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Pontiac Firebird



History

2nd Generation

1970-1981






Introduction: The second generation Firebird saw the Firebird becoming more like a Camaro, but Pontiac still had a few more tricks up its sleeve, especially under the hood. Nothing would rule the mid 1970s quite like the Firebird.


1970 Pontiac Firebird






Comments: An all new Pontiac Firebird was introduced for 1970 and represented a new high for Pontiac styling. The front bumper and grille were molded out of Endura rubber and were painted the same color as the car to give it a bumperless appearance. The sides sported rounded full wheel cut outs without any extra trim (the Camaro had more squared off wheel cut outs). The suspension was revised and a rear stabilizer bar was added. The Firebird lineup was reduced from six to four, and the convertible was eliminated. At the bottom of the line up was the Base Firebird, whose Pontiac 250 I6 was replaced by a Chevy built 250 I6 rated at a meager 155bhp. Most buyers wisely opted for one of the optional V8s. Next up was the Espirit, which featured the Pontiac 350 V8 rated at 255 bhp. The Formula 400 featured a unique twin-scooped hood with a 400 V8 rated at 335 bhp. At the top was the Trans Am, which was fitted with air dams across the bottom of the front and in front of the wheels. A large decklip lip and small spoilers in front of the rear wheels completed the package. These aero pieces were claimed to generate 50 pounds of downforce on the front and rear of the car at highway speeds. Trans Ams also received a rear facing shaker hood scope to feed the standard Ram Air II engine. Optional on the Trans Am was the Ram Air IV engine, whose output had increased to 370 bhp due to bigger ports, better heads, swirl-polished valves, and an aluminum instake manifold. Only 88 copies were made. Rarer still was the Ram Air V, an over-the-counter, special order engine that included solid lifters and tunnel port heads and made up to 500 bhp. A four speed Hurst shifter was standard, but a three speed Turbo Hydra-matic automatic was available. Inside, complete instrumentation, including a tach turned on its side to red line at 12 o'clock just like a race car, completed the performance image. The Trans Am featured one of the best tuned suspensions of any car (including the Corvette) and its European styling gave it instant class. The Trans Am was now available in either Polar White or Lucent Blue, with contrasting stripes, a relatively modest bird stencil at the tip of the nose, and the words "Trans Am" across the rear spoiler.

Production: Formula 400: 7,708 Trans Am: 3,196
Engines: 250 I6 155 bhp. 350 V8 255 bhp. 400 V8 265 bhp. 400 V8 330 bhp @ 4800rpm, 430 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm. 400 V8 (HO) 335 bhp @ 5000rpm, 430 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm. 400 V8 (Ram Air II) 345 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 430 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm. 400 V8 (Ram Air IV) 370 bhp @ 5500 rpm, 445 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm. 400 V8 (Ram Air V) 500bhp.
Performance: 400/370 (RA IV): 0-60 in 5.6 sec, 1/4 mile in 13.9 sec @ 102 mph.


1971 Pontiac Firebird






Comments: 1971 saw little styling change for the Pontiac Firebird, with the addition of high-back bucket seats being the major appearance change. Rather, the major changes were under the hood. In order to satisfy General Motors decree that all engines had to run on unleaded gasoline to meet federal emission standards, the engine options were significantly altered. A new 400 V8 rated at 300 bhp was added, but both 400 Ram Air engines were dropped. In their place were two new 455 V8s, rated at 325 bhp and 335 bhp. The 455 HO engine was only available in the Trans Am and borrowed the cylinder heads from the 1970 Ram Air II and the intake manifold from the 1970 Ram Air IV. The Trans Am continued with its blue and white paint scheme, functional rear facing engine shaker hood scoops, and aero body pieces. Although the 455 engines available in the Trans Am were less powerful than the 1970 Ram Air II and IV engines, their 480 lb-ft of torque and less tempermental nature made them easier to drive on the street and were one of the high points in a time when performance was on the decline.

Production: Formula: 7,802 Trans Am: 2,116
Engines: 400 V8 300 bhp @ 4800rpm, 400 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm. 455 V8 325 bhp @ 4400 rpm, 455 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm. 455 V8 (HO) 335 bhp @ 4800 rpm, 480 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm.
Performance: 455/335 (HO): 0-60 in 5.9 sec, 1/4 mile in 13.9 sec @ 103 mph.


