Just a few months after the first Firebirds went to customers, developers were busy with the next generation. This time, The 1970s Pontiac Firebird would not accept Chevrolet's leftovers. So although engineering efforts began at Chevrolet, Pontiac stylists and engineers joined their counterparts in the early stages.
The basic profile was decided fairly early. Aiming at mass-market acceptance, this eye-catching new Firebird would be a sleek, slippery semi-fastback, wearing a trunk lid and minimal chrome.
A bold split-grille and bumper were combined into a color-keyed "Endura" plastic nose, following the lead of the 1969 facelift. Nearly everything else appeared fresh -- a radical departure from the original F-bodies.
Deleting the rear quarter windows produced the close-coupled look of a two-seater, with vast B-pillars and lengthy door windows. Appearances sometimes deceive, and to many eyes the new Firebird, with its reduced-height cowl, looked a lot longer and lower. Dimensions actually hadn't changed much, but few disputed the car's taut, newly aggressive demeanor.
Differences between Firebird and the cheaper Camaro were heightened. Pontiac stylists wanted a softer, more muscular look, less angular than Camaro's shape.
A wraparound rear window was proposed, but delayed. Designers experimented with Targa-roofs, notchback and full fastback bodies, and concealed headlamps. A convertible was also considered, but falling ragtop sales scuttled its prospects.
"Pontiac announces the beginning of tomorrow," insisted early ads, yet the 1970 model year began sans Firebird. Because of tooling and engineering problems, the debut was delayed until February 26, 1970; thus, its popular designation as a 1970 1/2 model. Meanwhile, leftover '69s were listed in Pontiac literature without model-year identification.
The lineup began with a no-frills coupe, powered by a 155 horsepower Chevrolet six (replacing the extinct overhead-cam engine). Beneath the hood of the step-up Esprit-billed as an "honest luxury sports car" -- sat a 350-cid V-8. Next came the Formula 400, packing a standard 330 horsepower, 400-cid V-8.
See the next page to continue to read about the Pontiac Firebird throughout the 1970s.