Once a car model is seen on screen, there is no stopping its ascent to stardom. The Pontiac Firebird, which debuted in 1967, became a Hollywood sensation after ten years when it sported a black and gold appearance in the movie Smokey and the Bandit. With its design closely similar to the Chevrolet Camaro, another General Motors model, the Firebird became a successful pony, muscle car that survived through four generations.
1967 – 1969: The sexy body style of a sporty vehicle
With a characteristic Coke-bottle styling, the first releases of the Firebird were available as two-door hardtop and two-door convertible versions. The units had bumpers integrated into the design of the front end, and side marker lights became standard to meet federal guidelines. Two engine choices were available: one was a 3.6 LG with 220-horsepower, and the other was a 6.6 V8 with 340-horsepower. The units had a three- or four-speed manual transmission or a two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. Aside from the Astro Ventilation for the windows, another feature added through the first generation was staggered rear shocks and multi-leaf rear springs. In 1969, the introduction of the Trans Am models made powerful, track-worthy, sophisticated-looking Firebirds; these models had a deck spoiler, a dual intake scoop hood, large tires, big anti-sway bars, fender vents, and a Ram Air III engine.
1970 – 1981: The bumperless look
The styling of the second-generation Firebirds was swoopier in a way that there was a large C-pillar and the lip of the trunk lid almost touching the top of the rear window line. The units looked bumperless with their single headlights and a split grille surrounded by a plastic nose. There were four engine versions available with displacements ranging between 4.1 and 7.5 liters and horsepower between 112 and 340. In 1971, when emission control regulations became stricter, the power of the units was reduced, but Pontiac still managed to create a large V8 that could produce 335-horsepower for the Trans Am models and 350-horsepower for the Formula. Despite this and other changes through the generation, sales of the Firebird started to drop.
1982 – 1992: The aerodynamic Firebird
Still considering fuel economy, the models in this generation came out with a four-cylinder engine with a 34-mile-per-gallon capacity. Also, the models became more aerodynamic with the steeper windshield slope, the wind-tunnel design of the F-body, the finned aluminum wheels with smooth hubcaps, and the rear spoiler. The main styling alteration on the outside was the pair of concealed pop-up headlights; on the inside, a new steering wheel and radios were installed.
1993 – 2002: The improved handling of the Firebird
The changes in the fourth-generation models started with the use of short/long-arm front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering, but the engine bay received most of the upgrades with two available engine choices. There was a 3.4-liter V6 with a 160-horsepower output, and there was one with a 5.7-liter V8 that produced 275-horsepower. A new feature was a skip shift on the six-speed manual gearbox that would help save fuel by upshifting from first to fourth gear. Some of the added features and changes were a traction control, a Monsoon audio system, less forceful airbags, and a white leather interior.