The Glory Days
This is a short Grand National history of the H.B.
Bailey NASCAR Grand American Firebird. This car and several others were
part of a trial by NASCAR to mix the Pony cars (GT or Grand-American) with
the Grand National (now known as Winston Cup) cars. That experiment was to
be tried for the first time on September 19, 1971 at North Wilkesboro,
NC. That race was to be the first to mix the smaller cars with the Grand
National cars. Unfortunately the race was postponed by rain. It was
later run in October. Prior to the rain, Charlie Glotzbzch in Junior
Johnsonís Monte Carlo won the pole on the 5/8-mile oval. Eight
cars from the Grand American ranks were in the lineup. 59 cars were
entered 17 of which were the Pony cars.
The little Pony Cars were more than up to the task. Their lighter weight coupled with their high-winding 305 cubic inch motors, were very competitive. The H.B. Bailey Firebird actually led nearly 100 laps of one of those races prior to succumbing to a blown tire very near the end. Bobby Allisonís Holman and Moody Mustang was always competitive. Tiny Lund driving either a Camaro or a Firebird was always competitive, as were the Javelins.
It should be noted that several of the Grand American cars were modified SCCA Trans-Am cars, although by the time these former T/A cars competed in NASCAR, they were extensively modified to meet the NASCAR safety rules and weight limits. Pontiac, for instance, sent nearly all of their supply of the temperamental 303 engines and parts to H.B. Bailey and Tiny Lund in support of their Grand American programs. The 305 cubic inch limit eventually was increased to 366 to help with performance and reliability of the Grand American cars.
The Grand American cars faded from the NASCAR scene after 1972 to be replaced by the Busch Grand National formula with the advent of that series. The Grand American cars, at least those that survived, were to become the IMSA racers or short track Saturday night specials. It is surprising that any of theses cars survived. That was what was so satisfying about getting the H.B. Bailey car that had been discovered nearly complete and in tact residing under a tree outside a barn in Texas several years ago.