Astro-Ventilation was the most evident change for the 1968 Pontiac Firebird, which meant the useful front vent windows were gone. Also that year, the base overhead-cam six grew to 250-cid and 175 horsepower, while an optional 350-cid V-8 replaced the 326-and was installed in the vast majority of Firebirds.
Five more horses went into the 400 V-8, which came in new HO (high output), (335 horsepower) form; optional Ram Air induction was replaced at midyear by a Ram Air II setup. In its first full model year, Pontiac Firebird production rose to 107,112.
Significant styling revisions, front and rear, were evident in the 1969 Firebird. Fresh sheetmetal gave a more sculptured look to the beefier body, which displayed greater front overhang. Quad headlamps now sat within square bezels outside the narrowed split grille, with prominently protruding snout.
The front panel was made of Endura energy-absorbing plastic (like the GTO's nose). Less Camaro-like, the Firebird had an aggressive new look of its own -- definitely GTO inspired.
Base engine was again the high-revving 250-cid overhead-cam six, which carried four-barrel carburetion in Sprint models. Pontiac finally was attracting seekers of honest all-out performance, as evidenced by increasing V-8 popularity. Two Ram Air versions of the 400 could be ordered, rated at 335 or 345 horsepower.
This was the final appearance of a Firebird convertible (until 1991), the last ohc six-cylinder engine, and the last hood-mounted tach. Not everyone appreciated the bulkier look, evidently, as sales slumped to 87,708 -- this despite a long model year, as problems delayed the debut of the next-generation Firebird.
Never content to rely on past accomplishments for sales, both Chevrolet and Pontiac had race-performance aces up their corporate sleeves for midyear 1969 debuts. Chevrolet planned a performance-packed Z28 coupe, race-ready for competition in the Trans-American series.
But wait -- Pontiac had no appropriate V-8 engine, as the rules of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) limited displacement to 305 cubic inches.
See the next page to find out what Pontiac did to get the Firebird race ready.
To learn more about muscle cars, see:
- Pontiac Firebird Reviews by Consumer Guide
- Muscle Cars