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The Pontiac Firebird was an American automobile built by Pontiac from the 1967 to 2002 model years. Designed as a pony car to compete with the Ford Mustang and Mercury Cougar, it was introduced on February 23, 1967, simultaneous with GM's Chevrolet division platform-sharing Camaro. This also coincided with the release of the 1967 Mercury Cougar, Ford's upscale, platform-sharing version of the Mustang.
The name "Firebird" was also previously used by GM for the General Motors Firebird 1950s and early 1960s concept cars.
First generation (1967–1969)
The first generation Firebird had characteristic Coke bottle styling shared with its cousin, the Chevrolet Camaro. Announcing a Pontiac styling trend, the Firebird's bumpers were integrated into the design of the front end, giving it a more streamlined look than the Camaro. The Firebird's rear "slit" taillights were inspired by the 1966–1967 Pontiac GTO. Both a two-door hardtop and a convertible were offered through the 1969 model year. Originally, the car was a "consolation prize" for Pontiac, which had desired to produce a two-seat sports car based on its original Banshee concept car. However, GM feared this would cut into Chevrolet Corvette sales, and gave Pontiac a piece of the "pony car" market through sharing the F-body platform with Chevrolet.
The 1967 base model Firebird came equipped with the Pontiac 230 cu in (3.8 L) SOHC inline-six. Based on the standard Chevrolet 230 cu in (3.8 L) inline-six, it was fitted with a single-barrel carburetor and rated at 165 hp (123 kW). The "Sprint" model six came with a four-barrel carburetor, developing 215 hp (160 kW). Most buyers opted for one of three V8s: the 326 cu in (5.3 L) with a two-barrel carburetor producing 250 hp (186 kW); the four-barrel "HO" (high output) 326, producing 285 hp (213 kW); or the 325 hp (242 kW) 400 cu in (6.6 L) from the GTO. All 1967–1968 400 CI engines had throttle restrictors that blocked the carburetors' second barrels from fully opening. A "Ram Air" option was also available, providing functional hood scoops, higher flow heads with stronger valve springs, and a hotter camshaft. Power for the Ram Air package was the same as the conventional 400 HO, but peaked at 5,200 rpm.
The 230 cu in (3.8 L) engines were subsequently replaced in 1968 by the Chevrolet 250 cu in (4.1 L) stroked 230 cu in (3.8 L) engines, the first developing an increased 175 hp (130 kW) using a single-barrel carburetor, and the other the same 215 hp with a four-barrel carburetor. Also for the 1968 model, the 326 cu in (5.3 L) engine was replaced by the Pontiac 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8, which actually displaced 355 cu in (5.8 L), and produced 265 hp (198 kW) with a two-barrel carburetor. An HO version of the 350 cu in (5.7 L) with a revised cam was also offered starting in that year, which developed 320 hp (239 kW). Power output of the other engines was increased marginally.
There was an additional Ram Air IV option for the 400 cu in (6.6 L) V8 engines during 1969, complementing the Ram Air III; these generated 345 hp (350 PS; 257 kW) at 5000 rpm and 430 lb·ft (583 N·m) of torque at 3400 rpm; and 335 hp (340 PS; 250 kW) respectively. The 350 cu in (5.7 L) HO engine was revised again with a different cam and cylinder heads resulting in 325 hp (242 kW). During 1969 a special 303 cu in (5.0 L) engine was designed for SCCA road racing applications that was not available in production cars.
The styling difference from the 1967 to the 1968 model was the addition of federally-mandated side marker lights: for the front of the car, the turn signals were made larger and extended to wrap around the front edges of the car, and on the rear, the Pontiac (V-shaped) Arrowhead logo was added to each side. The front door vent-windows were replaced with a single pane of glass and Astro Ventilation, a fresh-air-inlet system. The 1969 model received a major facelift with a new front end design but unlike the GTO, it did not have the Endura bumper. The instrument panel and steering wheel were revised. The ignition switch was moved from the dashboard to the steering column with the introduction of GM's new locking ignition switch/steering wheel.
In March 1969, a $1,083 optional handling package called the "Trans Am performance and appearance package", UPC "WS4", named after the Trans Am Series, was introduced. A total of 689 hardtops and eight convertibles were made.
Due to engineering problems that delayed the introduction of the all-new 1970 Firebird beyond the usual fall debut, Pontiac continued production of 1969 model Firebirds into the early months of the 1970 model year (the other 1970 Pontiac models had been introduced on September 18, 1969). By late spring of 1969, Pontiac had deleted all model-year references on Firebird literature and promotional materials, anticipating the extended production run of the then-current 1969 models.
Second generation (1970–1981)
The second generation debut for the 1970 model year was delayed until February 26, 1970, because of tooling and engineering problems; thus, its popular designation as a 1970½ model, while leftover 1969s were listed in early Pontiac literature without a model-year identification. This generation of Firebirds were available in coupe form only; after the 1969 model year, convertibles were not available until 1989.
