Sunday, May 22, 2011

Car Of The Day: May 22, 2011

Today's car of the day is Matchbox's 1974 Pontiac Firebird.

The second generation debut for the 1970 model year was delayed until February 26, 1970, because of tooling and engineering problems; thus, its popular designation as a 1970½ model, while leftover 1969s were listed in early Pontiac literature without a model-year identification.

For more information and pictures of the real car please visit: Pontiac Firebird

Here's the original Matchbox Firebird, the one the current model is in homage to.  As you can see this is not a very accurate casting, but it is one of only two 1974 Firebirds in small scale (the other, better looking example is Ertl's).  This is a recent purchase from MatchboxDave at the Keystone CARnival.  And the story as to why I like this car so much amused him, and may amuse all of you as well.  When I was in kindergarten, a group of boys had this car, and were always burying it in various places in the playground, with the intention of sending it all the way to China.  I watched them like hawks, because I wanted that car.  Well, one day they successfully lost the car.  I moved in to try and find it myself but also to no luck.  So somewhere in Kinnelon, New Jersey there's one of these awaiting fossilization.

The 455 engine available in the second generation Firebird Trans Am was arguably the last high-performance engine of the original muscle car generation. The 455 cu in (7.5 L) engine first made its appearance in 1971 as the 455-HO. In 1973 and 1974, a special version of the 455, called the SD-455, was offered. The SD-455 consisted of a strengthened cylinder block that included 4-bolt main bearings and added material in various locations for improved strength. Original plans called for a forged crankshaft, although actual production SD455s received nodular iron crankshafts with minor enhancements. Forged rods and forged aluminum pistons were specified, as were unique high flow cylinder heads. A 1967 GTO Ram Air camshaft with 301/313 degrees of advertised duration, 0.407 inch net valve lift, and 76 degrees of valve overlap was specified for actual production engines in lieu of the significantly more aggressive Ram Air IV style cam that had originally been planned for the engine (initially rated at 310 hp (230 kW) with that cam), but proved incapable of meeting the tightening emissions standards of the era. This cam, combined with a low compression ratio of 8.4 (advertised) and 7.9:1 actual resulted in 290 SAE net horsepower. Production test cars yielded 1/4 mile times in the 14.5 second/98 MPH range in showroom tune - results consistent for a car with a curb weight of 3,850 pounds and the rated 290 SAE net horsepower figure some sources suggest was "under-rated," High Performance Pontiac magazine dyno-tested an SD and gave it 371 SAE net rating. During a 1972 strike, the Firebird (and the sister F-body Camaro) were nearly dropped. Pontiac offered the 455 for a few more years, but tightening restrictions on vehicle emissions guaranteed its demise. Thus, the 1976 Trans Am was the last of the "Big Cube Birds," with only 7,100 units produced with the 455 engine.
The 1974 models featured a redesigned "shovel-nose" front end and new wide "slotted" taillights. In 1974, Pontiac offered two base engines for the Firebird: a 100 hp (75 kW) 250 cu in (4.1 L) inline-6 and a 155 hp (116 kW) 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8. Available were 175 hp (130 kW) to 225 hp (168 kW) 400 cu in (6.6 L) V8 engines, as well as the 455 cu in (7.5 L) produced 215 hp (160 kW) or 250 hp (190 kW), while the SD-455 produced 290 hp (220 kW). The 400, 455, and SD-455 engines were offered in the Trans Am and Formula models during 1974.

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