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1969 Firebird engine choice

811 Views 15 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  MoreDoor210
I just ended up with a 1969 Firebird roller and I'm debating what engine to put in it.

I have a built 454, ~550 HP, and built TH400 that I was planning to put in a '57 Bel Air. Downside of using this for the Firebird project is that I have ceramic coated headers specifically for a BBC in a Tri Five, so I'd have to sell those.

I have a SBC 400 block and all the parts I need to build it except rotating assembly.

I have a tall deck 427 block but no parts for it.

I have a friend of a friend with a 1980 Firebird that has been parked since 1989, with a built Pontiac 400 and TH400, and headers, that I think would fit the '69 Firebird, that he would sell for $2000. I could also probably use the front seats and then sell what's left. The paint is ruined from sitting under pine trees and of course engine and transmission would need fresh gaskets at minimum.

I saw a recently rebuilt Pontiac 400 engine, complete with headers, but no intake or carb, for $2000. I have a spare Holley 3310, would just need the intake.

I also have a Muncie M20, but the Firebird was a factory automatic.

I could list out pros and cons but they are probably mostly obvious. I am not super cost sensitive but I do like the idea of using what I already have vs buying more junk. Posting to seek general advice. Can give more details as needed. Thanks!
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I would do an LS swap with a 5 or 6 speed manual or an overdrive automatic with lock up torque converter. Sell all the Gen 1 stuff you have to support the LS swap. Certainly up to you.

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As much as I'm a huge fan of Pontiacs, the engine tech is really long in the tooth and it's hard to justify the hippo-sized weight with the options out there.

My 67 LeMans convertible is getting an LS6-headed LQ9 and a T56. Easy 500+ hp with the right wallet.

If I were keeping it "in the family" and old school, hands down, Caddy 500. Only about 30 lbs heavier than an SBC, way lighter than a Pontiac, and 500 cubes means super easy to get whopper power without having to open the big wallet for all the other stuff like gears, converter, etc. I had one making north of 400 hp in a 66 Bonneville and I actually opted for a lower-than-stock stall with a Diesel converter in the TH400. Traction was still a problem with 3.08s.

Grab a later 500 (lower compression), pocket port the intake, fully port the exhaust, Edelbrock intake, Qjet. BBC headers fit if you cut the flanges off and weld on caddy flanges. Mild cam in the 204/214 duration area. 450 hp and well over 500 ft-lb, and can take a stock converter and highway gears and 87 octane.
 

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Real world question is what do you want to do with the car? Daily driver or muscle? For a daily driver, a small block chevy 327, 350, 383, easy rebuild. Mild cam and 4 barrel intake, carb, HEI. A t350 or T400 trans. Simple, most cost effective with no fitment issues. This would make a nice car that you could turn the key and drive thousands of trouble free miles. The best part, cost effective and if you want to sell it, it's what most people want. Just my opinion. Good luck on your project.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'm interested it being a fun Sunday driver type setup. I wouldn't go as far as to say daily driver. I might drive it to work sometimes but mainly would just drive it for fun. I do not plan to drag-race it, but, I do enjoy performance. So thinking "street/strip" type build.

Thanks for suggestions; will just reiterate that I have a 454 that is ready to go, and a SBC 400 that doesn't need much to be ready. If I went with a SBC, I'd probably use the 400 rather than acquire another engine, unless there's a major reason to get a different one.
 

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Keep in mind a chevy BB is 4 inches longer than a pontiac motor
Best check to see if it will fit
Likely it will, but it will be tight
Under the skin, a '69 Firebird is the same chassis as a '69 Camaro. Factory fitted some of those with 396's....so the BBC into the '69 Firebird is really easy. Factory resto parts exist to make it a bolt-in swap.

The Pontiac peoples are a bit touchy about swapping other makes of engines into muscle era Pontiac cars,
Sso possibly pick up the nearby rebuilt 400Pontiac in the 1980 'bird deal, sell off the Muncie and the SB400 stuff and the 1980 remnants, keep the 454 for '57 chevy.

Or keep the 454 for the '57, sell off everything else to fund an LS swap....the Ls swap is the hot ticket for a nice driver.
 

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The headers from the 80 will not fit your 69. LOTS of Pontiacs swapped to Bowtie of choice under the hood simply by swapping the frame mounts from the same body style from Chevy. That said, you keep it all in the direct family and put the Pontiac under the hood and it will be worth more in the end. You wanna go fast cheap, then get a belly button engine (LS) and have fun. I did the small block swap on mine in 1978 and ran it like no tomorrow. If it had a 400, it would have stayed right there. It had a 350 HO. If only I would have known then.....you just don't see many Firebirds with Pontiac drivetrain these days. Be real and be different.🖖
 

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From the options you listed I'd get the 80 Firebird and use what parts you can. Since you can use seats as well as engine/trans then sell the rest, that appears to be the most economical choice of the options you listed, and keeps it all Poncho.

