A Firebird 400 in 1968, the second year of production.This is a convertible model.

as a model in its own right. There was a paradox here, too, for the Trans Am, one of America’s legendary hot cars, was named after the famous race series but was never a successful racer itself. Yet up to 2002, one could still buy a brand- new Firebird or Trans Am. In 1964, the Mustang had been let out of its stable and, contrary to the predictions of the industry, was selling in huge numbers. Over at General Motors, Pontiac’s top management was peopled by individuals who loved and understood performance cars, most notably Bunkie Knudsen and John DeLorean. In a few short years, they had helped to change Pontiac’s image from conservative to hot and desirable, with the Super Duty racing specials. On the back of that, they had recently launched the GTO, which was destined to become the first of a new generation of muscle cars. If any GM division was equipped to meet and beat the Mustang, it was the newly performance-aware Pontiac. They got to work. Chevrolet had already proposed the XP-836, a sporting four-seater, but John DeLorean in particular wanted a proper two-seat sports car, a cheaper competitor for Chevrolet’s own Corvette. This was the XP- 833, with a streamlined, futuristic plastic body. But it was too avant-garde for GM’s top management, who in any case did not want any in-house competition for the Corvette. Consequently, the XP-833 died a swift death.

10 High Performance: The V8 Revolution

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