and plenty of detail and interior design differences.
For performance, Pontiac had started down that path in the late ’50s, turning what a “dad’s car” brand into one that was all about youth and excitement. That came into sharper focus with the arrival of the GTO for 1964 - a car that arguably started the muscle car era.
As Pontiac had well-established performance credentials by 1967, buyers would be expecting a “hot” version of the Firebird when it landed in dealerships. Pontiac didn’t disappoint, offering the ‘Firebird 400’ from launch. Until the arrival of the Trans Am in 1969, a 400 was the hottest Firebird you could buy.
The 400 cubic inch (6.6-litre) V8 in the 400 was actually the exact same engine from the GTO, delivering 325hp (242kW) and a throaty sound through the dual exhaust system. Along with the 400, all the other engine options for 1967 were Pontiac’s own, but by ’68, some Chevy engines were part of the lineup. An optional Ram Air induction system, available in both ’67 and ’68, increased power output by making the dual bonnet scoops – exclusive to it’s 400 – functional.
To match the top-spec engine, the Firebird 400 also got heavy-duty transmissions (3- and 4-speed manual, or a 3-speed auto) and suspension upgrades.
…And Great Results
As good as the Firebird 400 package was for its launch year, it was made even better for 1968, with power increases for both the standard 400 and optional Ram Air-equipped version (called Ram Air II for ’68). Midway through the 1968 model year, a ‘400 HO’ option also became available, which ran the same 335hp (250kW) output as the Ram Air II, but at a lower redline.
The leaf spring rear suspension was updated for 1968 and rear shocks repositioned to reduce axle tramp on hard acceleration, but disc brakes were still on the option list.
Pontiac was up against some stiff competition in the pony car field in 1968, but according to Car and Driver magazine, it was the best of the bunch.
In a group test that pitted a 400 HO against a Plymouth Barracuda 340, Ford Mustang GT and Mercury Cougar XR7 with 390ci V8s, an AMC Javelin 390 and even a Chev Camaro SS 396, the Firebird was not only the fastest, but also had the smoothest engine performance and the best handling.
“For sheer enjoyment and confidence behind the wheel, the Firebird was almost in a class by itself,” the article stated.
With that sort of endorsement, it’s no surprise that the Firebird 400 outsold the base model six-cylinder Firebird in both ’67 and ’68.
However, it also begs the question – if the Firebird 400 was so damn good, why are there so few around today, especially compared to 1968 Mustangs and Camaros?
The simple answer is numbers. Ford and Chevy were mass-market models and priced accordingly, while Pontiacs generally carried a premium, which seems meagre to modern eyes, but was significant at the time. Also, Ford and Chevy had far greater “market presence” compared to Pontiac thanks to larger dealer networks and much bigger advertising and marketing budgets.
The rarity of a ‘68 Pontiac Firebird today ensures that any example that pops up is sure to get attention, and in the case of the car featured, there’s an extra reason to give it your attention, as it could be yours for as little as $25!
Doing Good with Cars
The 1968 Pontiac Firebird 400 coupe featured is the second piece of high-performance American iron supplied by Classics for a Cause in aid of Aussie charity Young Veterans.
Founded by a group of young marketing professionals, Classics for a Cause was born from the group’s dual passions for classic cars and helping charities achieve their fundraising goals. Realising that a lot of Aussies love classic cars and also love doing good, it made sense to combine the two.
By acquiring desirable classic and custom cars for charities to raffle off, Classics for a Cause help these charities raise much-needed funds, while the team’s marketing experience means they also know how to boost awareness by effectively promoting the raffles to car enthusiasts and the broader community, thus ensuring maximum ticket sales and the best possible result for the charity.
In the past, Classics for a Cause have worked with the WIRES animal rescue service, Heroes on the Homefront and the NSW Rural Fire Service. More recently, Classics for a Cause got involved with Young Veterans, a charity supporting former ADF personnel.
