Sunday, December 4, 2022

1956 Corvette "The Real McCoy" That Saved The Brand

1956 Corvette

Just about anybody in the world who knows a little about cars knows that the Corvette was the first American sports car and is now the most popular, fastest, and most recognizable American sports car to date. But what a lot of people may not know is that this was not always true. In fact, by the year 1955, the Corvette almost saw its extinction.

Rumors about the move to drop the Corvette flooded out of Chevrolet's top offices with very sad sales numbers to back up what only seemed to be a good idea. Their competition, the two-seater Ford Thunderbird, which sold an astonishing 16,000 units in 1955—the Corvette—only sold a depressing 700 units.

Unfortunately for Ford, the same car that was taking so many sales away from the Corvette would be the inspiration for keeping the Corvette in the product lineup. The idea behind keeping the Vette and spending more money on a car that was obviously tanking was brought on by a few Chevrolet bigwigs, including former Corvette chief engineer Dave McLellan. McLellan released a statement concurring that, "if the Ford Thunderbird was doing so well, there is obviously a market for a two-seater sports car. With a solid change for the better and the right amount of marketing, the Corvette should be able to become a moneymaker."

In an ironic twist, the very car that Corvette planned to piggyback off of, the Ford Thunderbird, had already made future plans to market the car differently by doing away with the two-seater style and making it a four-seater touring car, thus leaving the American sports car market wide open for Chevrolet and its Corvette.

Corvette 327

"The Real McCoy" 

As wide open as the market was, the Corvette needed some changes for success, ideally in the form of performance and a new body style. When Zora Arkus Dutov took the reins as Corvette Chief Engineer, he was ready to make those changes, but he knew first the chassis had to be redesigned to handle any horsepower upgrades.

Once engineers updated and strengthen the chassis, Chevrolet engineers went performance and horsepower hunting. First, they ditched the boring and heavy two-speed power-glide transmission and replaced it with an upgraded four-speed. They also took the original 265 cu.-in. motor and bored it out to a 307 that sported dual Cater carbs and a now-famous "Dutov High-Performance Cam." 

1956 Corvette Real McCoy

Other upgrades were also included on the Real McCoy like a very rare set of Halibrand magnesium knock-off wheels, special heavy-duty brakes with cooling scoops, heavy-duty shocks and sway bars, an upgraded high-capacity fuel tank, and more—all newly implicated to help achieve the Corvette performance desired.

After all of those upgrades, top engineers slapped a new SR Prototype body on what was now known as project Corvette #6901. The engineers called it "The Real McCoy" and decided it was ready to head to the racetrack.

Dayton Speedway Record
The first stop for the "Real McCoy" was the Dayton Speed Week for a two-way flying speed mile. This is where the Corvette would make its first milestone. At the time, the record for the Corvettes class was 127 mph. With Dutov as the driver, the 255-horsepower Corvette sped to an average speed of 150.58mph to crush the record.

This was an extremely sufficient record because it occurred just weeks before the New York Motorama, where the Corvette would be on display to many potential buyers, most of which had already heard the news of the record-breaking performance.

12-Hour Sebring Race
A few months after Daytona, the ground-breaking Corvette made its way to the famous 12-Hour Sebring Race. This race was designed only for the toughest of the toughest—the fastest of the fastest. Only cars like Jaguars, Bentleys, and Aston Martins graced the racetracks for these events. But with a chance to prove that the Corvette has changed and deserved respect along with the other powerful sports cars, Chevrolet did not shy away, instead, they joined in on the action.

1956 12-hour of Sebring

Race car drivers John Fitch and Walter Hansgen were brought on board to take on the challenging race. When the green flag dropped, the race was on. But early on in the race, the Corvette experienced mechanical problems, so much so they did not think it would finish the race. In the end, not only did the Real McCoy Corvette finish, the Corvette finished first in its respective class and 9th overall. This was an incredible accomplishment, especially considering 60 cars entered the event, but only 24 crossed the finish line.

With another huge milestone under Corvette's belt, Chevrolet exploited it by printing ads like this "A Tough, Road-Gripping Torpedo On Wheels" and "The Most Remarkable Car Made In America Today." 

Those ads were to send a message: Corvette had finally arrived as a force in the international sportscar racing circuits, and they proudly called this particular Vette "The Real McCoy."

