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1968 Pontiac Firebird Sprint, Underrated '60s Unicorn With a Perfect Handling Package

The Pontiac Firebird Sprint is a rare, sophisticated, and perfect-handling pony car from the '60s. It’s one of the rarest cars from GM developed by John DeLorean. The 1968 Firebird was America’s answer to the Jaguar XK-E and first came with a 4.1-liter V6 Overhead Cam engine - a rarity in the U.S.
jay Leno 1968 Pontiac Firebird Sprint 6 photos
jay Leno 1968 Pontiac Firebird Sprintjay Leno 1968 Pontiac Firebird Sprintjay Leno 1968 Pontiac Firebird Sprintjay Leno 1968 Pontiac Firebird Sprintjay Leno 1968 Pontiac Firebird Sprint
When DeLorean took over Pontiac, he wanted to develop an American sports car version of the XK-E, or how the E-Type was called in America. He took a Chevy 6 and made an overhead cam engine for it. This engine was first used on the Banshee, a project that quickly flopped. It was the first car with an overhead cam to run a rubber belt.

The Banshee died, but the engine lived to power the Pontiac models developed in 1967, including the new Firebird. The 1968 Pontiac Firebird Sprint was a separate model with unique badging, heavy duty suspension, and the ‘ZE’ cammed engine. This engine had a four-barrel carburetor with chrome air cleaner, producing 215 HP at 5,500 Rpm. This engine option was more expensive than the 350 cubic inch V8, and, as a result, the Sprint never really took-off.

Jay Leno has always dreamed of owning one of these, and when the opportunity came in 2019, he jumped on it. His team did a minor restomod on it. They pulled out the engine and rebuilt it with performance modifications such as cams, bigger pistons, and a Tremec TKX 5-speed transmission.

The 1968 Sprint, unlike most American muscle cars of the era, had smaller wheels, a V6, and low-end torque. However, where the '60s Camaro and Corvette lost, the Firebird won. It came with stellar handling from the get-go, with multi-springs and staggered shocks on the rear. It had an efficient and reliable engine with remarkable advances. This pony car was light, with a good power-to-weight ratio, making it the perfect American car to compete with European roadsters.

The unique hood tachometer, '60s styling, and handling package make all the difference in the world. According to Leno, it’s one of the few cars from that era where the engine doesn’t overpower the chassis.

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