V6FBody Online's - F-Body History


History Of The Pontiac Firebird

1970 - 1972 Redefining The Pony Car

   Just as cars like the Trans Am, Z/28 and Boss 302 were redefining the way enthusiasts thought about pony cars, Chevrolet and Pontiac were already working on an entirely new pair of F-cars for 1970. This time, they would start with a clean sheet of paper, offering Pontiac the opportunity to enhance the Firebird's identity without having to depend on a predominance of Chevrolet sheet metal. In terms of what that identity should be, there were really two camps. One wanted an Italian character; outgoing manager John DeLorean (who was replaced by F. James McDonald) was quoted by one Pontiac designer as wanting the Firebird to be a “63000 (Maserati) Ghibli.” The other faction, perhaps influenced by the Trans Am, sought a muscular look that spoke performance.  The result put feet squarely in both camps. “Thus was the second-generation Firebird's design philosophy formulated,” concluded Firebird historian Gary Witzenburg, “at once voluptuous and muscular-one-half Italian exotic, and the other California hot-rod.”  


The visual refinements the Italian camp sought was represented by a clean and spare body shape, whose tubular body sides were broken only by large wheel wells and surrounded by subtle flares. Like the Camaro, the Firebird placed single headlights far outboard, separating them with the now familiar Pontiac split-grille theme that was surrounded entirely by shock-absorbing, body-color Endura plastic. The trailing edge of the long, peaked hood was swept up to cover the windshield wipers, a simple styling trick that only added to the Firebird's refined appearance. The rear deck profile was perhaps the most defining aspect of the car's character, sweeping backward at an ever-increasing rate to meet a horizontal rear fascia. Looking back from a 20-year perspective, the cars remain notable for their spare but elegant refinement, reflecting a strong influence from Italian designs of the previous decade.  


Good design takes time, which is why the Firebirds that bowed at the February 1970 Chicago Auto Show are often called incorrectly “1970-1/2” models. The product plan was trimmed slightly to encompass four distinct models. Just above the $2875 base Firebird was the Esprit, often seen with a vinyl roof that all but gave its stylists indigestion. Next up was the budget-minded enthusiast's choice, the body-cloaked with front fender “air extractors,” front and rear fender spats, a rear-facing “shaker” hood, a large rear decklid spoilers and a white-and-blue Paint scheme-that, like the previous generation’s, left little doubt about the Trans Am’s mission in life.. The Trans Am's performance roster was impressive encompassing the 345-bhp, 400-cu-in. Ram Air V-8 as standard equipment, in addition to a Hurst-controlled 4-speed gearbox and a limited-slip rear axle. While Road & Track chided Pontiac for “setting a new record in number of unnecessary add-on put-ons” on the Trans Am, there much to praise. “GM stylists seem to have a way with detailing that is unmatched in the U.S. car industry,” said Road & Track of the new design in March 1970, 'and almost without exception they take the steps that advance American styling before the rest of the industry does.  


The design themes set by the 1970 Firebird would enjoy a long life span; from 1970 to 1976 only minor changes were made. Firebird sales climbed slightly in 1971 to 53,000 units, they fell just 30,000 in 1972 as a result of a disastrous strike at the Norwood, Ohio assembly plant. 


 CONTINUE READING - 1973 Being #1 


Photo's Courtesy: The Premier Firebird Trans-Am Gallery.

This website and all content contained herein is copyrighted (C) 1996-2002.

V6FBody Online - All rights reserved. Use acknowledges Terms of Use Policy's