Between all of its accomplishments and Chevrolet's ad campaigns, the '56 Corvette sold 3,467 units, and in '57 they nearly doubled that with 6,339 sold. One of the main reasons the Corvette saw such selling success was if they were to race the Vette in its respected class at the 12-hour Sebring race, every part that was changed or modified for the race had to be documented and later made available to the public. This process made potential buyers very excited about being able to buy a Corvette and beef it up to run and look just like the “The Real McCoy”  

Real McCoy Corvette at Mecum

Auctioned Away For $2.3 Million

In any event, if it was not for the #6901 '56 PJ Prototype "Real McCoy" Corvette, and possibly the success of the Thunderbird, Chevrolet may have never gone forward with the Corvette and, the automobile industry would definitely not be the same today.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Pontiac Firehawk Third and Forth-Generation: Which One To Buy

2021 Pontiac Firehawk

I think most automobile enthusiasts would agree that very few vehicles from the mid-'70s to the late '80s could be considered high-performance vehicles. Between higher-priced fuel due to oil shortages, the EPA clamp-down in search of better emissions, and sky-rocketing insurance rates, there was just no market for higher-performing cars, especially with the US bouncing in and out of recessions. 

But still, in the ‘80s, there were some well-performing cars that gave us gearheads some hope for a change—a light at the end of the tunnel that would get us out of an era that produced mostly disappointing sports cars and sad muscle car attempts. 

So when did the tides start to change for the high-performance automobile industry? 

Buick Grand National

It is tough to pinpoint when or where, but there are a few vehicles like the Buick Grand National, GMC Syclone and Typhoon, prototype 454 Corvette ZR-2, and some other impressive attempts to revive the high-performance auto industry. 

One very important contribution to the reviving process was the creation of the Pontiac Firehawk. Let’s take a look at how these cool cars got their start, what made them awesome, and how they evolved. 

92 Pontiac Firehawk

The 1991 and 1992 Pontiac Firehawk 

When Pontiac was ready to give their sports car a boost in the right direction, they looked to the SLP company. Starting in 1987, SLP has been a huge contributor to high-performance parts for vehicles of all kinds. 

Pontiac just didn’t place some of the SLP high-performance parts on the soon-to-be Firehawk, instead, the two companies joined together to create a new performance RPO code name B4U or better known as the Pontiac Firehawk. 

Built off the Firebird trim package, this Pontiac received an L98 350 V8 engine that pumped out 360 horsepower 390 lb.-ft. of torque thanks mostly to upgraded pistons, intake, exhaust, and a set of well-ported heads.

Other upgrades included:

  • C4 Corvette ZF 6-speed manual transmission 
  • Aluminum driveshaft
  • Limited-slip differential 
  • 275/40-17 tires

Firehawk $9,000 option
  • Recaro front seats
  • Aluminum hood
  • Roll Cage
  • Five-point harnesses 
  • Stiffer bushings for the rear control arms
  • Brembo® brakes
  • Optional fuel cell

Performance Results 

There are no official times that any one source can tie down as a positive, but an easy 13-second quarter-mile time at 106 mph seems to be about on target with its 4.6 second 0-60 mph times.  


Production Numbers

Between the ‘91 and '92 third-generation Firehawks, a total of 25 were built. The first eight Firehawks were built as 1991 Pontiac Firehawks, and the last 17 were built as 1992 Firehawks. 

Fourth-Generation: Pontiac Firehawk 1993

93 Pontiac Firehawk

The first Firehawks were so well-received there was no doubt Pontiac was going to carry the nameplate over to the fourth-generation Firebirds. Unfortunately, these Firehawks would receive fewer upgrades from the original ‘93 Firebird Formula. Most people believe it was to not take to much away from the new-generation look and drivetrain. 

Fourth-Generation Firehawk Upgrades

With both Camaro Z28 and Firebird Formula now receiving the new LT1 that Corvette started using just one year earlier, more power became a little bit more achievable. In stock form, the 5.7-liter LT1 engine would make 275 horsepower. With some special Firehawk tuning, the LT1’s power was boosted to 300 horsepower and 330 lb.-ft. of torque. 


Other Upgrades Included: 

  • Lightweight composite hood with functional CAI ram air
  • Firehawk graphics
  • Stainless exhaust tips
  • 17-inch x 8-½-inch aluminum alloy wheels
  • P275/40ZR17 Firestone Firehawk tires
  • 201 Firehawks produced in 1993 with the RPO code of R6V

1994 Pontiac Firehawk 

1994 Firehawk

These fourth-gen Firehawks would get an increase of 15 horsepower and an increase of 5 lb.-ft. of torque from the previous year. The increase was achieved thanks to a 3-inch dual system with a less restrictive muffler. You were also able to option up a Level II Bilstein suspension package for some great handling attributes and better launches. 