Special versions and appearance packages
Replacing the "Coke bottle" styling was a more "swoopy" body style, while still retaining some traditional elements. The top of the rear window line going almost straight down to the lip of the trunk lid, a look that was to epitomize F-body styling for the longest period during the Firebird's lifetime. The new design was initially characterized with a large B-pillar, until 1975 when the rear window was enlarged.
There were two Ram Air 400 cu in (6.6 L) engines for 1970: the 335 hp (250 kW) L74 Ram Air III (366 hp (273 kW) in GTO) and the 345 hp (257 kW) LS1 Ram Air IV (370 hp (280 kW) in GTO) that were carried over from 1969. The difference between the GTO and Firebird engines was that the secondary carburetor's throttle linkage had a restrictor which prevented the rear barrels from opening completely, adjusting the linkage could allow full carburetor operation resulting in identical engine performance.
For the 1970 and 1971 model years, all Firebirds equipped with radios had the antennas mounted "in-glass" in the windshield.
The Pontiac 455 cu in (7.5 L) engine first became available in the second generation Firebird in 1971. The 455 engine was available in the L75 325 hp (242 kW) version and the LS5 335 hp HO version, which was the standard, and only engine option, for the Trans Am. The HO engine also included Ram Air IV.
During a 1972 strike, the Firebird (and the similar F-body Camaro) were nearly dropped.
Again the 455HO was the only engine available for the Trans Am.
Starting in 1972, and continuing until 1977, the Firebird was only produced at the Norwood, Ohio, facility.
Actual production cars yielded 1/4 mile results in the high 14 to 15.0 second/98 mph range (sources: Motor Trend Magazine, July '73 and Roger Huntington's book, American Supercar) – results that are consistent with a 3,850 pound car (plus driver) and the engine equipped with a 4-barrel Rochester Quadrajet carburetor rated at a maximum power of 290 bhp (294 PS; 216 kW) at 4000 rpm and a maximum torque of 395 lb·ft (536 N·m) at 3600 rpm figure. An original rating of 310 bhp (314 PS; 231 kW) SAE net had been assigned to the SD-455, though that rating was based on the emissions non-compliant "pre-production" engines, as mentioned above. That rating appeared in published 1973 model year Pontiac literature, which had been printed prior to the "pre-production" engines "barely passing" emissions testing, and the last minute switch to what became the production engine. The 1974 model year production literature listed the specifications of the production engine (290 SAE net horsepower).
In 1973 and 1974, a special version of the 455, called the Super Duty 455 (SD-455), was offered. The SD-455 consisted of a strengthened cylinder block that included four-bolt main bearings and added material in various locations for improved strength. Original plans called for a forged crankshaft, although actual production SD455s received nodular iron crankshafts with minor enhancements. Forged rods and forged aluminum pistons were specified, as were unique high-flow cylinder heads.
The 480737 code cam (identical grind to the RAIV "041" cam) was originally specified for the SD455 engine and was fitted into the "pre-production" test cars (source: former Pontiac special projects engineer McCully), one of which was tested by both Hot Rod and Car and Driver magazines. However, actual production cars were fitted with the milder 493323 cam and 1.5:1 rocker ratios, due to the ever-tightening emissions standards of the era. This cam and rocker combination, combined with a low compression ratio of 8.4:1 advertised (7.9:1 actual) yielded 290 SAE net horsepower. Production SD455 cars did not have functional hood scoops, while the "pre-production" test cars did.
A production line stock SD455 produced 253 rear wheel HP on a chassis dyno, as reported by High Performance Pontiac magazine (January, 2007). This is also consistent with the 290 SAE net horsepower factory rating (as measured at the crankshaft). Skip McCully verified that no production SD455s released to the public were fitted with the 480737 cam. When asked about the compromises for the production SD455 engine, McCully responded, "Compression, camshaft, jetting, and vacuum advance." He followed by stating that he would have preferred a compression ratio of 10.25:1, a camshaft with 041 valve timing, slightly richer carburetor jetting, and as much vacuum advance as the engine would tolerate. However, that proved to be impossible due to the emissions regulations of the era. Overlooked however, is a June 1974 test of a newly delivered, privately owned SD-455 Trans Am. This appeared in Super Stock and Drag Illustrated. With an unmodified car and a test weight of 4,010 lbs the testers clocked 14.25 seconds at 101 mph. The car had automatic and A/C. Also, the factory rating of 290 hp was listed at 4,400 rpm while the factory tachometer has a 5,750 rpm redline.
Pontiac offered the 455 through the 1976 model year, but the engine could not meet tightening restrictions on vehicle emissions. A total of 7,100 were produced with the 455 engine.
