Jay Leno has been looking for a Pontiac Firebird Sprint for some time, and he found one to show off on his latest episode of Jay Leno’s Garage. The lesser talked about Firebird trim is an unusual f-body, with a 4.1-liter overhead cam powertrain, that a lot of Pontiac guys haven’t even heard of, especially for 1968. The unusual six-cylinder powered Sprint was the first pre-war, American-made overhead cam car; making this car a pretty big deal that you might not have ever heard about.
John DeLorean was a fan of the Jaguar XKE and wanted to make a car that was similar to the XKE. General Motors wasn’t interested in making an entirely new model, so they suggested he use the Firebird or Camaro to experiment with. He took a Chevy six-cylinder and developed an overhead cam out of it. The OHC-6 came with a 1-bbl carb and was rated at 175-horsepower. The problem was, the OHC Sprint ended up costing more than the V8, and not many people were interested in dishing out more money for less power, explaining why so few were sold and why many Pontiac aficionados overlook it. The original buyer of this car outfitted it with many options, like power steering and other things to help make it a pretty desirable car, especially considering what was available in the late 1960s.
Leno’s history with this particular car started in March 2019, when he was exploring the car in a different form, and by August of that year, it was stripped down the chassis. With the engine really worn out at the point, Leno and team decided to have a total rebuild of the engine. Over the last few years, he documented the build.
While not an extreme build, the upgrade made to it certainly push it into the restomod arena. It rolls on a set of 15-inch PMD wheels, while a complete Hotchkis Sport Suspension carries the ‘Bird. Stopping power comes from Wilwood disc brakes, and YearOne supplied a lot of the parts like interior, hood tach, and more from their extensive catalog.
The engine got a few improvements, being bored and stroked and now delivering 250 cubic inches and 215-horsepower/255 lbs-ft of torque. A 4-bbl Rochester carb now takes duty, and a higher-duration camshaft paired with dual valve springs complements the efforts of the high-flow manifold. It’s backed by a Tremec 5-speed TKX, replacing the Borg-Warner transmission.
Jay shares that people are skeptical about the car when he shows it, not believing that GM was the place that put in the OHC engine. While it doesn’t make a ton of power, Leno brags about the car’s useable horsepower, where you can ‘stay in it’ all of the time, unlike 600-700-horsepower cars. While it might not be the fastest car in the f-body line, it’s a throaty little machine and seems to get the job done!
Elizabeth is hardcore horsepower enthusiast with unmatched intensity for making things faster and louder. She wakes up for power and performance and only sleeps to charge up for the next project that’s heading to the track. From autocross to drag racing, Elizabeth is there with you, so stay tuned for her unique perspective on horsepower news, builds, tech info, and installs — with her, it’ll never be boring!