1995 Pontiac Firehawk

95 Pontiac Firehawk Convertible

Although mostly unchanged from the previous year, Pontiac did make a move that made the Firehawk more desirable to a wider audience. For the first time, a Firehawk buyer had the option of purchasing one in a convertible configuration. In fact, 102 convertibles were said to be built for ‘95. Unfortunately, although the convertible Firehawk received all the other performance upgrades as the other Firehawks, they were unable to be ordered with the Level II Bilstein Sport Suspension. 

1996 Pontiac Firehawk 

1996 Pontiac Firehawk

1996 was a low production year for the Firehawk due to the interest that SLP found in the WS6 Ram Air Pontiacs and Camaro SS. Only 41 were produced, but the nice thing was that the Firehawk performance package ended up costing less than it did the previous year. 

1997 Pontiac Firehawk 

97 Pontiac Fire Hawk

1997 was another special year for the Firehawks. Although it is unknown how many were produced, 29 were produced with a Corvette LT4 engine. Since in ‘97, Corvette had moved on to the new and improved LS1 engine, there were extra LT4 engines left over. Some of those engines went into the ‘97 Camaro SS SLP Edition, and the others went into the Firehawk. Other than the bigger engine package, not much changed from ‘96 to the ‘97 for the Firehawk.  

LT4 engine


Some More Upgrades Through The Fourth-Generation Years That Could Be Order Depending On Year And Configuration Were:

  • Engine Oil Cooler Package
  • Performance Lubricants Package with synthetic rear axle lube, semi-synthetic power steering fluid, and premium quality synthetic media engine oil filter
  • Torsen Limited Slip Differential (includes Performance Lubricants Package)
  • SLP Hurst short throw shifter with H-shift knob
  • American Racing Equipment chrome-plated aluminum wheels
  • LT4 Engine Upgrade (only for ‘97) 

1998 Pontiac Firehawk 


No Firehawks were made in anticipation of a big entrance for ‘99.

1999-2002 Pontiac Firehawk

1999 Pontiac Firehwawk

These generation Pontiac Firehawks would get the brand new Formula/Trans Am bodystyle. Outside of their Firehawk emblems and sometimes different rims, there was one sure way you could tell a Firehawk apart from a Pontiac Formula or Trans Am, and that was the Ram Air Induction. All Firehawks had a distinctive ram air with two solid hood scoops for the induction system, whereas the Formula and Trans Am ordered with the WS6 Ram Air package had a hood that looked like it had four air inlets. 

The big changes for the ‘99-’02 Firehawks were the horsepower, a selection of suspension upgrades, and the chance to finally get a Firehawk in a Trans Am trim. Thanks to the success of the LS1 engines, Firehawk Trans Ams were popping up all over the place, and they were mighty feared competitors on the streets. Horsepower changes for those years are as follows: 

  • 1999 - 327 horsepower
  • 2000 - 330 horsepower 
  • 2001 - 335 horsepower
  • 2022 - 345 horsepower  

99 Pontiac Firehawk Burnt Orange

As The F-bodies Fade Away  

It was sad to say goodbye to the F-bodies and Pontiacs in general. The Chevrolet Camaro came back to life, but it will soon disappear as well. It’s gems like these that need to be preserved, and although it's hard to find a Firehawk for a good price, they are still out there and probably worth the high price tag that car enthusiasts are asking. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Chevrolet Chevelle: A Quick Review of The Legend


1970 Chevelle

Chevrolet Chevelle the Legend

The Chevelle was one of the few muscle cars that Chevrolet put into production between 1964 and 1973. Outside of the '73 Chevelle, the muscle car enjoyed some great success through its strong run and still continues to be celebrated by all kinds of car enthusiasts. From drag strips to car shows and car auctions, you'd be hard-pressed to go to any car event and not see a few awesome-looking examples.    

Most Chevelles hold their value very well, mostly because they look great stock and when customized. Read on to learn a little more about the Chevelle and what it offered to the muscle car era. 

'64 Chevrolet Chevelle

1964 - 1967 Chevelle

In 1963, when the Chevelle made its way into production for the first time as a '64, there were a couple different motors to choose from. The largest and the most powerful of them all was a 300 horsepower 327 cubic inch small block. This really didn't hit the nail on the head for consumers for it was a little underpowered for the power-to-weight ratio. 

'67 Chevelle SS

In 1965, Chevelle upped the ante with a 396 cubic-inch motor that produced the type of power that the public was waiting for. The new Z16, 396 V8 produced 375 horsepower and could go 0-60 mph in 6.0 seconds and drop a quarter-mile time of 14.66 @ 99.8mph. 