Curb weights rose dramatically in the 1974 model year due to the implementation of 5 mph (8.0 km/h) telescoping bumpers and various other crash and safety related structural enhancements; SD455 Trans Ams weighed in at 3,850 lb (1,746 kg) in their first year of production (1974 model year; actually 1973).
The 1974 models featured a redesigned "shovel-nose" front end and new wide "slotted" taillights. In 1974, Pontiac offered two base engines for the Firebird: a 100 hp (75 kW) 250 cu in (4.1 L) inline-6 and a 155 hp (116 kW) 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8. Available were 175 to 225 hp (130 to 168 kW) 400 cu in (6.6 L) V8 engines, as well as the 455 cu in (7.5 L) produced 215 or 250 hp (160 or 186 kW), while the SD-455 produced 290 hp (216 kW). The 400, 455, and SD-455 engines were offered in the Trans Am and Formula models during 1974.
A 1974 Firebird was driven by Jim Rockford in the pilot movie and the first season (1974–1975) of The Rockford Files, and every following season, Rockford would change to the next model year. However, in the sixth season (1979–1980), Rockford continued to drive the 1978 Firebird from season five, as James Garner disliked the 1979 model's restyled front end. The cars in the show were badged as lower-tier Esprit models, but in reality were Formulas with the twin-scoop hood replaced with a scoopless one. Another hint was the twin exhausts and rear anti-roll bars that were not used on Esprit.
The 1975 models featured a new wraparound rear window with a revised roofline and the turn signals were moved up from the valance panel to the grills which distinguished it from the previous year model. The Super Duty engine, Muncie four-speed, and TurboHydramatic 400 automatic were no longer available in 1975. Due to the use of catalytic converters starting in 1975, the THM 400 would not fit alongside the catalytic converter underneath the vehicle. The smaller TurboHydramatic 350 automatic was deemed enough. The 400 was standard in the Trans Am and the 455 was optional for both 1975 and 1976 models.
Pontiac celebrated its 50th anniversary year in 1976. To commemorate this event, Pontiac unveiled a special Trans Am option at the 1976 Chicago Auto Show. Painted in black with gold accents, this was the first "anniversary" Trans Am package and the first production black and gold special edition. A removable T-top developed by Hurst was optional, but proved problematic. This was the last year with the 455 engine
A distinctive, slant-nose facelift occurred in 1977. There is a way to tell an early 1977 built car as there was a production change in the hood scoop. Early cars were supplied with an off-center scoop. Furthermore, early W72 cars came with the standard 180 hp air cleaner. Pontiac offered the T/A 400 cu in (6.6 L) with a single 4-barrel Rochester Quadrajet carburetor RPO W72 rated at 200 bhp (203 PS; 149 kW) at 3600 rpm and a maximum torque of 325 lb·ft (441 N·m) at 2400 rpm, as opposed to the regular 6.6 Litre 400 (RPO L78) rated at 180 hp (134 kW). The T/A 6.6 equipped engines had chrome valve covers, while the base 400 engines had painted valve covers. In addition, California and high-altitude cars received the Olds 403 engine, which offered a slightly higher compression ratio and a more usable torque band than the Pontiac engines of 1977.
From 1977 to 1981, the Firebird used four square headlamps, while the Camaro continued to retain the two round headlights that had been shared by both second generation designs. The 1977 Trans-Am Special Edition became famous after being featured in Smokey and the Bandit. The 1980 Turbo model was used for Smokey and the Bandit II.
Changes for 1978 were slight, with a switch from a honeycomb to a crosshatch pattern grille being the most obvious from the outside. Beginning in 1978, the Pontiac group introduced a new special edition vehicle. The Firebird Formula LT Sport Edition which featured a revised 10% raised compression Chevy 305 V8 powertrain producing 155 hp (same as 1977 Chevy Monza Mirage) combined with a floor center console four-speed manual T-10 BW transmission coupled to a limited-slip differential final drive. The limited touring package (LT) also included a cabin roof, door, fender and hood graphics scheme, the Trans-Am sports handling package with HD gas shocks, modular alloy wheels and the SE Trans-Am rear deck spoiler with "Formula" word graphic detail. T-tops in 1978 transitioned from Hurst units to Fisher (GM) in mid year. In 1978 Pontiac also made available the Red Bird package on the Firebird Esprit model. Painted in Roman Red with a matching red interior it had a Gold pinstripe treatment with Red Bird graphics on the b-pillars. It also utilized the Trans-Am style steering wheel and dash except these were finished with gold spokes and a gold dash face which was unique to the Red Bird option.
The engineers also revised the compression ratio in the 400ci through the installation of different cylinder heads with smaller combustion chambers (1977 Pontiac 400 engines also had the 350 heads bolted to the 400 blocks, these heads were known as the 6x-4 heads and were taken from the Pontiac 350). This increased power by 10% for a total of 220 during the 1978–79 model years. The 400/403 options remained available until 1979, when the 400 CID engines were only available in the 4-speed transmission Trans Ams and Formulas (the engines had actually been stockpiled from 1978, when PMD had cut production of the engine).
