While most of the Northern U.S. was still under the cold white blanket of winter, we made a trip to balmy Speedworld Raceway Park in Wittmann, Arizona, for Steve Barcak’s 14th annual Pontiac Heaven car show and race, held March 30 through April 1, 2012.

Upon entering the parking lot of the Hampton Inn—the host hotel—in adjacent Surprise, Arizona, we knew we were in the right place when we saw a row of immaculate ’60s and ’70s Firebirds and GTOs, sprinkled liberally with groups of Pontiac faithfuls kicking tires and generally enjoying the camaraderie of like-minded hobbyists.

The agenda for Friday kicked off at the host hotel and featured three seminars by specialists in different areas of Pontiac performance. A staple feature of the Pontiac Heaven event, each guest speaker did a slide/video presentation on his area of expertise, and then answered questions from the audience. First up was Brad Duerst of Fabcraft Metal Works, presenting information on the ’57-’64 Pontiac 9.3-inch rearend. He shared pointers on the correct setup and parts interchangeability, and compared the Pontiac 9.3 to Ford 9-inch and Chevy 12-bolt designs. Brad also passed around a freshly published information/technical manual on the ’57-’64 Pontiac 9.3-inch rearend, which is appropriately entitled Building and Racing the ’57–’64 Pontiac/Olds Rear End, and is now available for purchase from Fabcraft Metal Works (see Motorhead Gear on page 73).

After a short break, next up was Robin Roberts, owner and builder of the former HPP cover-car ’76 Trans Am, a perennial top contender in the Fastest Street Car drags. With continuous development and the support of his family, Robins’ street-driven Trans Am has run 8.13 at 169 mph with traditional Pontiac power. His current combo is a 541ci IA-II block and a healthy dose of nitrous oxide, but his exhibition pass on Saturday showed that traction on drag radials is another hurdle to overcome.

The last presentation was by Frank Gostyla and Bob Cacciotti of AllPontiac.com, who showed how their blocks and heads are developed and produced, starting with design; then casting, testing, and machining; culminating in how continuing development led to new cylinder heads and major revisions to their aluminum Pontiac block. For more information, contact them at www.allpontiac.com.

The balance of the afternoon featured the Pontiac Show & Shine at the Hampton Inn. Then at 5 p.m. we drove a few miles down the highway to the Speedworld Raceway Park for the Pontiac Cruise-In and open Test ‘N’ Tune, which ran until 11 p.m. Many of us from other parts of the country can only dream of running our cars in March, let alone unmuffled until 11 p.m., but Speedworld still lies outside the metropolitan Phoenix area, so mufflers, sound checks, and curfews are not to be found. (Currently all Southern California dragstrips have been closed, leaving the birthplace of drag racing without a dragstrip. Thus, it was no surprise that California license plates were common at this event, the most experienced staying to make tuning adjustments to get ready for Saturday’s racing.)

Saturday morning was very pleasant with a cloudless blue sky, but by 1 p.m. the temperature was over 90 degrees. The staging lanes came alive after tech, and as the rounds progressed, racers who remained consistent with the changing track conditions continued to eliminate those who did not. Final-round action for the four classes is detailed in the captions.

If the battles on the dragstrip were hotly contested, the battles for car-show awards verged on scorched earth! The car show and swap-meet areas both started to fill up before 8 a.m., but a continuing flow of show cars arrived until noon. The area became so tightly packed that event staff had to enlarge it several times to accommodate the 78 registered entries.