1972 Pontiac Firebird






Comments: 1972 was a disasterous year for the Firebird. GM executives considered dropping the Firebird altogether as sales fell drastically as the muscle car market collapsed, which was worsened by a crippling 174 day strike at the only plant that produced Firebirds. Pontiac executives were able to eventually save the Firebird and it continued, with very little change from 1971, except that its engines were now rated in net SAE numbers. Pontiac's famous "honeycomb" wheels also made their first appearance in 1972.

Production: Formula: 5,249 Trans Am: 1,286
Engines: 400 V8 250 bhp @ 4400rpm, 325 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm. 455 V8 300 bhp @ 4000 rpm, 415 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm.
Performance: N/A


1973 Pontiac Firebird






Comments: 1973 saw some significant new changes to the Firebird, including a new eggcrate grille and a revised front bumper. Engine ratings were down again, with the 350 rated at a mere 150 bhp and the 400 at 250 bhp. But two things would save the Firebird and firmly establish Pontiac as the performance manufacturer during the dark days of the 1970s. The first was the introduction of a new Super Duty 455 V8 (SD-455). "Super Duty" was the name Pontiac used on its high performance (i.e. race ready) engines in the early 1960's, and the Super Duty 455 was a street legal race prepped engine. All SD-455's were hand assembled, and had a reinforced block, special cam shaft, aluminum pistons, oversize valves and header-like exhaust manifolds. Pontiac rated the SD-455 engines at a stout 310 bhp and 390 lb-ft, but experts agreed that it was closer to 370 bhp. This level of engine ratings were unheard of in an era when other manufacturer's engines' output were falling dramatically, and the Firebird became the only true performance car remaining in the market. Unfortunately, Super Duty engines were expensive and therefore rare; only 252 Trans Am's and 43 Formula 455's received the SD-455 engine. The second major coup for the Firebird was the introduction of a new Firebird decal on the Trans Am, which covered almost the entire hood and was quickly nick-named "the screaming chicken," which added to the excitement and popularity of the entire Firebird lineup. Sales of the Firebird and Trans Am were up dramatically, ensuring their survival.

Production: Formula: 10,166 Trans Am: 4,802
Engines: 350 V8 150 bhp. 400 V8 230 bhp @ 4400rpm, 325 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm. 455 V8 250 bhp @ 4000 rpm, 370 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm. 455 (SD) V8 310 bhp @ 4000 rpm, 390 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm.
Performance: N/A


1974 Pontiac Firebird






Comments: 1974 was a difficult year for the Firebird. Gone was the Endura bumper, replaced by new, Federally mandated, fiberglass front end with a slight wedge shape and rubber covered 5 mph bumpers. The chrome rear bumper was also gone, replaced by those pesky rubber bumpers. Engine ratings dropped again with the Trans Am's base 400 V8 engine rated at 225 bhp. But for a mere $57, buyers could order the 250 bhp 455 V8, which received a 10 lb-ft boost to 380 lb-ft, but which came only with an automatic transmission. The mighty Super Duty 455 V8 was also available for an additional $578 and were unchanged from the year before. All V8s included true dual exhausts, which made their last appearance on the Firebird. Also available for the last time on the 1974 Firebirds were the Muncie 4-speed manual transmission and the TurboHydramatic 400 automatic transmission. The lower output of the 1975 engines would make those heavy-duty transmissions unnecessary. This would also be the last year of the Super Duty engines.

Production: Formula: Trans Am: 10,255 Super Duty 455: 943
Engines: 350 V8 155bhp. 400 V8 225 bhp @ 4000 rpm, 330 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm. 455 V8 250 bhp @ 4000 rpm, 380 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm. 455 (SD) V8 310 bhp @ 4000 rpm, 390 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm.
Performance: SD455/310: 1/4 mile in 13.5 seconds @ 104 mph


1975 Pontiac Firebird






Comments: In what had been a sea of pony car competitors, the Pontiac Firebird was all alone for 1975. The Camaro Z28, AMC Javelin, Plymouth Barracuda, and Dodge Challenger all were discontinued. The Ford Mustang was now offered on a Pinto platform and boasted a top engine offering of a 105 bhp 2.8 liter V6! The 1975 Firebird featured a new front end (it's third in three years) and a much improved rear window, which greatly improved visibility. The instrument panel stayed the same, but the old 160 mph speedometer was replaced by a new 100 mph unit, to better reflect the new times. The base 400 cid V8 Trans Am engine put out a pitiful 185 bhp, but still cranked out 310 lb-ft of torque. But the big news was what was lost: No Super Duty 455 engine, no Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic transmission, no Muncie Four-Speed Manual Transmission, no true dual exhausts. The main culprit: the new Federally mandated Catalytic Converters. The 455 V8 was re-introduced mid-year in "H.O." guise, but it was just the 455 engine from the Bonneville and produced only 200 bhp.