The front end was restyled for 1979, which also marked the 10th anniversary of the Trans Am. A limited edition anniversary package was made available: platinum silver paint with charcoal gray upper paint accents and mirrored t-tops, and a special interior featuring silver leather seats with custom-embroidered Firebird emblems and aircraft-inspired red lighting for the gauges. The 10th anniversary cars also featured a special 10th anniversary decals, including a Firebird hood decal that extended off of the hood and onto the front fenders. Pontiac produced 7,500 10th anniversary cars, of which 1,817 were equipped with the high-output Pontiac T/A 6.6 W72 400 engine, the last of the line of the Pontiac 'big-block' V8 motors (and coupled with the four-speed Borg Warner Super T-10 manual transmission). The only option on these cars was the engine (the 400 was not certified for California, nor was cruise control available with it), which dictated the transmission and the gear ratio (3.23 on the 400 cars, 2.73 on the cars with the Oldsmobile-produced 403 engine and the TH350 automatic transmission). Two 10th Anniversary Trans Ams were the actual pace cars for the 1979 Daytona 500, which has been called the race that made NASCAR. Car and Driver magazine named the Trans Am with the WS6 performance package the best handling car of 1979. During period dyno testing, the National Hot Rod Association rated the limited-availability T/A 6.6 high-output Pontiac 400 engine at 260–280 net horsepower, which was significantly higher than Pontiac's conservative rating of 220 hp. In 1979 Pontiac sold 116,535 Trans Ams, the highest sold in a year.
In 1980, due to ever-increasing emissions restrictions, Pontiac dropped all of its large displacement engines. 1980 therefore saw the biggest engine changes for the Trans Am. The 301, offered in 1979 as a credit option, was now the standard engine. Options included a turbocharged 301 or the Chevrolet 305 small block. The turbocharged 301 used a Garrett TB305 turbo forcing air through a single Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor, which was, however, too antiquated to take full advantage of the forced air from the turbo. Also, the low-octane (87–90) fuels would have led to severe detonation, had it not been for the ECU, which led to the cars feeling not very powerful at all. Some owners have claimed quite reasonable performance numbers with the modern fuels though.
A 1980 Turbo Trans Am was featured in Smokey and the Bandit II. However, due to the turbocharger problems, the cars used for the filming had to be fitted with nitrous oxide tanks by Marvin Miller Systems to get the desired performance.
In the final year of the second generation Firebirds (1981), Trans Am still used the same engines as it had in the previous model year, with the only change being the addition of a new electronic carburetion system.
The assembly plant code for Norwood, OH is "N" (from 1972 to 1980 this would be the fifth VIN digit, for 1981 it is the 11th digit), and for Van Nuys, CA it is "L" (for Los Angeles, of which Van Nuys, Los Angeles is a district). In the later second-generation cars, Norwood used lacquer-based paint (there is an "L" on the cowl tag), and Van Nuys used water-based paint (there is a "W" on the cowl tag), due to California's tightening pollution regulations. The water-based paint often failed and delaminated during the warranty period and subsequently; cars had to be repainted.
Third generation (1982–1992)
The availability and cost of gasoline (two fuel crises had occurred by this time) meant the weight and the fuel consumption of the 3rd generation had to be considered in the design. In F-body development, both the third generation Firebird and Camaro were proposed as possible front wheel drive platforms, but the idea was scrapped. Computerized engine management was in its infancy, and with fuel efficiency being the primary objective, it was not possible to have high horsepower and torque numbers. They did manage to cut enough weight from the design so that acceleration performance would be better than the 1981 models. They also succeeded in the fuel consumption department, offering a four-cylinder Firebird that would provide 34 miles per gallon. GM executives decided that engineering effort would best be spent on aerodynamics and chassis development. They created a modern platform, so that when engine technology advanced, they would have a well-balanced package with acceleration, braking, handling, and aerodynamics. For the time being, they would have world class aerodynamics and handling, and excellent fuel economy.
The Firebird and Camaro were completely redesigned for the 1982 model year, with the windshield slope set at 62 degrees, (about three degrees steeper than anything GM had ever tried before), and for the first time, a large, glass-dominated hatchback that required no metal structure to support it. Two concealed pop-up headlights, a first on the F-Body cars, were the primary characteristic that distinguished the third generation Firebird from both its Camaro sibling and its prior form (a styling characteristic carried into the fourth generation's design). In addition to being about 500 pounds (230 kg) lighter than the previous design, the new design was the most aerodynamic product GM had ever released. Wind tunnels were used to form the new F-Body platform's shape, and Pontiac took full advantage of it. The aerodynamic developments extended to the finned aluminum wheels with smooth hubcaps and a functional rear spoiler.
