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Thread: Mid-70s Survivors

  1. #21
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Surely the wrap-around rear window was introduced with the 1974 model year Camaro and Firebird?

  2. #22
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    Surely the wrap-around rear window was introduced with the 1974 model year Camaro and Firebird?
    Nope - it was introduced with the '75s.

    The '70-74 cars had the "fastback" glass.

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    Nope - it was introduced with the '75s.

    The '70-74 cars had the "fastback" glass.

    AKA the "flat window" cars.

  4. #24
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    AKA the "flat window" cars.
    The 70-73 ones' styling was superior in every way, to the later offerings in the series.

  5. #25
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    The 70-73 ones' styling was superior in every way, to the later offerings in the series.
    Well, that's your opinion!

    My opinion is that the various years each have their merits.

    In particular, I think Pontiac did an exceptional job of complying with federal bumper mandates while maintaining the TA's aggressive good looks. For example, the urethane fascias on the '74-76 TA are (again, my opinion) much more attractive and integrated to the whole than the clunky-looking bolt-on bumpers Chevy slapped on the same-year Camaros.

    The much larger rear tail-lights used on the mid-decade and later TAs looks great, in my opinion. I also think the larger rear glass nicely complements the overall package.

    There were a number of significant but subtle changes on the later '70s TAs that many people are not aware of, too. For example, the hood is completely flat on the later cars, with no pleats on the sides as on the earlier cars (including my '76). Very few body panels actually interchange - basically, just the roof and trunk lid. Even the spoilers and fender flares are all different. The shaker hood scoop, too.

    Did you know that the "batmobile" '79 model was supposed to have hidden (or at least, covered) headlights? These never made production due to cost issues.

    One of the other things I like about the mid-late '70s TAs is the much wider color choices available. For example, my TA's color - bright orange (Carousel Red). In '70-'72 all TAs were either white with blue trim or the reverse.

    I have driven/owned a wide variety of these cars and can tell you from personal experience that each "evolution" resulted in a quite different car in every respect.

    The early '70s TAs were much wilder - and harsher. By the mid '70s, the raw acceleration was down, but handling had really improved (to the point that a stock TA cornered better than a same-year Corvette but with much better compliance/ride quality). The later '70s cars were more like high-powered GTs than muscle cars. A '78-'79 equipped with the optional 220 hp (under-rated) "T/A" 6/6/400 V-8 was good for close to 140 mph - exceptional performance for the time (keep in mind, no overdrive gearing - just a four-speed manual). And it was one of the first American cars (or mass-market cars, period) to offer 15x8 alloy rims and four-wheel disc brakes....

  6. #26
    And it was one of the first American cars (or mass-market cars, period) to offer 15x8 alloy rims and four-wheel disc brakes....
    It took American cars a long time to get 4 wheel disc brakes. Mercedes, and many other European cars had them by the early 1970's.

  7. #27
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dieseleverything View Post
    It took American cars a long time to get 4 wheel disc brakes. Mercedes, and many other European cars had them by the early 1970's.
    True.

    I think Corvette was one of the first, followed by the '77 Seville. The TA first offered four-wheel-disc brakes (from the Caddy!) in 1978.

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    In particular, I think Pontiac did an exceptional job of complying with federal bumper mandates while maintaining the TA's aggressive good looks. For example, the urethane fascias on the '74-76 TA are (again, my opinion) much more attractive and integrated to the whole than the clunky-looking bolt-on bumpers Chevy slapped on the same-year Camaros.
    At the 2009 Trans Am Nationals in Dayton, I had the chance to meet and talk with John Schinella, who was the originator of the famous "screaming chicken" decal on the hood and head of the TA styling program in the mid-late 70s. I asked him specifically about the 1974 redesign of the front and rear ends of the Firebirds to meet the new DOT standards.

    John told me that the Engineering Department had established the "hard points" of the new bumpers and via crash testing determined how far then had to flex. He was basically handed those parameters and told to hang an exterior on them that would meet the needs of the standards. The effort took him a couple of days, but it was only a styling exercise by the time he got involved.

    John is also the originator of the front-end redesign for the 77 model year.

