Although the 1960s were considered to be the best era for American muscle cars, the 1968 Pontiac Firebird Sprint on Jay Leno’s Garage shows that Detroit’s automakers didn’t just focus on V-8s or quarter-mile times.
Inline-6 engines were not available in Sprint’s other Firebird performance variants. The Sprint had an inline-6 engine, which was an upgrade to the base Firebird model. It featured a single overhead cam, four-barrel carburetor and performance exhaust. With assistance from the hood-mounted speedometer, the engine is coupled with a 4-speed manual transmission.
Leno says that John DeLorean (then-Pontiac boss) was a big fan of Jaguar E-Type, which launched in 1961 with a dual overhead-cam inline-6 and wanted to make a competition. Pontiac built the concept model called the Banshee. But General Motors didn’t approve it as a production model for fear that it might be too similar to the Corvette.
Jay Leno’s Garage: 1968 Pontiac Firebird Sprint-convertible
DeLorean, however, launched the Firebird Sprint. This was to challenge the E-Type’s inline-6 but with a heavier, more maneuverable car. The Firebird Sprint was designed to be competitive with European sports cars and received “4.1-liter” badges instead of the standard cubic-inch displacement measurements that were common for U.S. automobile manufacturers at the time.
While the Firebird Sprint might have fulfilled DeLorean’s legendary ego, it was not commercially successful. Leno noted that it produced less power (220 horsepower) than the V-8 Firebird, but was more expensive. The Sprint has become very scarce. You should also keep in mind, that there has never been an exact equivalent to Firebird’s Chevrolet Camaro twin. They shared the GM f-body platform.
Leno bought his Firebird Sprint Convertible in 2019. After a few minor repairs and modern improvements for driving, he put it back on its road. You can see the entire video to learn more about this Pontiac.