Firebird Base (I4/V6/V8)-Series 2FS (1982–85)
In 1988 the Trans Am GTA, which was built with the standard 350 cu in 5.7 L V8 engine, was offered with the option of removable roof "T-Tops". However, any buyer ordering this option could only order the 305 cu in 5.0 L V8 engine, because the roof would not have the support for all the extra torque from the engine, requiring a power trade-off for those who wanted this option. Pontiac also introduced a rare option for the Trans Am GTA in the 1988 model year. This notable option on the 1988 Trans Am GTA was the $800 "Notchback", which replaced the standard long large, glass-dominated hatchback to make the Firebird design look less like the Camaro design. The Notchback was a special fiberglass rear deck lid, replacing the long-sloped window with a short vertical rear window, resembling the back of a Ferrari 288 GTO.
Approximately 700 of these Notchbacks were built in 1988 and offered for sale by Pontiac. Promotion was only in the form of a sheet in the back of a notebook of available options. The Notchbacks were made by Auto-Fab of Auburn Hills, MI. Problems with incorrect fitting of the Notchbacks to the GTAs at the Van Nuys plant often resulted in delays of several months for buyers who wanted this option. Furthermore, quality control problems plagued the Notchback, many owners complained of rippling and deforming of the fiberglass rear deck, and others complained of large defects resembling acne forming in the Notchbacks. Pontiac had to repair them under warranty, sanding down the imperfections, and repainting them, only to have more flaws resurface months later. Due to poor quality and numerous expensive warranty repairs and repainting, it was subsequently canceled on the 1989 20th Anniversary Turbo Trans Am, although a handful of them were still produced.
Fourth generation (1993–2002)
The fourth-generation Firebird amplified the aerodynamic styling initiated by the previous generation. While the live rear axle and floorpan aft of the front seats remained largely the same, ninety percent of the Firebird's parts were all-new. Overall, the styling of the Firebird more strongly reflected the Banshee IV concept car than the 1991 "facelift" did. As with the Camaro, major improvements included standard dual airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, 16-inch wheels, rack-and-pinion power steering, short/long-arm front suspension, and several non-rusting composite body panels. Throughout its fourth generation, trim levels included V6-powered Firebird, and V8-powered Formula and Trans Am. Standard manual transmissions were the T5 five-speed manual for the V6s, Borg-Warner's T56 six-speed manual for the V8s. The 4L60 four-speed automatic was optional for both in 1993, becoming the 4L60E with built-in electronic controls in 1994.
From 1993 until 1995 (1995 non-California cars), Firebirds received a 160 hp (119 kW) 3.4 L V6, an enhanced version of the third-generation's 3.1 L V6. Beginning mid-year 1995 onward, a Series II 3.8 L V6 with 200 hp (149 kW) became the Firebird's sole engine. From 1993 to 1997, the sole engine for the Formula and Trans Am was the 5.7 L LT1 V8, essentially identical to the LT1 in the C4 Corvette except for more flow-restrictive intake and exhaust systems. Steering wheel audio controls were included with optional uplevel cassette or compact disc stereo systems.
Beginning with 1994 model year cars, "Delco 2001"-series stereo systems replaced the previous Delco units. This revised series, also introduced for other Pontiac car lines, featured ergonomically-designed control panels with larger buttons and an optional seven-band graphic equalizer. Also in 1994, the fourth-generation convertible was available; every Firebird (and Camaro) convertible featured a glass rear window with a built-in electric defroster.
The 1995 models were the same as those of previous years, but traction control (ASR: acceleration slip regulation) was available for LT1 Firebirds, controlled by a switch on the console. The steering wheels in all Firebirds was also changed; their optional built-in audio controls were more closely grouped on each side. The "Trans Am GT" trim level was dropped from the lineup after its model year run in 1994. For 1995, all Trans Ams received 155-mph speedometers and Z-rated tires. 1995 was also the first year of the vented version of the Opti-Spark distributors on LT1 F-cars, addressing a common mechanical fault with the unit. The 'transmission perform' button was available only in the 1994 and 1995 Formula and Trans Am. This option was stopped for the 1996 and later models, but the unused connections remain available for 1996 and 1997 Formula and Trans Am. While 1995 cars still used the OBD-I (on-board diagnostic) computer system (the last year of any American car including the F-body to use OBD-I), a majority of them had OBD-II connector ports under the dash.
Firebird performance levels improved for 1996, with the establishment of the stronger 200-hp 3.8 L V6 as the new base engine, and the power rating of the LT1 increased to 285 for 1996, due to its new dual catalytic-converter exhaust system. 1996 was also the first model year of the OBD-II computer system. Optional performance enhancements were available for each Firebird trim level; the Y87 performance packages for V6s added mechanical features of the V8 setups, such as four-wheel disc brakes, faster-response steering, limited-slip rear differential, and dual tailpipes. For Formulas and Trans Ams, functional dual-inlet "Ram Air" hoods returned as part of the WS6 performance package. The optional package boosted rated horsepower from 285 to 305, and torque from 325 lb·ft to 335. Also included were 17" x 9" wheels with 275/40ZR17 tires, suspension improvements, oval dual tailpipe tips, and a WS6 badge. Bilstein shocks were a further option with the package.