That said, I'd sell the parts you have and go with a modern LS also. Main reason is the EFI. Or do something really "weird" and use a Vortec 4200 or 3500 straight six or five. That would be a unique ride with the power of a carbed SBC and the look and feel of the Poncho OHC 250 six. With 270-275 hp (NET -- equivalent to ~352 hp in the 60s GROSS rating system) the 4200 would be great and surprise a few people in the relatively light 69. Even the 220 hp (281 hp GROSS) 3500 wouldn't be a slouch! For a just jump in and go car you can't beat a modern computer controlled EFI engine. It's a bit more expensive than a carbed engine, and if you want to play with tuning and different parts it's difficult to deal with, but then again there is enough reliable power in stock form that you don't have to. Modern tech beats old school brute force every time! Stock V-6 Toyota Camrys beat 60s muscle car quarter mile times with a four cylinder that's just under a third the size of a Poncho 400 (2022 Camry 2.5L four (152 inches), 15.7 quarter miles (14.1 with the 211 inch/3.5L V6). Even a modern V-6 would equal great performance in the 69 Firebird body, but I doubt you'd want to put a Japanese engine in one... that might just be too much for American muscle car fans, and would hurt resale, whereas any modern US engine probably wouldn't.
 
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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
I bought the '80 Firebird and right now am planning to use the Pontiac 400.

The LS idea is tempting, but just as far as personal skills and comfort level, I'd rather mess with a carb than a computer for a car setup.

I also realized that the '80 has a corporate 8.5 rear end and the '69 has a BOP 8.2, so I may swap those while I am at it. And see if any other parts will swap before selling the remainder of the '80. I know somebody who is interested in it to build a drag race car out of it.

Thanks for all responses.
 

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I just ended up with a 1969 Firebird roller and I'm debating what engine to put in it.

I have a built 454, ~550 HP, and built TH400 that I was planning to put in a '57 Bel Air. Downside of using this for the Firebird project is that I have ceramic coated headers specifically for a BBC in a Tri Five, so I'd have to sell those.

I have a SBC 400 block and all the parts I need to build it except rotating assembly.

I have a tall deck 427 block but no parts for it.

I have a friend of a friend with a 1980 Firebird that has been parked since 1989, with a built Pontiac 400 and TH400, and headers, that I think would fit the '69 Firebird, that he would sell for $2000. I could also probably use the front seats and then sell what's left. The paint is ruined from sitting under pine trees and of course engine and transmission would need fresh gaskets at minimum.

I saw a recently rebuilt Pontiac 400 engine, complete with headers, but no intake or carb, for $2000. I have a spare Holley 3310, would just need the intake.

I also have a Muncie M20, but the Firebird was a factory automatic.

I could list out pros and cons but they are probably mostly obvious. I am not super cost sensitive but I do like the idea of using what I already have vs buying more junk. Posting to seek general advice. Can give more details as needed. Thanks!
Those are great looking cars and pretty scarce these days. It is extremely easy to get so much power and weight up front that traction is non existent. The LS options or a reasonably mild 350 will make a great nice to drive vehicle. If you lean toward more originality or an early Transam tribute, then maybe Pontiac power could be interesting. I tend to like builds that have a chance of being worth as much or more than I have in them myself and I can actually drive comfortably without running hot or other issues.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
I might revisit the LS idea. I keep thinking about it. However, I already bought the '80 Firebird, so my default now is to use the Pontiac 400.

Now the looks part. My 1969 Firdbird has a plain hood with no hood scoops. I am thinking about switching to either the 400 type hood with smaller scoops, or the Trans Am style with bigger scoops. I think Trans Am style looks better. However, I am not planning to try to clone a Trans Am overall, so I am not sure if it will look out of place to people who know the model if I use the Trans Am hood, a Camaro rear spoiler and a single paint color (probably either silver or midnight green - car was originally limelight green). Maybe nobody cares about that since the Trans Am hood is an upgrade whether or not the car is a Trans Am. Since the car will have a Pontiac 400, I could alternately use the 400 style hood and do sort of a Ram Air clone to be a little closer to correct. But again, not sure that really matters at this point since I am not doing a faithful restoration.

Also trying to figure out what wheels to use on it. I have a spare set of 1970 Z28 wheels with peeling chrome. I am thinking about getting them powder coated. I've also thought about getting C5 Corvette wheels.
 
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