"Now the Excitement Begins." So went Pontiac's boisterous boast in its advertisements for the stunning, neatly downsized 1982 Pontiac Firebird, representing a platform that endured until 1992.
Fortunately for General Motors, the new-and-different Camaro and Firebird for the Eighties emerged just as America was sensing sparks of renewed interest in performance cars. A coincidence? Perhaps; but even in the darkest days of the '70s, when performance seemed a relic of the distant past, Pontiac had kept up the fight. Now that battle had an opportunity to turn into victory.
Pontiac Firebird Image Gallery
Stylists under John Schinella again maintained Firebird's distinctive look, despite its continued tie to Camaro. Differences included a low-riding nose with shallow twin grilles within air slots, plus hidden headlamps-employed previously on Camaros, but a Firebird "first."
Once again, Firebird adopted a more rounded profile than Camaro, exemplified by the soft S-curves over each fender. Pontiac called attention to its "sabre-like nose and rakish tail."
Some models wore full-width, smoked-lens taillamps, creating a blackout effect. All were "glassback" coupes, with a rear hatch instead of a trunk lid. Several automakers had revived convertibles in the works, but there would be no open
Firebird until the end of this third generation.
Sleeker and swoopier, lighter and less bulky than before, Firebird benefited from what Pontiac expert John Gunnell described as "space-age engineering." Underneath, modified MacPherson struts replaced the old wishbone-style front suspension. Out back, coil springs replaced multi-leaf units.
Front-wheel drive had been considered, but the ponycars stuck instead to traditional rear-drive. Design goals included keeping the cockpit as spacious as before, while reducing outside dimensions. Wheelbase shrunk by seven inches; overall length by eight; width by one.
For details on the 1982, continue on to the next page.