The 1977, 1978, 1979 Pontiac Firebird
Clever freshening gave the 1977 Pontiac Firebird a striking, seemingly new appearance, without changing the sheetmetal. Buick's 231-cubic-inch V-6 replaced the Chevrolet inline six as base engine.
Pontiac's own 301-cid V-8 became available, but the 455-cid V-8 option was gone. Trans Ams carried a 180 horsepower 400 V-8 or, in California and high-altitude regions, an Oldsmobile 403.
Trans Am output reached an astounding 68,745 (including 15,567 "Special Edition" models), despite a hefty price hike. Total Firebird volume hit 155,736 units.
Impressive as those figures were, 1978 brought even better news. Trans Am output soared to a record 93,341 -- nearly half of the 187,285 Firebirds sold.
"Hearts flutter at its mere mention," said sales brochures of the Trans Am, whereas a Formula coupe was "for driving fanatics." Trans Ams could get a higher-output (220-horsepower) V-8 in 1978. Produced by slightly higher compression, that was the first boost in potency since 1973.
A facelift for 1979 made the Firebird's "beak" more pronounced, as rectangular headlamps moved into separate recessed pods. Full-width "blacked-out" taillamps disappeared when not in use. Four-wheel disc brakes became optional on Formulas and Trans Ams for the first time.
Formula coupes now had a standard 301-cid V-8. So did Trans Ams, but the very last 400-cid engines (now called "6.6 Liter") went into a 10th Anniversary Limited Edition. Total output soared past 210,000 to an all-time record. Lack of super-hot engines obviously wasn't extinguishing interest in ownership of a hot-looking sport coupe.
A Trans Am served as official pace car for the 1979 Daytona 500 race in February. Later in the year came less-welcome news: another fuel crisis, resulting from the Iranian revolution.
Corporate scheduling called for an all-new Firebird (and Camaro) for 1980, but that wouldn't happen just yet. After a turbocharged Trans Am paced the Indianapolis 500 race, Pontiac issued a limited run of Pace Car Replicas. Underhood: a turbo edition of the Trans Am's 301-cid V-8, cranking out 210 horsepower (70 more than the carbureted 301).
Output dropped by half in this recession year, but all automakers were suffering more or less equally. Even the presence of Burt Reynolds posing for the 1981 sales catalog couldn't keep sales from slipping further, but Pontiac wasn't worried. An efficiently downsized Firebird for the Eighties was already in the works.
We've gathered a collection of some of the best examples of Pontiac Firebirds from the 1970s. Explore the links below for a brief history and photos of each car.
To learn more about muscle cars, see:
- Pontiac Firebird Reviews by Consumer Guide
- Muscle Cars