Documenting a 1968 400 H.O. is not a straight forward process…
The 1968 400 H.O. is a difficult car to document. The Trim Plate on the firewall does not provide you with the information needed to verify that your car is truly a 400 H.O. You must have either the Protecto-Plate, Billing History, Window Sticker or the correct Engine block with the correct Engine Block VIN stamping to verify that your car is an authentic 1968 Firebird 400 H.O.
What makes the 400 H.O. very special is the limited-production, high-performance drive train that is unique to only this car. Everything from the 400 cubic inch high compression engine, Quadrajet carburetor, and the Free flowing exhaust was designed to make the 400 H.O. one of the most potent production muscle cars ever made. It is for this reason that 1968 400 H.O. owners should carefully understand and document all of the drive train componentry for correctness. The performance and value of your car is heavily dependent on having the correct drive train components and the proper date coding.
A few recommendations to get you down the right road for documenting your car …
Before I get into some basic steps to document your car for the registry, let me make a few recommendations:
It is worth every penny to invest in the services from Pontiac Historic Services. By providing them your Vehicle Identification Number, you can obtain a complete vehicle information packet.
The information packet from PHS will include the following:
◾A copy of the factory invoice or billing history
◾A letter decoding the options (when necessary)
◾A copy of a dealer order form for that year
◾Other specific information for that year and model Pontiac, if available
“By supplying Pontiac Historic Services with the VIN of your car, along with the other information listed on their “Order” page, you will receive the most complete historical background and VIN information ever offered by any automobile nameplate.”
See their “Order” page for ordering information, pricing and payment options.
Note: I receive no royalties or compensation for these recommendations.
On to documenting your car for the registry…
To begin with, the primary goal of this documentation is to guide you through properly registering your 1968 400 H.O. for the 1968 400 H.O. National Registry. This guide is not an all inclusive documentation source. Secondarily, I would hope it helps you to gain a greater level of appreciation for your car as you gain knowledge through the registry process.
The VIN is a 13-character plate that is located on the driver side instrument (dash) panel visible through the windshield. This is the unique identifier for each car and will be the unique key in the registry database if provided.
The Trim Plate is located on the driver side firewall. The Trim plate will give you the interior color, exterior color, and build date (basis for documenting proper date codes on all drive train componentry). As mentioned before, there is no proper way to verify the car is a 400 H.O. from the Trim Plate.
Supporting Car Documentation:
There are two sources of documentation that verifies that your car is a 1968 400 H.O. The first source is the 400 engine itself which we discuss in a little more detail in the Engine section. The other source is the various supporting documents the original owner received when he purchased the car from the Pontiac dealership. Unfortunately, after several decades, and usually several owners, these pieces of documentation get lost or destroyed.
As mentioned, you can verify that a car is a 400 H.O. from the information gathered off the engine, but without any of the following supporting documents, the car options can not be tied directly with the car. Lack of supporting documents does not usually detract from the value of a car but does help to differentiate and make a car more attractive to collectors because they help to give the truest picture of the way the car was in its original form.
It is quite common that most 400 H.O.’s were not heavily optioned since many were primarily purchased for racing purposes. A heavily optioned 400 H.O. is highly desirable and would be given a premium value if supporting documentation exists. This brings up the point that documentation is very important today because many of these options can be easily bought from specialty part dealers and added to the cars therefore making it difficult to distinguish an original optioned car from a car that was altered after the fact.
Protect-O-Plate (Warranty information card) – a small metal card that resembled a credit card. This card is fairly rare because it usually remained in some fashion with (or lost by) the original owner or taken away by dealers on trade-in (to protect the privacy of the original owner). This card gives the original owners name/address, Trim plate information, how the car was equipped, and all the pertinent drive train information.
Broadcast Sheet (Build Sheet) – This computer-generated piece of paper gave a complete account on how the car was manufactured on the assembly line. Build Sheets have been known to be place in just about any location on a car. Most are never found or destroyed over the years and are a very rare.
Dealer Invoice, Window Sticker, New Car Order Form – These are all great sources of documentation that supports at various degrees what equipment a car originally came with.
Car Drive Train:
Engine – The engine is one of the most important sources for verifying that your car is an authentic 1968 400 H.O. As mentioned previously, the 400 H.O. motor is really the high point of these cars. It is important to properly document this motor and is the most critical area of value to the car. The engine can be verified by reviewing the two letter code, which is located on the front of the engine block at the base of the passenger-side cylinder head. Every 400 H.O. Car will have either a WQ (manual) or a YW (automatic). You will then need to check the Vin number on the front of the engine block that runs vertically up the side of the timing cover on passenger side. It should start with a 2 and have your last 8 numbers of your VIN.
Transmission – A 1968 400 H.O. came with one of three transmissions. – The Hydra-Matic, HD 3 Speed or the 4 speed manual transmission.
4 speed transmissions – An M20 wide-ratio transmission (which was standard) , M21 close ratio Muncie 4 speed or the M22 heavy-duty Muncie 4 speed (close and wide ratio which were optional).
The Transmission can be documented by viewing the passenger-side of the transmission case. You will find a five-character code (Transmission Assembly Date Code) that will always begin with a “P8” then followed by an alphabetic character and two numeric characters. You will then need to check the Vin number on the on top of the case, It should start with a 2 and have your last 8 numbers of your VIN.
Rear Axle – The standard rear axle ratio for 1968 400 H.O. was 3.336 contained within a HD 10-bolt Nodular (N) rear axle housing. To identify and date code your axle see my post on Nodular Rear Axles.
Well, that is the basics for documenting your car for the registry. If you have any comments or ways you feel would make this documentation easier to understand or follow, please let me know.