Categories
cars Uncategorized

The Pontiac Pegasus: The Time Pontiac put a Ferrari V-12 in a Firebird.

In 1970 Pontiac created one of their most unusual concept cars of all time. A Ferrari V-12 powered Pontiac Firebird. It seemed to blur the line between a passion project and a concept car. However, under closer observation, the practical nature of it is revealed. GM was no stranger to usual concept cars; the name Firebird itself comes from a series of turbine-powered concept cars from the ’50s. But why would Pontiac, a company famous for its performance cars and engines, put a Ferrari V-12 in one of their cars? At 4.4 liters, the V-12 was much smaller than the average performance V-8 to come from GM. The amount of passion that went into the car was obvious. There was not only a custom Pegasus logo on the grill but a Porsche-esque coat of arms on the hood. An original design. The name Pegasus is derived from combing the Firebird (a mythical creature in its own right) and that of a horse. The Ferrari logo depicts what is known as “the Prancing Pony.” The result is the legendary mythical winged horse, the Pegasus.
The Pontiac Pegasus at the 2019 Trans Am Nationals.
This year I had the chance to see the Pontiac Pegasus in person; it was part of a group of show cars brought to the Trans Am Nationals in Fairborn, Ohio. It was in excellent condition. I even got to hear it run as it was moved for the night. Oddly enough, it gave off a low rumble that would not be out of place coming from a small block Chevy. It was great to get up close and see it with the hood opened and closed.
The Ferrari V-12. It is paired with a 5-speed Ferrari transmission.
By 1970 the second generation of Pontiac’s pony car, the Firebird, was released. It was lower and sleeker than its predecessor. The muscle car performance wars of the ’60s were winding down, curtailed by environmental legislation. A headline on an issue of Hot Rod magazine read: 71’ Cars, Will they Perform? Pony cars were still going strong. The popular road racing series, and Trans Am namesake the SCCA Trans-Am series was going strong, showcasing the handling of the pony cars. The Pegasus was a perfect showcase of that handling, with a lighter V-12 then the normal V-8 that came with the Trans Ams and Formulas.
The Pontiac Pegasus’ interior. Note the Ferrari gauges.

I was first introduced to the Pegasus by the great book “The Fabulous Firebird.” It gave an excellent description of how the Pegasus came to be, but one part always made me curious. It was said that Enzo Ferrari himself donated the motor. This connection was odd to me, as there wasn’t much of a relationship between Mr. Ferrari and the American auto industry, especially after Ford’s attempted purchase of Ferrari. While at the 2019 Trans Am Nations I had a chance to speak with a former Pontiac engineer, it turns out, Bill Mitchell, at that time GM’s design vice president, and the man behind the project was a big car collector and someone who had a lot of connections within the industry. The motor was sent courtesy of a U.S. Ferrari dealership.

The car itself has many interesting design elements. Including a racing-inspired gas cap on the trunk area of the car. (this design was also included on the 1974 Pontiac concept car the Banshee.) There were also fog lights, which could be a nod to the car’s European influence. Despite the European influence, a uniquely American design touch is featured on the car. Much like the Firebird Formulas and the 1969 Trans Am, the Pegasus features an air cleaner inside the hood itself, taking advantage of the cold air available. In perhaps a nod to racing rules dating from before the car was made, there was a full-sized spare tire prominently displayed in the back of the car under the rear glass.
To the Author, the Pegasus is a passion project with real-world bearings, from a time when GM was the largest manufacturer on the planet, and the future of cars and how they would perform was in doubt. Today we find ourselves in a similar situation; it will be interesting to see how much the performance enthusiast is considered as vehicles continue to evolve.
Categories
Uncategorized

The 2019 Trans Am Nationals.

               This August I went to the 35th Annual Trans Am Nationals in Fairborn, Ohio. Although I was only able to attend on Saturday and Sunday, I was able to see a lot of stuff and got to go to the Tipp City Cruise. The Cruise is considered a highlight of the event by many. This year there were 485 cars. According to one person who was attending the record was around 600 back in 2002. Although it was a little off from the all-time high, it is still impressive considering that in 2002 the Pontiac Trans Am was still in production.
The 1971 Pontiac Pegasus.
               This year was unique in that the GM Heritage Center had brought several Pontiac Firebird concept cars from Detroit. This was a rare opportunity to see these cars as the Center is not open to the public, although large groups can arrange a visit. They included the Banshee, a red on red concept car with a longer, sleeker hood then production models. The Pontiac Pegasus, a V-12 Ferrari-Powered 1971 Firebird. The K Type Trans Am station wagon concept car was also in attendance. There was also an unveiling of the nearly completely restored Silverbird racecar, as well as the actual 1989 Trans Am used to pace the Indianapolis 500. There was a huge 1989 Turbo Pace Car turn out as it was the 30th anniversary for them. Several high-ranking Pontiac engineers were in attendance as well who helped shape the Trans Am in its early days of production in the ’60s and ’70s.
The Pontiac Banshee concept car.

