Nightshade Windows Tinting
Sure, it looked like dark silver to us but what do we know? We’re just magazine guys. Little did we realize, at first glance, that the green tint meant that this Firebird was Nightshade Green–a seldom seen color for 1968–at least in our minds. Then there were the “Ram Air 400” emblems on the hood that we had never laid eyes on, yet looked eerily familiar. They had the correct font and size for a Pontiac emblem, but why hadn’t we seen them on other Ram Air Birds? The owner, Don Happe of Flower Mound, Texas is researching it but after speaking with Pontiac historian Jim Mattison, it appears that the emblem is most likely an aftermarket piece since he was unable to locate any factory information to prove its existence. Did I neglect to mention that Don’s F-body is home to a 1968 335-horse D-port Ram Air 400? It was sales code 347 and UPC L67 but those numbers meant a whole lot more on the street.
Strange Ram Air Fact
Ram Air cars through 1967 and into early 1968 were arriving at the dealers with Ram Air systems missing. After an investigation, it was discovered that, since the Ram Air components were to be delivered in the trunk for dealer installation, security at the plant thought that the items in the trunk were stolen. So they confiscated the property and returned it to the parts bin.
Replete with its recalibrated carb and distributor, the rumpety-rump 744 cam with 301°/313° duration and .413/.413 lift and casting #31 heads with 2.11/1.77 valves along with HD valve springs, the Ram Air 400 for 1968 was the top Firebird engine option. And while the bottom-end was pretty much standard 400 fare, there were, however, 4-bolt main caps. The engine was more powerful than the HO, despite the fact that the 335 hp rating was identical for both powerplants. Also shared with the HO were free-flowing long-branch exhaust manifolds with the necessary oil filter adaptor.
And let us not forget that beautiful Ram Air system, which is a feast for the eyes each time the hood is popped. The 1968 models were still a fair weather system, which was open all the time unless the owner chose to replace the open scoops with the closed units. It was simple, and lighter than the intricate flapper systems that debuted in 1969.
As had been the case in the previous year, Pontiac made sure that its hi-po engine option was backed with all of the HD components needed for reliable and quick road duty. A Turbo-400 or a Muncie close-ratio 4-speed transmission was a mandatory option. Also mandatory was a 3.90 Safe-T-Track rear axle. Of course the HD suspension from the Firebird 400 was included and this particular model was ordered with the ride and handling package, power disc brakes, Rally II wheels and F70x14 Wide Ovals too.
The options didn’t stop with the drivetrain and suspension as tinted windows were ordered and Deluxe interior with a fold-down rear seat in basic black was checked off and remains original. The cabin features an AM/FM radio with manual rear antenna, a wood wheel, a console with a clock and a walnut shifter knob. Optional underhood and trunk lamps, exhaust splitters and a black Cordova top were specified as well. Despite all of these extra-cost comforts, the engine bay is still unadorned by power assist for the steering.
Notable Upgrades For 1968 Firebirds
- Vent windows were out and Astro Ventilation was in
- Front parking/blinker lights wrapped around the side of the front valance to create side marker lights
- A lighted arrowhead was added to the rear quarters as marker lights
- 326 cubic-inch engine option was enlarged to 350 cubes, including the HO
- 230 cubic-inch six-cylinder was enlarged to 250 cubes, including the Sprint
- 400 HO joined the Ram Air and the 400 in lineup for the first time
- Round-port Ram Air II engine debuted a mid-season
- Mono-leaf rear springs with shocks mounted in line were replaced by multi-leaf springs with staggered shocks on the Sprint six and all V8 models, negating further need for the factory installed traction bars that were used in various configurations on most models in 1967
- Variable-ratio power steering became optional in March 1968
- Koni shocks were optional
- Radial tires were optional
- Fiberglass belted tires were installed beginning in January 1968
- Safety mandates resulted in a recessed ignition switch and light switches, redesigned door lock knobs and door handles, larger dash pad and soft A-pillar trim, an ignition buzzer and the installation of seat belts for all passengers
- Gauges were revised with a different font, better lenses and increased illumination for easier reading
- Fuse box capacity was increased.
With its wondrous array of optional equipment, its Ram Air engine and unique color, you may believe that this is a rare and expensive Firebird. You’d be half right. With just 413 total (321 4-speeds and 92 automatics), the D-port Ram Air Firebirds certainly are rare. But expensive? Most are, but in this case, it depends on your viewpoint. As Don describes it, “This was my e-Bay success story! I found the Firebird on e-Bay with only five hours left on the auction. The gentleman from whom I purchased it was not very familiar with Pontiacs, so I talked him through getting me the numbers on the car. Once it checked out, I had to have it. After owning between 15 and 20 1967-69 Firebirds, I had yet to see a Ram Air ’67 or ’68 model.” Five hours and $17, 500 later, Don was the proud owner of his first 1968 Ram Air Firebird showing just 56, 000 miles.
What little history Don was able to glean from the previous owner includes the fact that the Bird had been restored around 1996–two owners ago. Don believes that the Ram Air F-body was repainted and the engine was rebuilt but the interior is thought to be original, save the carpet. Though some aspects of this very special Firebird continue to be a mystery to its new owner, the fact remains that it is a rarity, that has all matching numbers, a hot engine and a unique color. And it was a steal. Even us magazine guys can appreciate that.
|In The Codes|
|Ram Air engine||WI (with manual transmission)|
|Ram Air heads||31|
|Ram Air intake manifold||9790140(same as 4-bbl. intake for 350 and 400)|
|Ram Air carburetor||7028277 (with manual transmission)|
|Ram Air exhaust manifolds||9791607 or 9779493 right, 9779495 left (same as HO)|
|Ram Air camshaft||744|
|Muncie M21 transmission||FF|
|Safe-T-Track differential, 3.90:1 gears||ZP|
|Rally II wheels||HK (with disc brakes)|
|Paint, Nightshade Green|
|Cordova top, black|
|Black Custom interior|