NZ Classic Driver



In 1969, Pontiac joined Ford, Chevrolet and American Motor Corporatio­n in funding a fully fledged factory team in the SCCA Trans-Am Championsh­ip. The team was called T/G Racing and was run by former Ford factory driver Jerry Titus, and Canadian businessma­n Terry Godsall. Titus, known affectiona­tely as “Mr Trans-Am”, was both engineer and driver.

Pontiac got right behind the programme and produced a special version of its sporty Firebird pony car specifical­ly to homologate specialist parts to carry across to the racing cars. Indeed, Pontiac underlined its commitment by arranging a special deal with the SCCA to adopt the Trans-Am name for its new racer. To that end, the Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am was born. For its part, Pontiac paid the SCCA $5 for every Firebird Trans-Am produced, which ultimately continued until the demise of the company in 2010.

When Pontiac launched its secondgene­ration Firebird in 1970 a Trans-Am model quickly followed. Sporting a functional shaker hood scoop, front and rear spoilers, an aero kit, and side vents in each front fender it was certainly a dramatic looking machine. T/G Racing debuted its second-gen Firebird Trans-Am in the opening Trans-Am encounter at Laguna Seca in April 1970.

However, although it looked the part the Firebird was let down by its big Pontiac motor; a monstrous 400ci lump de-stroked to fit the 304ci (5000cc) limit.

Tragically, Jerry Titus was killed following a shunt in practice for Round 7 at Road America, and as a result the team lost its great driving force. However, one of the 1970 T/G Racing Firebirds continued on in 1971, painted blue and with backing from the BFG Radial tyre company, under the guise of Tire Bird. It was a clever marketing stunt to promote BFG’s new range of radial street tyres, which were actually used on the racing car.

Now, the BFG Radial Tire Bird has been recreated by John Mills for Historic Muscle & Saloon Cars (HM&SC). The original T/G Racing Firebirds ran a mixture of Pontiac and Chevrolet engines, switching to Chevy units in 1971. And as such, HM&SC allows Pontiac Firebird car owners a choice of either Pontiac or Chevy propulsion. Interestin­gly, John has opted to go with the Pontiac.

John has already run his first test in the Firebird (sans Tire Bird livery), and is expected to make his race debut shortly. It’s a great addition to the grid, and offers a neat point of difference to its more commonly seen GM sibling, the Camaro, of which several currently race with HM&SC.

More info on Historic Muscle Cars/Historic Saloon Cars can be found at the HMC website: www.historicmu­ or through the HMC online discussion forum at The Roaring Season: www.theroaring­ or the Facebook page NZ Historic Muscle & Saloon Cars.

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