The 1997 model year introduced standard air conditioning, daytime running lamps (utilizing the front turnsignal lamps), digital odometers, and optional 500-watt Monsoon cassette or compact disc stereo systems to all Firebird trim levels. For V6 Firebirds, a W68 sport appearance package was also introduced as a counterpart to the Camaro RS trim level. The WS6 "Ram Air" performance package was now also an option for the Formula and Trans Am convertibles, although these convertibles did not receive the 17-inch wheel-and-tire combination. There were 41 Formula convertibles and 463 Trans Am convertibles produced from 1996 to 1997 with the WS6 package.
In 1997, in relation to the Camaro, the Firebird received a mid-cycle refresh for 1998 model year. Major changes included a new hood and front fascia with dual intakes, retracting quad halogen headlights, circular turnsignal and fog lamps, a front license plate pocket, lower fender air vents, unified-style lower door raised lettering for each trim level, and a new "honeycomb" rear light panel, with circular reverse lamps. In the dashboard, "next generation" reduced-force dual airbags became standard. As before, the Formula and Trans Am again received a close derivative of the Corvette's 5.7 L V8, the LS1 of the C5 Corvette, as the LT1 (and LT4) V8s were discontinued. The LS1 Firebirds were also equipped with an aluminum driveshaft, replacing the previous steel version, while all Firebird trim levels gained four-wheel disc brakes with dual-piston front calipers and larger rotors at each wheel, complete with a solenoid-based Bosch anti-lock system. The Formula convertible was no longer offered.
Beginning in 1998 for 1999 models, a standard 16.8-gallon non-metallic fuel tank increased potential traveling range. GM's ASR traction control system was extended to the V6-powered Firebirds, and all LS1 (V8) and Y87 (V6) Firebirds also received a Zexel/Torsen II slip-reduction rear axle. An electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) system replaced the old hydraulic proportioning valve for improved brake performance. An enhanced sensing and diagnostic module (SDM) recorded vehicle speed, engine rpm, throttle position and brake use in the last five seconds prior to airbag deployment. In 1999, a Hurst shifter for variants with the 6-speed manual and a power steering cooler became options for LS1 Firebirds.
In 2000, the WS6 performance package was available exclusively for 2001 model year Trans Am coupe and convertible variants.
For 2002, more convenience items such as power mirrors and power antenna became standard equipment, while cassette stereos were phased out.
Firehawk The special-edition extra-performance Firehawk (available in Formula trim for 1993–1997, and again in both Formula and Trans Am trims for 1999–2002) was produced by SLP Engineering, Inc., and sold through Pontiac dealerships. Featuring 17-inch wheels with namesake Firestone Firehawk 275/40ZR17 tires along with a functional twin-inlet hood above a specific air cleaner box, its rated power increased to 300 hp (224 kW) and 330 lb·ft (445 Nm) of torque. A total of 201 Firehawks were built for 1993. In 1994, the Firehawk package was expanded to include options for a suspension upgrade as well as a larger-diameter exhaust system that could boost power to 315 hp. T-top Formula coupes and convertibles could also be optioned as Firehawks beginning in 1995. For 1996 and 1997, the Firehawk gained rectangular driving lights mounted inside the front scoops and (except Firehawk convertibles) the Trans Am's elevated rear wing. In 1997, an LT4 Firehawk was also available, utilizing the same 330 hp, balanced-and-blueprinted LT4 V8 engine as found in the manual-transmission 1996 Corvette. A total of 29 LT4-powered Firehawks were produced.
Power levels for the 1999 Firehawk, powered by the LS1 V8, rose to 327 hp (330 in 2000, 335 in 2001, and 345 in late 2002 models equipped with the "Blackwing" intake). A 10th-anniversary Firehawk was available in 2001, distinguished as a black Trans Am coupe with gold-painted hood stripes, gold 17-inch wheels, and gold tailpipe tips.
1994 Trans Am GT In 1994 only, a "Trans Am GT" option was available. Trans Am GTs did not receive any special badging, graphics, or emblems, and looked externally identical to the base Trans Am cars. The GT package included 245/50ZR16 tires and a 155-mph speedometer. Non-GT optioned Trans Ams in 1994 received 235/55R16 tires, a 115-mph speedometer, and a much lower top-speed limiter. The "highrise spoiler", leather, and T-tops were not standard on the Trans Am GT cars in 1994, nor any year of LT1 Trans Am. RPO code T43 "uplevel spoiler" was an option on all Trans Ams, and while the mass majority of 1994 Trans Am GT cars received the T43 spoiler (along with the majority of all 1993–'97 Trans Ams), it was not part of the Trans Am GT package. Both base Trans Ams and Trans am GTs could be ordered as coupe, T-top, or convertible versions and were both available with automatic or manual transmissions. While the GT package was a cost option on the 1994 Trans Am, a majority of 1994 Trans Ams were made with the GT package.