               It was amazing seeing cars in person that I had only seen pictures of in books or magazines. The Pegasus was beautiful with its deep red paint. The body differed significantly from a production Firebird. The interior had been modified as well. The Banshee was also radically modified from a stock Firebird. Not only was the front of the car sleeker, but the doors had also been modified enough that that traditional full side windows had to be substituted with a much smaller one, like the kind seen on a DeLorean. There was also extensive pinstriping done as well, which makes sense as the car is from the mid-’70s. The other concept car was the Trans Am Type K. I had seen it years ago when the show was located at a nearby airport back in 2006. The Trans Am Type K is unique in that it is a station wagon prototype. It features redesigned rear seats, giving backseat occupants more room. It also has a lower rearview mirror to counter the changed rear visibility. A station wagon may seem like an odd choice for a Trans Am concept car, however, in the late ’70s, the Trans Am was a big enough seller that GM could afford to try something different. The sleek Silverbird was cool in a book and awe-inspiring in person. It was the brainchild of Pontiac engineer turned racecar driver and designer Herb Adams. It’s custom body mounted on a race car tube frame made it stand out from production models. It was very cool to see them all side-by-side.

The Pontiac Trans Am Type K concept car.
               
                The Tipp City Cruise was always fun. It was nice seeing the hundreds of Firebirds and Trans Ams converge and park around the beautiful downtown area. There is a separate award ceremony for the Tipp City Cruise, as well as a DJ. On Sunday, I was able to check out more cars and go to the Mini Nationals, located in a room at the hotel. The Mini Nationals is always fun to see. It is an entire room filled with die-cast and plastic model kit Firebirds and Trans Ams representing many different scales, both unboxed and still in the original box. There were also some dioramas set up as well. Several people had brought large collections of cars to it.
A 1969 Pontiac Trans Am. The first year for the Trans Am.
               On Sunday a charity auction was held. Some of the items auctioned off for the charity event were a slot car set autographed by several of the Pontiac engineers in attendance. It was a great show that took a lot of effort to pull off, but the staff did an amazing job making sure everything ran smoothly. It was great catching up with old friends and meeting new people. I’m looking forward to seeing what new things are there next year.
A large collection at the Mini Nationals.
One of the many 1989 Turbo Trans Ams at the show.
Categories
Uncategorized

The 2018 Trans Am Nationals.

The 2018 Trans Am Nationals.
                The Trans Am Nationals, on its 34th year, is held annually near Dayton, Ohio. For the last several years it has been held at a hotel in Fairborn, Ohio. It is open to all Pontiac Firebirds. This year there were almost 400 Firebirds. It starts on Friday, and goes on till Sunday, with an optional meet up at a dragstrip several miles away on Thursday. It is made up of a car show with judging, auctions, a swap meet, cars for sale, and a vendor’s row. There is also the “Mini Nats” which was comprised of a wide variety of model Firebirds, spanning several decades and scales that filled an entire room.
Trans Am at the Hotel.
The hotel, which is located right off of the interstate, could be described as a college town. Just across the road from the hotel is Write State University. Surrounding the hotel are various restaurants and strip malls. I arrived around 2 in the afternoon. Went through the tech inspection and got my car washed with the hose the hotel had left out for the show cars. Later in the evening, we got dinner at a restaurant/brewery called the Wandering Griffin just down a side road not far from the hotel. The parking lot there formed a miniature car show. Even after dark people hang around outside their cars, inside at the hotel restaurant/bar there was karaoke. The second day had several seminars, as well as the Tipp City Cruise. The judging for the Nationals takes place on Saturday and Sunday and is divided up into several classes, in regards to year, extent (if any) of modification, as well as a driver/work in progress class and a concours class. The concours judging involves a far more detailed inspection of cars that what is normally performed in other classes. In the concours judging tent, it’s not usual to see a judge lying on the ground to get a view of the underside of a car.   
A group of second generation Trans Am’s.
Tipp City is a small city located just north of Dayton, Ohio. Its small downtown makes up the main drag and continues for a short distance down a few side streets. The main drag is actually a state highway, making the fact the entire thing gets closed down extra impressive. The Tipp City Cruise had its own awards. Ongoing to the Tipp City cruise; we were instructed to take a “scenic route”. There was construction on the main highway to Tipp City, and they had wanted us to enter the city opposite of the main highway. The route took us on the main highway, where we turned off far before the state highway that runs through downtown Tipp City where the site of the cruise is. After turning off the main highway, the road to Tipp City winds through fields, small towns, and rolling hills until it arrives there. The main street and side roads were filled with Trans Am’s and Firebirds. The restaurants in the town (although it is technically a city it gives a small town vibe) were packed. There were several groups that were selling food as well. We left out a little after noon on Sunday. I had a great time; I really look forward to returning next year.
A variety of Trans Am’s arriving at the Tipp City Cruise.
Categories
Uncategorized