Production: Formula: Trans Am: 27,274
Engines: 350 V8 155bhp. 400 V8 185 bhp, 310 lb-ft. 455 V8 200 bhp @ 3800 rpm, 330 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm. 455 (HO) V8 200 bhp.
Performance: 455/200: 1/4 mile in 16.1 seconds @ 89 mph


1976 Pontiac Firebird






Comments: 1976 would be the last year of the 455 engine, and the first year of available T-Tops. All Firebirds received new more angular bumpers which improved their appearance, and Pontiac introduced the very popular Black-and-Gold Special Edition Trans Am which quickly became one of the most famous Trans Am's of all time. This would be the first year that over 100,000 Firebirds were sold.

Production:
Engines: 350 V8 155bhp. 400 V8 185 bhp, 310 lb-ft. 455 (HO) V8 200 bhp @ 3800 rpm, 330 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm.
Performance:


1977 Pontiac Firebird






Comments: 1977 saw a new "Batmobile" front end with quad square headlamps and ever more complex engine choices. The Chevy inline six was dumped for a Buick 231 cubic inch (3.8 liter) V6 as the base engine. A new 301 (4.9 liter) V8 rated at just 135 bhp was available in Esprits and Formulas, with the familiar 350 was optional. Trans Am's featured either a Oldsmobile 403 (6.6 liter) V8 or the Pontiac 400 (T/A 6.6) engine under their shaker hood. Meanwhile, Firebirds sold in California had to make due with Chevy 305 and 350 V8s to meet the state's strict emission laws. But 1977 would the year that firmly established the Firebird as the performance car of the 1970s. Burt Reynolds drove a Black-and-Gold Special Edition Trans Am in the unexpected movie hit "Smokey and the Bandit", that drove the Firebird's popularity (and sales) to new heights.

Production: Total: 155,736 (Trans Am: 68,745)
Engines: 231 V6 105 bhp. 301 V8 135 bhp. 305 V8 (California). 350 V8 (California). 350 V8 155bhp. 400 V8 185 bhp, 310 lb-ft. 403 V8.
Performance: 400/185: 1/4 mile in 16.02 sec. @ 89.64 mph.


1978 Pontiac Firebird






Comments: Attempting to capitalize on its new found popularity, Pontiac offered a slew of Special Edition Firebirds including a Gold Trans Am with brown accents and Blue "Sky Bird" and Red "Red Bird" Firebirds. Sales soared to a record 187,285 units, including 93,341 Trans Am's.

Production: Total: 187,285 (Trans Am: 93,641)
Engines: 231 V6 105 bhp. 301 V8 135 bhp. 305 V8 (California). 350 V8 (California). 350 V8 155bhp. 400 V8 185 bhp, 310 lb-ft. 403 V8.
Performance:


1979 Pontiac Firebird






Comments: As the 1970s drew to a close, the 1979 Pontiac Firebird received a new nose, with the four rectangular headlights all in their own bezels, and the split grille was moved below them. The rear end featured blackout panels disguising the taillights on Formula and Trans Am models. All models also received some revised graphics. A special silver 10th Anniversary edition Trans Am was sold in what would be the last year for the Pontiac 400 engine.

Production:
Engines: 231 V6 105 bhp. 301 V8 135 bhp. 305 V8 (California). 350 V8 (California). 350 V8 155bhp. 400 V8 185 bhp, 310 lb-ft. 403 V8.
Performance:


1980 Pontiac Firebird






Comments: In perhaps the ultimate insult to the Firebird, Pontiac dropped its 400 V8 and installed a new Turbo-charged 301 (4.9 liter) V8 as its top engine choice. The notorious "Turbo 4.9 was rated at a pathetic 210 bhp, but the real insult came from its actual performance. There was no Turbo boost indicator as Turbo lag was a huge problem and the engine often made loud pinging sounds under heavy loads just before it self-destructed. Nevertheless, a Pontiac Trans Am paced the Indianapolis 500 race that year. Sales dropped considerably.

Production:
Engines: 301 Turbo V8 210 bhp.
Performance: 301/210: 1/4 mile in 17.02 sec @ 82.1 mph.


1981 Pontiac Firebird






Comments: The disasterous Firebird of 1980 continued into 1981 as sales dropped to just 38% of just two years before.

Production: 70,899
Engines: 301 Turbo V8 210 bhp.
Performance: 301/210: 1/4 mile in 17.02 sec @ 82.1 mph.








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