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Abridged version of a 7-page article printed in the March 2017 edition of POCI's "Smoke Signals" magazine
Recently discovered documents found at the Pontiac-Oakland Museum library provides proof that Pontiac was thinking of dipping their
toes into Super Stock drag racing in the form of producing 50 Hurst prepared 1969 Firebird Ram Air V cars.
Tom Goad, Marketing and Planning Manager for Pontiac, sketched out his idea on a piece of regular notebook paper in mid-1969.
His ideas followed the same formula that Chrysler and AMC had followed previously, but Pontiac (and GM) were not still supporting
any racing teams or promoting any sanctioned racing activities. Granted, GM still allowed some extreme cars to be produced. For
instance, the 1969 ZL-1 427, featuring an aluminum block and heads, was offered in the Camaro and Corvette, but these were still
production line cars, not modified drag cars. Tom Goad sent a letter to Hurst Performance asking for his proposal to be reviewed, and
a preliminary outline was drawn up by Robert Tarozzi, Director Of Hurst Engineering.
The plan was for Pontiac to build 50 1969 Firebird 350's
with the 2-speed automatic transmission, painted Cameo
White, and have Hurst Performance transform them into
legal Super Stock drag cars. The 50 cars were to be built
at the Norwood plant in a single batch run, shipped to the
Pontiac plant, then transported over to Hurst Performance
in Ferndale, MI for the Super Stock conversion. Pontiac
400 cube Ram Air V engines would be installed by Hurst,
backed by a special Turbo 400 trans (calibrated by Hurst),
large tube headers, 4.56 axle ratio, relocation of the battery
to the trunk, modifications to the rear wheel wells, a 1969
Trans Am hood and Trans Am rear spoiler, and special
decals and paint. The original 350 cube engine, 2-speed
automatic transmissions, and standard Firebird hoods
would be shipped back to the Pontiac plant and
presumably back to the Norwood plant. Completed
Firebirds would then be shipped from Hurst Performance
in Ferndale, MI back to the Pontiac plant, then shipped
out to selected dealers. The dealers would be billed for a base Firebird 350, plus all the additional modifications and parts installed by
Hurst Performance. Hurst estimated the total cost would be around $465.00, which sounds like a bargain considering the work
involved, but no mention was made as to what the actual MSRP would be to the buyer of such a car. Tom Goad proposed that the
cost of the conversion could be absorbed by the selling dealer so as to minimize costs incurred by Pontiac. Hurst also mentioned that
they (Hurst Performance) would discuss the package with NHRA rule makers to determine which NHRA Super Stock class the car
would compete in.
It's estimated the total price to a customer would be the price of a Firebird 350 with an automatic trans (approximately $3,100), the
Hurst conversion (retail price estimated around $1000), and a total retail price around $4,100. While this seems cheap (this was
approximately the price of a 1969 Trans Am), remember that essentially you were buying a bare bones, no option white 1969 Firebird
with a Ram Air V engine installed, gears, headers, and a few other items such as the relocation of the battery to the trunk, modifying
the rear wheel wells, headers, etc. The project was never pursued beyond this point.
How fast would the Hurst S/S Firebird have been? Like any of the special Super Stock vehicles produced, it depends on the experience
of the driver, traction, and preparation of the vehicle. We can say with some certainty, however, that based on an original road test
(June 1969 Car Craft) of a similarly equipped 1969 Firebird Ram Air V (headers, 4.88 gears, Holley 800 cfm carb) that the Hurst S/S
Firebird would have run in the 11.60-11.80 range at around 120 mph.
Another interesting topic would be how Hurst would have painted these 50 Firebirds.
A mention is made in the original memo that Hurst would apply their own emblems
and paint scheme. Based on the similarity of the 1969 Firebird Hurst S/S proposal and
the 1969 Hurst S/S AMX, it is most likely that the 50 Firebirds would have remained
in their original Cameo White color. Having showroom appeal (like the 1968-1969
Hurst/Olds models) would not have been a priority for Hurst or Pontiac as these
50 Firebirds would have been purpose built for the dragstrip. Once sold to a customer,
the Firebirds would have most likely had contingency stickers and custom lettering
applied based on the tastes of their new owners (or perhaps the Pontiac dealership)
that raced the car.
We can only speculate as to why this proposal was cancelled. Perhaps it was due to
the change in upper management at Pontiac (John DeLorean left Pontiac in early 1969
and was promoted to Chevrolet). The new Pontiac president (James McDonald) may
have frowned upon selling a handful of 1969 Firebirds with special racing engines just
before the introduction of all-new 1970 Firebirds. Or perhaps this proposal was not even shown to Mr. McDonald. It was well known
he was not fond of the Ram Air V program, or any other program hatched under the previous regime of his predecessor. Or perhaps
this proposal was cancelled due to Hurst Performance already having their plate full with conversions (AMC Hurst AMX S/S, AMC
Hurst SC/Rambler, Hurst/Olds) and they were simply juggling too many balls in the air.
Regardless of why it was cancelled, the fact that this proposal was laid out by Pontiac Marketing and Planning and discussed with
Hurst Performance is enough to excite any Pontiac fan. It shows that Pontiac was swinging for the fences in late 1969, even after
DeLorean's departure had cast a shadow on any attempts by engineers to create such special car for drag racing purposes.
In the end, only a handful of Ram Air V engines were ever produced, and sadly, none of them were installed at the factory. Pontiac
would continue to maintain a strong relationship with Hurst Performance for many years to come, but future collaborations would not
involve anything as extreme as the proposal for building a handful of 1969 Firebird Ram Air V Super Stocks.
1969 AMX's in the process of being converted
to Super Stock drag cars by Hurst
Performance in Ferndale, MI. This photo is
most likely the way the 50 white 1969
Firebirds would have appeared had the plan
for the Hurst S/S Firebird been approved.
Based on the description provided by Pontiac in a memo to Hurst, this is how
1969 Firebirds may have appeared when they arrived at the Hurst facility for
conversion to a Hurst S/S Firebird. Pontiac would build 50 standard "body in
white" Firebird 350 2bbl cars equipped with 2-speed automatic transmissions,
standard base wheels, and install a Trans Am rear spoiler and Trans Am hood.
The proposal did not get past the preliminary stage so we do not know what
paint scheme or emblems would have been applied by Hurst.
|1969 Hurst S/S Firebird - Pontiac's Secret Attempt To Go Super Stock Racing