    It was a very cool chance to meet and greet an integral part of TA history. The man is a walking history book of trivia about how Pontiac worked in those days and he had many neat stories to relate. He gave a talk about his experiences to a packed house on Saturday afternoon. Eric, you missed a truly great event!


  9. #29
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    At the 2009 Trans Am Nationals in Dayton, I had the chance to meet and talk with John Schinella, who was the originator of the famous "screaming chicken" decal on the hood and head of the TA styling program in the mid-late 70s. I asked him specifically about the 1974 redesign of the front and rear ends of the Firebirds to meet the new DOT standards.

    John told me that the Engineering Department had established the "hard points" of the new bumpers and via crash testing determined how far then had to flex. He was basically handed those parameters and told to hang an exterior on them that would meet the needs of the standards. The effort took him a couple of days, but it was only a styling exercise by the time he got involved.

    John is also the originator of the front-end redesign for the 77 model year.

    It was a very cool chance to meet and greet an integral part of TA history. The man is a walking history book of trivia about how Pontiac worked in those days and he had many neat stories to relate. He gave a talk about his experiences to a packed house on Saturday afternoon. Eric, you missed a truly great event!


    Rick,

    Wow, that must have been great! I haven't met Schinella myself, but years ago I met and did an extensive interview with Bill Porter (among other things, he designed the famous Honeycomb wheels). HPP ran it. (I was an occasional contributor in those days.) I may even have a copy of the article I did based on that interview somewhere on a computer or disc. If I can find it, I will re-post it here.

    PS: The vapor return line was the issue on my TA.... now that I know to think about this (my guess is many classic TA owners rarely, if ever, check the operation of the vapor system) I won't let it happen again!

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    Yes, Eric -- by all means, if you can come up with the interview please repost it!

    I also had a very interesting discussion with Jim Mattison of PHS about some of the internal machinations of GM re Pontiac's demise. It seems the General is intent upon erasing all vestiges of the Tin Indian.

  11. #31
    It seems the General is intent upon erasing all vestiges of the Tin Indian.
    What a bunch of young corporate ass holes. They could at least give their brand credit for it's accomplishments. Damn, this just makes me hate General Motors even more.

  12. #32
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dieseleverything View Post
    What a bunch of young corporate ass holes. They could at least give their brand credit for it's accomplishments. Damn, this just makes me hate General Motors even more.
    They're not young!

    The decision makers (executives) are mostly in their 50s and 60s....

    These guys don't give a shit about GM or even cars. All that really matters to them is money - lots of it - for them, and in the short term. The long-term health of the company and its products means nothing to them.

  13. #33
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Yes, Eric -- by all means, if you can come up with the interview please repost it!

    I also had a very interesting discussion with Jim Mattison of PHS about some of the internal machinations of GM re Pontiac's demise. It seems the General is intent upon erasing all vestiges of the Tin Indian.
    Haven't found the article yet, but I did find something!

    This is an excerpt from notes taken during the interview I did with him back in 1999:

    (On the Honeycomb wheel)

    PORTER: Yes, that wheel was my brainchild. I have the design patent on
    it , shared with Maurice (Bud) Chandler, one of those talented designers
    I mentioned earlier. I asked Bud to watch over the wheel through the
    clay and plaster stages, until it left Design Staff. Bud, incidentally,
    many years later came up with the theme, the so called "tube car," that
    evolved into the ’95 Olds Aurora.

    But back to the honeycomb wheel: it was inspired by Buckminster Fuller's
    geodesic domes, which I had admired since I was a student. The idea of
    doing a wheel with a deep cell structure that would be inherently
    strong, not only radially, but laterally as well was intriguing. My
    intent was that it be an alloy wheel, but that idea never made it to
    production. Somewhere in Pontiac Engineering the Polycast idea got
    attached to this design, much to my regret. In the Polycast approach,
    all of the structural requirements are taken care of by the underlying
    stamped steel wheel and the honeycomb pattern (now an injection molded
    appliqué) merely goes along for the ride, reduced to just so much pastry
    icing, only there for its decorative pattern. Its potential for
    structural integrity is lost. Which is too bad, because as things ended
    up the Polycast wheel is soft and more easily damaged; it doesn't look
    as "finished" as it ought to; and it is too heavy. It was, in my
    opinion, an unsatisfying application of an engineering idea that in
    itself was kind of interesting. To this day, I wish I could see our
    original design done in aluminum.