The 2018 Pontiac Nationals

The 2018 Pontiac Nationals.
                The Pontiac Nationals is the world’s largest all Pontiac/GMC car meet. It is held during the first full week of August. It consists of drag racing with multiple classes, both bracket and heads up racing, a large car show, swap meet, and vendors. It is held annually in Norwalk, Ohio at the Summit Motorsports Park drag strip. There have been some well-known cars in attendance. Pontiac drag racer Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick and his car are frequent guests. The Boss Bird, a replica of Arnie Beswick’s funny car and currently the world’s only nitro powered Pontiac funny car is a regular as well.
Drag racing took place throughout the entire day.

                It is a three-day event, from Friday to Sunday. I arrived Saturday morning. The practice had started for the races that would start in a few hours. The field on the side of the track was filled with show cars representing decades of Pontiacs and even a GMC semi truck. Closer to the track was the swap meet, which was still filled with parts and memorabilia. There is a lot with cars for sale. The cars racing were as diverse as the cars in the show; there was everything from station wagons to dragsters. Several Pontiac powered cars broke the 200mph barrier. There was also a classic super stock race featuring a variety of manufactures. On the other side of the track is a row of food vendors and a gift shop, designed like an old-timey town. There is a good selection of food, ranging from a pound of ice cream for a dollar to slices of pizza, beyond that are the pits for the racers.

A 1969 Trans Am at the car show.
                Splitting my time between the racing, checking out the pits, the car show and swap meet, I still didn’t get a chance to see everything. The racing continued on until Sunday, which was when the various award ceremonies took place. I left around 5 and headed back to Indiana. I look forward to returning, as there are always new things to see.

A GMC pickup getting ready to race.
Categories
Uncategorized

The Pontiac-Oakland Museum


The Pontiac-Oakland Museum
             A museum that is well worth the time if you are into cars is the Pontiac-Oakland Museum in Pontiac, Illinois. It’s been at this location since 2011. I’ve been to the museum several times now and every trip back there is something new. Pontiac, Illinois is not unlike many other small cities in the Midwest. Its downtown is a square built around a courthouse. Pontiac, Illinois the sort of city that could easily be mistaken for a town. It’s about 3 hours from Chicago, out in the country surrounded on all sides by fields. The museum is located on the square, and frequently plays host to car shows representing all kinds of different makes and models.
             The museum is owned and ran by the husband and wife team of Tim and Penny Dye. It is truly a labor of love. The amount of work that goes into the museum by them and the volunteers is immediately evident as you walk in. The museum plays host to an ever-changing line up of cars that span a century of automotive history. There’s usually even a race car or two. It even goes beyond cars, there is a section dedicated to Chief Pontiac, the Ottawa chief that the brand is named for and a recreation of a 1960s (soon to be 1970s) campsite. The museum also has its own library. A room stocked with a wide range of books and magazines. Want to find a period road test of your classic Pontiac? There is a good chance it’s in there.
             There’s a gift shop with all kinds of cool Pontiac related items, including a few classic things. I picked up a dealer exclusive model of a 1979 Trans Am there. It’s well worth the trip for Pontiac fans as well as car fans in general. You can check out their Facebook page here and visit their website at http://www.pontiacoaklandmuseum.org/.