All of the 1994 Trans Am GT options became standard in 1995–2002 as part of the Trans Am package, and the GT name/package was dropped for 1995. Some of the early fourth-generation Trans Am and Formula Firebirds list "GT" on the vehicle's title or registration. The reason behind this is because the VIN does not specify a "package" (Formula, Trans Am, Trans Am GT, Firehawk, etc.); it only specifies the engine (5.7L V8 LT1). Because the title is based on the VIN alone, titles and registrations often list all of the packages, but it does not mean the car is equipped with any certain package.
1994 25th-Anniversary Trans Am The 1994 model year marked the 25th anniversary of the Trans Am, and another anniversary edition was released, painted white with a single dark blue stripe down the center of the vehicle that was reminiscent of the 1970 Trans Am. It also featured white-painted, five-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels, and white leather seats and door trim. This edition was available in either coupe or convertible form.
1999 30th-Anniversary Trans Am As with the previous 25th-anniversary edition, the 30th-anniversary edition was either a white WS6 convertible or WS6 T-top coupe, with twin dark blue stripes from hood to tail, and distinct blue anodized five-spoke 17-inch alloy A-mold wheels, with white leather seats and door trim.
2001 was the 75th anniversary of Pontiac. An available 75th Anniversary Package incorporated a power and performance package that included power door locks including retained accessory power, power windows including express down drivers side, dual power sport mirrors, power antenna. Radio, ETR AM/FM stereo w/CD player and 7 band graphic equalizer inc clock seek up/down, remote cd pre-wiring Monsoon 500 watt peak power with 10 speaker premium sound system and steering wheel leather wrapped w/driver touch radio controls. Transmission; 4 speed auto. Power seat- drivers 6 way, Security package (includes theft deterrent system and remote key-less entry), 3800 performance package that included 3.42 gears with "posi-trac" Zexel Torsen T2 limited slip differential, 4 wheel disc brakes, dual mufflers and an LS1 steering rack= 14.4:1, 235/55/16 tires, ; hatch roof, removable, 16" chromed aluminum wheels, 50 state low emission vehicle. In 2001 the dealer price for this 75th Anniversary package was $4530.00. There were a total of 472 of these packages sold in 2001, #239 on the L36 Firebird, 231 on the Formula W66 Coupe, 5 on Formula Firehawks and 2 on Trans-Ams—making these editions quite rare. Manufacturer original window stickers included this as a separate package listing the items and one price.
2002 Collector's Edition Trans Am For the Firebird's final year, a collector's edition Trans Am was released as either a yellow WS6 convertible or WS6 t-top coupe, with twin black stripes from hood to tail, black-painted five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, and further black-trimmed body details.
Firebird Trans Am
The Trans Am was a specialty package for the Firebird, typically upgrading handling, suspension, and horsepower, as well as minor appearance modifications such as exclusive hoods, spoilers, fog lights and wheels. Four distinct generations were produced between 1969 and 2002. These cars were built on the F-body platform, which was also shared by the Chevrolet Camaro.
Despite its name, the Trans Am was not initially used in the Trans Am Series, as its smallest engine exceeded the SCCA's five liter displacement limit.
The second generation was available from 1970 to 1981 and was featured in the 1977 movie Smokey and the Bandit, the 1978 movie Hooper, the 1979 movie Rocky II, and the 1980 movie Smokey and the Bandit II. The Firebird Trans Am was also selected as the Official Pace Car for the 1980 Indianapolis 500. The third generation, available from 1982 to 1992, was featured in the 1983 movie Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 and the 1984 movie Alphabet City. KITT, the automotive star, and its evil twin counterpart KARR, of the popular 1980s TV series Knight Rider, was a modified third-generation Trans Am. The fourth-generation Trans Am, available from model years 1993 to 2002, offered between 275 and 325 bhp (205 and 242 kW). The fictional character Dwight Schrute from NBC's show The Office, is another famous driver of the 1987 model.
The Trans Am GTA (Gran Turismo Americano) was an options package available on the Firebird Trans Am which added gold 16-inch diamond-spoke alloy wheels, a mono-chromatic paint scheme and special cloisonné GTA badges. The GTA (along with the Formula model that was intended to fill the gap between the base model Firebird and mid-level Trans Am) was the brainchild of former Pontiac marketing manager Lou Wassel. It was intended to be the "ultimate" Trans Am and was the most expensive Firebird available. The GTA equipment package officially went on sale in 1987 and avoided a gas-guzzler tax thanks to its lightweight PW 16-inch gold cross-lace wheels. The high-performance WS6 suspension package was also re-tuned to offer a more compliant ride while still maintaining tight handling characteristics. Engine choices consisted of a L98 5.7 liter (350 ci) TPI V8 mated to GM's corporate 700R4 automatic transmission or the 5.0 liter (305 ci) TPI V8. A five-speed manual was available but was mated to the 5.0 liter only. The GTA trim level was available from 1987 through the 1992 model year.