The 1966 Chevelle would see some body modification and although the power rating stayed the same the times at the track would be cut from a 14.66 down to a 14.40 quarter-mile time. This was due to a solid lifter cam and bigger values given to the 396 cubic inch motor. 

In 1967, Chevrolet would stick with the same body style for the muscle car but would make some major changes. Front-wheel disc brakes were factory installed to help stop the wider tires and new 14-inch rims. A new reworked bumper and blacked-out rear panel were also part of the new features the '67 had to offer. Unfortunately, because of GM curb weight standards, it would experience less power and slower times at the track. The biggest engine offered was the L34 396, which only produces 350 horsepower and did 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds with a quarter-mile time of 15.3 @ 94mph.

1968 Chevelle

1968-1969 Chevelle

For 1968, Chevrolet would try something new with the Chevelle. A new body style would make its way off the production lines. This new look brought about a shorter wheelbase, a longer front end, and a shorten rear-deck lid giving it a fastback look. Although the 1968 Chevelle got a new look, it received the same power sources as the previous year. 

The Chevelle's suspension would still be a sore spot with lots of body roll, and slowly shifting from the Muncie four-speed left a lot of complaints from consumers. But the one thing that did change was the rear end. The axle ratios ranged from 2.73:1 to a dealer-installed 4.88:1 drag Cogs gear ratio.

With consumers still having complaints about power, Chevrolet would up the ante again for the '69 Chevelle. Although the badges and the build sheets would say the Chevelle was built with a 396 cubic-inch motor that produced 375 horsepower, it was well known that the motors were bored out to 402 cubic inches. The deceit was mainly to meet emissions standards and to gain a horsepower edge. This plan really paved the way for what was to come in 1970.

454 LS6

1970 Chevelle 

In 1970, Chevelle would see the most sufficient changes toward being a major contender in the muscle car world. Cosmetic changes included the first functioning cowl induction hood with racing hood pins. A newly styled front-end would be implicated along with some new style rally five-spoke wheels. 

But the biggest change came in the size of the motor. General Motors lifted the band against producing any motors over 400 cubic inches, giving Chevrolet the green light to build and produce a Chevelle with what would become one of the most popular motors ever made, the LS6 454. Along with the functioning cowl induction hood, the huge motor also came with much better-performing engine components that helped produce 450 horsepower and left plenty of room for upgrades.

71-72 Chevelle

1971-1972 Chevelle 

Unfortunately, for 1971-72, the Chevelle would see some extremely harsh decreases in power. In response to GM's new rules that all engines must run on unleaded fuel and meet every EPA restrictive emission standard, the muscle car era was starting to become a thing of the past. There was one good thing about the years of '71-'72. Although the big 454 motor's power was lowered due to EPA emissions standards, you still could order them, and if you knew what you were doing, you could take that motor and fix it up to get the power out of it that it once had in 1970.

1973 Chevelle

For the last year of the Chevelle's existence, it got a completely new body style and the motors had even less power. These cars would be the least liked among the 9-year production run, and even to this day are not a big hit at drag strips, car shows, or auctions.

1969 COPO Chevelle

1969 COPO Chevelle 

In 1969, Chevrolet offered one of the rarest Chevelles to date, the '69 COPO. The COPO was designed pacifically for the drag strip. It came with a 427 cubic-inch motor powerplant that produced 425 horsepower and was capable of producing numbers like 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 13.3 @ 108mph. The COPO Chevelle was undoubtedly the fastest production Chevelle that Chevrolet ever produced. This muscle car wasn't only the fastest Chevelle produced, but with only 323 made for sale, it still holds today as one of the rarest.

Chevelle hood pins

The Reasons for Chevelle's Popularity 

What makes the Chevelle so popular among consumers and muscle car fans? The price, the size, the style, and the power. As a mid-size car, you could put your whole family in one and head to the grocery store, go shopping, come home, drop the family and the grocery off, and then head to the drag strip for some race time. You can do all this, for what at the time, was a very reasonable price.

Gilmore Muscle Car Musume

Saying Good-Bye to the Chevelle and Many Other Muscle Cars

Although the Chevelle was canceled after 1973, it was not the only muscle car that got the ax. The GTO, Oldsmobile 422, the Plymouth Roadrunner, and many other muscle cars would see the same fate right around the same era due to the pursuit to find more fuel-efficient and economy-friendly cars. But the Chevelle and all of its muscle car brothers and sisters still to this day are extremely popular among car enthusiasts.