At the time that I was working full-time in an automotive dyno-tuning shop I owned a 1971 Pontiac Firebird Formula 400. With cars as both hobby and profession, outside of college classes at night, this 400 cubic-inch V8 was my other “classroom.”

While I kept this particular engine mostly showroom stock, the large-displacement Pontiac motors always responded well to improvements in tailored “tuning” on the shop chassis dyno. Pontiac had engineered the 1971 models to run well – yet they had to limit ignition timing advance and lean out fuel calibrations to meet increasingly stringent emissions — as well as lower-octane fuels. The dyno-tuning tricks were to retain all of the important factory emission system components for reduced exhaust, crankcase and evaporative emissions, and simply “optimize” the induction and ignition systems.

Spending the hours under the hood that we did with these cars, it was only natural to keep them immaculately clean under the hoods. To add to the under-hood color contrasts of my Firebird, I can remember the fun of having the valve covers cad-plated gold. The gold cad finish never hid any grease, dust or other residue – so keeping them clean took a little extra time. But at 20 years old, the thought of “washing the car” always included under the hood, too!

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