How Pontiac Works

By: the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide

2000s Pontiac Firebird

Firebird seemed beyond saving as the new century opened, but only because buyer tastes had changed. Ponycars and muscle machines had given way to big-engine trucks and highly tuned "sport compacts" as America's performance icons. The Chevrolet Camaro was also falling from favor because of this shift, but not the Ford Mustang, which by now outsold the two GM ponycars combined.

It was thus no great shock that Firebird and Camaro were terminated after 2002. For a time it seemed that neither had a prayer of ever returning, but GM had second thoughts once an all-new Mustang began generating huge buzz and rip-roaring sales. By early 2006, GM was all but promising a new Camaro in two to three years time -- shades of 1967. But there was no mention of a new Firebird. That's because its performance role at Pontiac had already passed to another car, described later.


True to its tradition, Firebird did not go quietly. The Formula, for example, celebrated Pontiac's 75th birthday with a like-named package option at mid-2001. Priced at $2550 with manufacturer discount, it bundled unique cosmetics with traction control, a tighter axle ratio, and performance tires on chrome alloy wheels. Arriving with it was a separate $1170 NHRA group honoring the National Hot Rod Association and Firebird's continued drag-racing successes. This option delivered similar gearing and rolling stock, plus a six-speed manual with Hurst-brand shifter and linkage (recently added as a stand-alone option).

The NHRA package returned for '02, when the WS6 engine added five bhp to reach 325. Also back was the SLP Firehawk, a show-and-go package that Pontiac first cataloged in 2001 after securing sales rights from SLP Engineering, an outside company that had been putting more fire in Firebirds for some 10 years. Available for '01 Formulas and Trans Ams and for '02 T/As, the Firehawk option comprised a forced-air induction system that upped the WS6 to 330/345 bhp, plus stiffened suspension, fat low-profile tires on 17-inch wheels, and many exclusive trim items. Power junkies happily ponied up the $4000/$4300 asking price.

Last but not least was 2002's tellingly named Collector Edition Trans Am, another ensemble option. It largely duplicated the 30th Anniversary Package, but wore black accents on bright yellow paint, plus unique wheels and interior trim. With that, Firebird was history.

Pontiac's ponycar was tough to lose, but it was strictly a business decision. Times were tough for General Motors and about to get much tougher.

For more on the amazing Pontiac, old and new, see:

For more on the amazing Pontiac, old and new, see:

  • Pontiac New Car Reviews and Prices
  • Pontiac Used Car Reviews and Prices