When is a Pontiac Firebird not actually a Firebird? Answer: when it’s really a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro. This pedigreed pony car, which competed in the SCCA’s Trans-Am series, started life as a ’68 Camaro and wound up a class winner at the 24 Hours of Daytona as a Pontiac – not your typical racing story. You can make it yours when it goes up for sale at Russo and Steele’s Scottsdale auction in January. Jerry Titus – engineer, automotive journalist, and professionally-trained trumpet player – had made a name for himself in SCCA racing during the 1960s. He won both SCCA B and D-Production Championships in 1965 and ’66, respectively, driving for Carroll Shelby, and performed well in the Trans American Sedan series, also for Shelby, in ’66 and ’67.
But late in 1968, Titus departed Ford to form a new team, TG Racing, with backing from Pontiac, which would provide Firebirds, Titus would hold multiple roles as builder, mechanic, team manager, and driver. The Pontiac support didn’t come soon enough, though, and Titus needed a car to compete in the ’68 season’s final race. So he recruited Jon Ward, a former sprint car driver, and struck a deal to convert his self-prepared Camaro into the team’s first ‘Firebird.’
Engine failure spoiled what looked to be a race win, so Ward and Titus gave the Firebird one last go … at the 1969 24 Hours of Daytona no less. That February, somewhat astonishingly, the duo of Titus and Ward scythed through the competition to finish first in the Trans-Am class and finish third overall.
The ’69 Pontiac Firebirds arrived soon after, and this car was sold back to Ward. It eventually made the trip to Mexico and was campaigned successfully in the country’s Trans-Am series. In 1988, the historic Firebird/Camaro was rediscovered in Mexico, restored by Bill Elliot Racing, and now wears its race-winning ’69 Daytona livery.