While the original Firebird appeared in 1967, it wansn't
until 1970 when the re-styled versions were released that
interest in the marque grew.
The 1970 re-design represented a new high for Pontiac
styling - the front bumper and grille were molded out
of "Endura" rubber and were painted the same
color as the car to give it a bumperless appearance.
The sides sported rounded full wheel cut outs without
any extra trim (the Camaro had more squared off wheel
cut outs). Suspension revisions included the addition
of a rear stabilizer bar.
Perhaps the most dissappointing of the re-design was that
the new model no longer came available as a convertible
- perhaps a true muscle car could not be marketed successfully
as a drop-top. For whatever reasons, the Firebird lineup
was reduced from six to four.
At the bottom of the line up was the Base Firebird, whose
Pontiac 250 I6 was replaced by a Chevy built 250 I6 rated
at a meager 155bhp. Most buyers wisely opted for one of
the optional V8s. Next up was the Espirit, which featured
the Pontiac 350 V8 rated at 255 bhp.
The Formula 400 featured
a unique twin-scooped hood with a 400 V8 rated at 335
bhp. At the top was the Trans Am, which was fitted with
air dams across the bottom of the front and in front of
A large decklip lip and small spoilers in front of the
rear wheels completed the package. These aero pieces were
claimed to generate 50 pounds of downforce on the front
and rear of the car at highway speeds. Trans Ams also
received a rear facing shaker hood scope to feed the standard
Ram Air II engine.
Optional on the Trans Am was the Ram Air IV engine, whose
output had increased to 370 bhp due to bigger ports, better
heads, swirl-polished valves, and an aluminum instake
manifold. Only 88 copies were made. Rarer still was the
Ram Air V, an over-the-counter, special order engine that
included solid lifters and tunnel port heads and made
up to 500 bhp.
A four speed Hurst shifter was standard, but a three speed
Turbo Hydra-matic automatic was available. Inside, complete
instrumentation, including a tach turned on its side to
red line at 12 o'clock just like a race car, completed
the performance image.
The Trans Am featured one of the best tuned suspensions
of any car (including the Corvette) and its European
styling gave it instant class. The Trans Am was now
available in either Polar White or Lucent Blue, with
contrasting stripes, a relatively modest bird stencil
at the tip of the nose, and the words "Trans Am" across
the rear spoiler.
1973 saw some significant new changes to the Firebird,
including a new eggcrate grille and a revised front
bumper. Perhaps the 73 model is best remembered for
bonnet decals, although 1973
is remembered by many
Pontiac enthusiasts for the demise of the powerful
455 310bhp big block cars with the addition of so much
anti-pollution gear that the sting was taken out of
Things were only to get worse as legislators tightened
up on US car manufacturers, with 1976 being the end of
the big block cars.