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Sunday, January 3, 2016

M2 Machines 1968 Pontiac Firebird 400 and Johnny Lightning 1969 Pontiac Firebird




An interesting thing happened when I ran across one of the M2 Machines Driver's release: I found this Firebird very attractive, and strangely, related to another Firebird on the basis of color.  M2's Driver's series has recently turned around their bland customized look of their cars for a more subdued stock appearance with six vehicles instead of three, and the results have met with success.  So far the new Driver's vehicles have been moving off the shelves instead of staying there.  But this Firebird in brown really takes the cake.



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As Chevrolet got ready to battle the Ford Mustang with the Chevy Camaro, Pontiac didn't want to feel left out so they created their version of the Chevy Camaro and called it the Pontiac Firebird.  The main difference is quad headlights inside the grille that doubles as the front bumper.  The rear taillights are also slotted like the GTO.  The original plan for Pontiac was to develop a two-seat version based on the Banshee show car, but after realizing that this concept would cannibalize sales Pontiac decided to base their new small sports car on the Camaro.  In 1968 Pontiac got crafty to meet the new federal regulation of mandatory side marker lights by making the front lights out of a fire-breathing bird and the rear lights out of the Pontiac logo.  Engines were also different as they were Pontiac-sourced and can be opted with the Ram Air package that features two hood scoops on the hood.  The big dog was the 400 CID V8 that produced 325 hp. through a 4-speed manual.  In 1969 the Firebird got a slight restyle, like the Camaro, with a body-colored front grille/bumper with headlights out of the grille area and a revised dashboard.




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The M2 version looks great with the dark brown color really setting the tone of this car: take, for example, the front-end with the chrome grille, chrome bars inside along with the headlights that give this car an aggressive look.  The lower portion has a chin spoiler and side signal lights.  The hood is fixed shut on Driver's versions, but at least it has the Ram Air scoops, 400 badge, and hood-mounted tachometer.  The sides show the long hood, short deck of the Firebird with a white stripe in the center doors that have the H.O. letters inside the stripe on the front fenders and the detailed side marker lights.  The rear section has detailed spit taillights with the reverse lamps inside, the firebird logo just below the trunk key slot, and a chrome bumper with 1968 plate.  The 5-spoke wheels with redline tires are a perfect match for this car.  The base shows off the typical drivetrain and suspension layout and as you can see the rear axle can be changed out for a shorten version to accomidate larger rear tires.  The interior has the angled-forward dashboard with dual front seats and rear seats with the appropriate seat patterns, door panels with the detailed patterns and window crank handles, and a steering wheel that is scaled a bit too big for this car.



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Now this brown color brings back memory for this reason: One of my first 1st generation Firebirds came from Johnny Lightning back in the day when they still had the high-ridding height from the Topper slot cars, though at this time the slot that connects to the slot tab of earlier JL's were gone now.  The version I found on this 1969 Firebird was brown with an opening hood that shows off detail in bare metal.  The front has detailed headlights and grille trim surround, Ram Air hood scoops and hood-mounted tachometer, and detailed taillights at the rear.  The details inside and out are a bit sloppy and the ride height too tall; on the bright side Johnny Lightning did fix this issue with newer 1969 Firebird coupe and convertible castings in the mid-2000's, yet none of them were this same brown.  Now on a casting with the proper detailings of the real car the brown on the Firebird still looks great!

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