Proof of the winning formula that Classics for a Cause have established came in the form of a Shelby GT500 ‘Eleanor’ tribute that was raffled in support of Young Veterans last year. The 40,000-ticket allocation sold out in rapid time and the charity raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Following that success, the raffle of this Firebird was announced in March, once again supporting Young Veterans. More cars will be offered in the future, including a sweet ’68 Dodge Charger.
Supporting Young Veterans and More
As the name suggests, Young Veterans is focussed on our younger ex-servicemen and women, offering activities, social opportunities and support – ultimately empowering them to succeed in life after their service.
Founded in 2012, Young Veterans’ group of volunteers have been there for recently demobbed ADF members from all branches, regardless of where they’ve served or their length of service.
Normally, the charity’s activities are focussed on the mental health and broader wellbeing of those who’ve recently served, but with the spread of COVID-19, Young Veterans have broadened their activities.
With the support of Classics for a Cause, Young Veterans volunteers are preparing and supplying care packages of meals, canned food, medical supplies and toiletries for elderly Australians – not just veterans - so they don’t have to go through the travails of looking for essentials that are often out of stock. More importantly, this service ensures those most at risk from COVID-19 can stay at home and avoid being exposed to the virus.
Your Classics for a Cause raffle ticket purchase will ensure these vital services are maintained through this pandemic.
Find out more about Young Veterans at https://bit.ly/linktobuyticketyvarticle
As the Eleanor clone was modified, so too is this Firebird, with many changes and upgrades that move it into the restomod category, but it’s the paint that catches your eye.
Granted, some classic Ponti purists may hate it, but Inferno Orange is a legit Pontiac colour, albeit one that’s more common on the Solstice roadster from the new millennium.
Front and rear spoilers augment the appearance, as do the body-coloured front and rear bumpers.
Lowered suspension and modern American Racing 18-inch wheels with low-profile tyres accentuate this car’s tuff stance. The door handles have been shaved and the car’s been nosed and decked for that slick look, although the Firebird badge on the fuel filler flap remains.
What started as an original ’68 Firebird 400 has retained a 400 cubic inch V8, but that engine’s been fully rebuilt and topped with an Edelbrock manifold and 750CFM carby, while the TH400 auto transmission has had a shift kit fitted.
Bringing this ’68 Firebird into the new millennium are front disc brakes, with modern touches inside, too.
The orange theme continues on the dash and doors, with Auto Meter gauges, a Grant steering wheel and B&M shifter fitted.
The seats are full custom units and, based on the feedback from a shakedown run of the car at Willowbank, they’re damn comfortable, too.
For tunes - and calls - on the cruise, a modern Pioneer sound system with Bluetooth has also been fitted
Big Bird for Little Money
With big money spent on this car to bring it up to its current spec, Classics for a Cause have estimated its value at $180,000, but you could pick up this outstanding cruiser for just $25.
As well as giving you a chance to win this car, your ticket will support Young Veterans’ current initiative in supporting and protecting the elderly. See the breakout box for details.
More than ever, now is the time to be doing good. Purchase a ticket in this raffle an you’ll be doing exactly that.
WIN THIS CAR
Classics for a Cause are raffling this stunning Pontiac Firebird restomod to raise money for Young Veterans’ important support services for elderly Australians at this challenging time.
Valued at $180,000, the Firebird packs a modernised drivetrain, (including a recently rebuilt engine), custom interior and modern sound system with Bluetooth.
The car will be delivered to the winner and supplied with both 12 months’ registration and insurance.
The last Classics for a Cause raffle sold out, so don’t miss your chance this time!
Tickets are just $25 each and you can purchase up to 20 tickets ($500 worth) in one transaction. Only 40,000 tickets will be issued, so that’s great odds.
The raffle closes on 31 May, 2020.
For more details, go to https://classicsforacause.com.au/
For raffle ticket purchasing, go to https://bit.ly/linktobuyticketyvarticle