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The Pontiac Pegasus: The Time Pontiac put a Ferrari V-12 in a Firebird.

An overview of the Ferrari-powered Pontiac Pegasus, one of the most unique Firebirds ever made.

In 1970 Pontiac created one of their most unusual concept cars of all time. A Ferrari V-12 powered Pontiac Firebird. It seemed to blur the line between a passion project and a concept car. However, under closer observation, the practical nature of it is revealed. GM was no stranger to usual concept cars; the name Firebird itself comes from a series of turbine-powered concept cars from the ’50s. But why would Pontiac, a company famous for its performance cars and engines, put a Ferrari V-12 in one of their cars? At 4.4 liters, the V-12 was much smaller than the average performance V-8 to come from GM. The amount of passion that went into the car was obvious. There was not only a custom Pegasus logo on the grill but a Porsche-esque coat of arms on the hood. An original design. The name Pegasus is derived from combing the Firebird (a mythical creature in its own right) and that of a horse. The Ferrari logo depicts what is known as “the Prancing Pony.” The result is the legendary mythical winged horse, the Pegasus.
The Pontiac Pegasus at the 2019 Trans Am Nationals.
This year I had the chance to see the Pontiac Pegasus in person; it was part of a group of show cars brought to the Trans Am Nationals in Fairborn, Ohio. It was in excellent condition. I even got to hear it run as it was moved for the night. Oddly enough, it gave off a low rumble that would not be out of place coming from a small block Chevy. It was great to get up close and see it with the hood opened and closed.
The Ferrari V-12. It is paired with a 5-speed Ferrari transmission.
By 1970 the second generation of Pontiac’s pony car, the Firebird, was released. It was lower and sleeker than its predecessor. The muscle car performance wars of the ’60s were winding down, curtailed by environmental legislation. A headline on an issue of Hot Rod magazine read: 71’ Cars, Will they Perform? Pony cars were still going strong. The popular road racing series, and Trans Am namesake the SCCA Trans-Am series was going strong, showcasing the handling of the pony cars. The Pegasus was a perfect showcase of that handling, with a lighter V-12 then the normal V-8 that came with the Trans Ams and Formulas.
The Pontiac Pegasus’ interior. Note the Ferrari gauges.

I was first introduced to the Pegasus by the great book “The Fabulous Firebird.” It gave an excellent description of how the Pegasus came to be, but one part always made me curious. It was said that Enzo Ferrari himself donated the motor. This connection was odd to me, as there wasn’t much of a relationship between Mr. Ferrari and the American auto industry, especially after Ford’s attempted purchase of Ferrari. While at the 2019 Trans Am Nations I had a chance to speak with a former Pontiac engineer, it turns out, Bill Mitchell, at that time GM’s design vice president, and the man behind the project was a big car collector and someone who had a lot of connections within the industry. The motor was sent courtesy of a U.S. Ferrari dealership.

The car itself has many interesting design elements. Including a racing-inspired gas cap on the trunk area of the car. (this design was also included on the 1974 Pontiac concept car the Banshee.) There were also fog lights, which could be a nod to the car’s European influence. Despite the European influence, a uniquely American design touch is featured on the car. Much like the Firebird Formulas and the 1969 Trans Am, the Pegasus features an air cleaner inside the hood itself, taking advantage of the cold air available. In perhaps a nod to racing rules dating from before the car was made, there was a full-sized spare tire prominently displayed in the back of the car under the rear glass.
To the Author, the Pegasus is a passion project with real-world bearings, from a time when GM was the largest manufacturer on the planet, and the future of cars and how they would perform was in doubt. Today we find ourselves in a similar situation; it will be interesting to see how much the performance enthusiast is considered as vehicles continue to evolve.

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