For 1989, the 20th anniversary turbo Trans Am project (originally conceived by Bill Owen of Pontiac) was outsourced to PAS, Inc., an engineering firm led by Jeff Beitzel. Beitzel and his team did most of the TTA development work. The 3.8 liter turbocharged V6 engines were built by PAS at their 40,000 square foot City of Industry, CA plant. From there, they went to GM's plant in Van Nuys, CA to be installed into GTAs on the F-Body assembly line. The cars were then shipped back to PAS for final assembly, testing, and quality control. Incidentally, the GTA chassis were selected at random, thus there is no correlation between the VIN and production sequence number. The initial number of cars to be produced had ranged from 500 to 2,500 until GM finally settled on 1,500. In all, a total of 1,555 Turbo Trans Ams were manufactured. One of these served as the 1989 Indianapolis 500 pace car.
The 2002 model-year WS6 Trans Am produced 325 hp (242 kW) at 5,200 rpm and 350 lb·ft (475 N·m) of torque at 4,000 rpm out of its 5.7-liter LS1 V8 engine. A completely-stock WS6 completed the ¼—mile in 13.16 seconds at 106.05 mph on Eagle F1 street tires.
From 1982 onward, all engines were Chevrolet sourced, unless stated otherwise.
Post–Pontiac Trans Am
In 2012, General Motors signed a licensing deal with Trans Am Depot to use the Trans Am name and Pontiac logos in custom versions of new Trans Am. Under this agreement, Trans Am Depot takes brand-new model Chevrolet Camaros, strips them down to their basic components and rebuilds what looks like new Trans Am. They make these in the designs of the 6T9 version Trans Am, 6T9 Goat ("GTO"), 7T7 Trans Am and the limited-edition Hurst Trans Am.
On March 26, 2017, at the New York International Auto Show, the Bandit Edition Trans Am was introduced. Built by Trans Am Depot, only 77 will be produced, each signed by Burt Reynolds. Powertrain is a 455 cu in (7.5 L) direct injection version of the current Generation V LT1 V8 engine equipped with a 2.3 litres (140.4 cu in) Magnuson supercharger with a boost of 14 psi (0.97 bar), developing 1,000 hp (746 kW) and 1,046 lb·ft (1,418 N·m) of torque.
Burt Reynolds collection of Firebirds
On April 14, 2018 at the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction in Palm Beach, FL, just 5 months before his death, actor Burt Reynolds presided over the sale of 3 Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams from his personal collection, sold via Bandit Movie Cars of Florida, the custodian of the Burt Reynolds collection. He was also an avid Firebird collector after filming the movies Hooper and also the Smokey and the Bandit movie series. The first car was a red 1977 Firebird Trans Am survivor car from the Restore a Muscle Car Collection with a price of $57,200. The second vehicle was a rare 1974 Pontiac Trans AM 455 Super Duty, which was another survivor that reached $100,000 plus 10% buyer commission. The third car Reynolds sold was a 1980 Indianapolis pace car turbo Trans Am, which was also $100,000, plus 10% buyer commission.
Performance (Firebird / Firebird Trans Am)
Firebirds were used in the Trans-Am series in the 1960s and 1970s. When the Firebird Trans Am was released, there was controversy over the model's inability to compete in the Trans-Am because the smallest available engine was too large for use in the series at 400 cubic inches (6.6 liters). The name also caused controversy because it was used without permission from the SCCA, who threatened suit. GM settled the dispute by paying $5 to the SCCA for each car they sold. When the Trans-Am was last seen, model year 2002 Firebirds were in use. From 1996 to 2006, a WS6 Trans Am coupe provided the body style for the mechanically identical racing cars used in the International Race of Champions (IROC).
During the 1995, 1996, and 1997 NHRA seasons, 14-time funny car champion John Force used a Firebird body to replace the obsolete Oldsmobile Cutlass and Chevrolet Lumina bodies he had used since 1988. He used it for three seasons, winning the championship in all three years. The Firebird was also used by drivers such as Del Worsham, Tim Wilkerson, Frank Pedregon, and Jerry Toliver. The Firebird body also replaced the Oldsmobile Cutlass in the pro stock class in 1995, forcing drivers Warren Johnson, Jerry Eckman, and Mark Pawuk to replace their body styles for the 1996 year. None of them would win with the first year of the Firebird body, but pro stock driver Jim Yates, a second year driver, using the Firebird body, did.
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