  14. #34
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    That is also very interesting, Eric. It looks like yet another example where a good idea was perverted during implementation, ending up with shortcomings that cause it to be less desirable than the alternative it was conceived to replace. Those shortcomings are really a PITA these days as those wheels are nearly impossible to "restore" -- that polycast stuff is very difficult to work with. Schinella came up with the "high tech" wheels that replaced the Rally IIs on the third gen cars -- he talked about that development also.

    dieseleverything -- GM has tried everything to get the PHS database they sold to Mattison back, including lawsuits and personal intimidation. It's obvious that their intent is to shut down PHS and destroy that information. Mattison has spent well over $300,000 of his own money defending himself against vicious nuisance legal actions.

  15. #35
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    Haven't found the article yet, but I did find something!

    This is an excerpt from notes taken during the interview I did with him back in 1999:

    (On the Honeycomb wheel)

    PORTER: Yes, that wheel was my brainchild. I have the design patent on
    it , shared with Maurice (Bud) Chandler, one of those talented designers
    I mentioned earlier. I asked Bud to watch over the wheel through the
    clay and plaster stages, until it left Design Staff. Bud, incidentally,
    many years later came up with the theme, the so called "tube car," that
    evolved into the ’95 Olds Aurora.

    But back to the honeycomb wheel: it was inspired by Buckminster Fuller's
    geodesic domes, which I had admired since I was a student. The idea of
    doing a wheel with a deep cell structure that would be inherently
    strong, not only radially, but laterally as well was intriguing. My
    intent was that it be an alloy wheel, but that idea never made it to
    production. Somewhere in Pontiac Engineering the Polycast idea got
    attached to this design, much to my regret. In the Polycast approach,
    all of the structural requirements are taken care of by the underlying
    stamped steel wheel and the honeycomb pattern (now an injection molded
    appliqué) merely goes along for the ride, reduced to just so much pastry
    icing, only there for its decorative pattern. Its potential for
    structural integrity is lost. Which is too bad, because as things ended
    up the Polycast wheel is soft and more easily damaged; it doesn't look
    as "finished" as it ought to; and it is too heavy. It was, in my
    opinion, an unsatisfying application of an engineering idea that in
    itself was kind of interesting. To this day, I wish I could see our
    original design done in aluminum.
    I guess I never looked close enough at one of those honeycomb wheels, I had no idea they were fake, I thought they were real alloys. Damn. Still a nice piece of design work, and Pontiac had several great wheel designs over the years. The 8-lug wheel on the old '60s Grand Prix was another classic. How long were Pontiacs available with the optional 8-lug hubs?

  16. #36
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dieseleverything View Post
    It took American cars a long time to get 4 wheel disc brakes. Mercedes, and many other European cars had them by the early 1970's.
    Even my cheap-ass little 1974 Fiat X 1/9 had 4-wheel discs.

  17. #37
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    Even my cheap-ass little 1974 Fiat X 1/9 had 4-wheel discs.
    It's really not such a big deal.

    You have to be driving at a pretty fast pace for disc brakes to make much of an obvious difference. 90 percent of American drivers would never be able to tell the difference and would drive merrily along on disc/drum brakes.

    It's mostly another marketing/PR con. A manufactured "need" based on the image of "performance" that's mostly a fantasy in the United States.

    Germany or other countries where drivers drive, ok.

    But here? C'mon!

    The big upside is they're easier to do routine maintenance on!

  18. #38
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post

    The big upside is they're easier to do routine maintenance on!
    And that's as good a reason as any. Drum brakes are a crude design that should have died out long ago.

    There is plenty of technology that is wasted on most American drivers. For example, overhead camshafts, 4 valves/cylinder, dual-clutch manu-matic transmissions... When most drivers would be perfectly well served by an Iron Duke with a Powerglide.

    Still, high tech is part of what makes a quality product I guess.

  19. #39
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Didn't they start putting disc rear brakes on trucks when ABS became expected?

  20. #40
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    Didn't they start putting disc rear brakes on trucks when ABS became expected?
    Nope!

    Case in point: Both my Nissan Frontiers (1998 and 2002) have ABS and rear drum brakes....

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