Ford had great sales success with the Mustang, so much so that Mustangs seemingly were everywhere. General Motors spent a couple of years developing a Mustang fighter. Finally, the Chevrolet division introduced the Camaro in response to the Mustang. A few months later Pontiac brought out the Firebird.
In the mid-1960s public transportation was plentiful in Queens, N.Y. where young John Zampino resided. But despite public transportation, Zampino wanted a brand new car. The Firebird was the car that captured his attention. In late 1966 he went to the Myrtle Motors dealership in Maspeth, N.Y. and placed an order for a new 1967 Pontiac Firebird.
Zampino recalls that he had checked off all the optional extras he wanted and was about to pick Pea Green paint when his girlfriend suggested an available Tyrol Blue might be a better choice. He does not regret listening to her.
Money was not plentiful in the mid-1960s so Zampino did not opt for any of the power-assisted equipment such as windows, steering or brakes. Nor did he check off the box for air conditioning.
When ordering his Firebird Zampino did not want the standard 165-horsepower, six-cylinder engine. Nor did the optional 215-horsepower, six-cylinder engine appeal to him. That left the two optional V-8 engines. The 285-horsepower version had a thirsty four-barrel carburetor, which Zampino says he could live without. He selected the 250-horsepower V-8 with a more economical two-barrel carburetor.
He ordered extra cost optional features including: Four-speed manual transmission ($184.31), Custom trim package ($108.48), 326 cid Firebird V-8 ($95.04), Push button AM radio ($61.09), Floor console ($47.39), Safe-T-axle ($42.13), Rallye cluster gauges ($31.60), Rear fender antenna ($9.48), Front floor mats ($6.11), Rear floor mats ($5.69), Door edge guards ($4.74), Heavy-duty battery ($3.48).
Eventually Zampino’s blue Firebird arrived and he took delivery on April 28, 1967. After financing was arranged through GMAC and Zampino agreed to make 36 monthly payments of $90.78 he drove his new Firebird to his parent’s house because they had a garage and his home did not.
In the garage the Firebird sat protected from the elements. Zampino would take his car out on fair weather weekends. Once he went to Rockaway Beach and upon returning to the parking lot found evidence that an attempt had been made to break into his car. Thereafter his Firebird spent more time in the garage. Zampino purchased a very used old Datsun to use as a beater around the city.
Because the cargo capacity of the 1967 Firebird trunk is so limited the designers created a “Space Saver” spare tire. This is an uninflated smaller than usual tire that came with a can of compressed air so it could be inflated if needed. The spare tire remains in the spot where it was installed 44 years ago.
The tires on the ground are the third set on the car. After the original set wore out Zampino installed a set of radial tires. Later he returned to the bias ply tires on the car now. The E70x14-inch tires feature the correct width narrow white sidewalls. Original trim rings add some flash to the wheels. The Pontiac rolls on a 108.1-inch wheelbase.
In 1976, Zampino’s job took him to northern Virginia. When his household goods were loaded on the Mayflower van, he says the last item to be loaded was his Pontiac. It’s now at home in Centreville, Va.
Besides being extremely protective of his Pontiac, Zampino has kept it as original as possible. Whenever Zampino settles into the all black interior and grips the three-spoke steering wheel he feels comfortably at home. The odometer on his Firebird has recently registered 69,000 miles. That averages out to be about 1,600 miles annually since he first drove it off the dealers lot in 1967. — Vern Parker, Motor Matters
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Copyright, AutoWriters Associates Inc., 2011