Another one of my favorite cars owned, this was my 1971 Pontiac Firebird Formula 400. Over the years between the time I was 17 and 22 years old I owned four other Pontiacs of greater and lesser performance than this Firebird. And while that obviously made me a “Pontiac” fan, during the same period I also owned vehicles by Ford, Chevrolet and Plymouth. For a period of time in there the idea of buying, fixing up and selling some of these cars had become a hobby. Still, this particular Pontiac Firebird was a special one it was a stock “ringer” – a car that rolled off of the factory assembly line when everything had been done right.
It had been owned by one of my customers when I was a mechanic and at the time that my customer indicated that he was ready to sell it, I couldn’t help but be tempted. For the several years prior to the time he was to sell it, I had been the primary mechanic servicing this car – so I knew its service history and the solid condition of the overall vehicle and drivetrain.
After buying this Firebird, it became a favorite for me and my fellow auto service bay “dyno tuning” buddies. Though I wanted to keep the car mostly stock, I couldn’t resist the temptation of a little “tweaking” here and there on the tuning. As a consequence, the base 400 cubic-inch engine in this Firebird received every proven and experimental trick that could be done to the factory Rochester Quadrajet and factory Delco ignition system. In effect, it became a rolling “test lab” of altered carb jets/fuel metering rods, vents, fuel channels, distributor curve specs/springs/weights – as well as intake manifolds.
We tested and proved most of the engine modifications for incremental power increases or broadened power curve benefits on the shop chassis dyno. Of course there were always follow up checks confirmed by rewarding “road tests” following the work. There is no substitute for that “seat-of-the-pants” feel to make the labor worthwhile. “Just showroom stock,” but what fun it is to “optimize” showroom stock!