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History Of The Pontiac Firebird

1975 - 1981 - Living The Dream - Part Two

   No matter where the Firebird engines were built, American enthusiasts could hardly slake their thirst for the cars in the late Seventies. Production for 1979 soared to an almost unbelievable 211,000 units. Though another facelift certainly helped, Pontiac drew additional attention with a special Tenth Anniversary Edition Trans Am. For this, the Pontiac studio had pulled out all the stops. Silver was the theme both inside and out, with a silver and charcoal paint scheme accented by silver hatch-roof panels, silver leather seats and silver door-panel trim. But there was function to match form, with the last Pontiac-built 400-cu-in. V-8 (now badged in metric form as a “6.6 liter”) producing a still-impressive 220 bhp on 4-speed models. Filled with standard equipment, the Special Editions started at a hefty $10,620 nearly $4000 above the normal Trans Am. Just 7500 were built.


As the Firebird entered the Eighties with a major facelift in the works, newly appointed Pontiac General Manager William Hoglund had good reason to be cheery. With sales passing the 200,000 mark, wouldn’t the next two years be just as rosy? Unfortunately, Hoglund had little control over events halfway around the world, where Iranians were now taking their turn at twisting the oil valve. This time, however, the repercussions in Detroit were far more severe. Production of 1980 Firebirds plummeted to a gloomy low of 107,000 units, half their 1979 level. At the same time, Pontiac finally ceased offering its venerable 6.6-liter V-8. In its stead was a new turbocharged V-8, based on Pontiac's own 4.9-liter (301-cu-in.) V-8.  Like GM's other turbocharged 'vee' engines, the Turbo 4.9 used a single turbocharger, mounted on the right-hand exhaust manifold. Producing 210 bhp, the Turbo was the most powerful engine in the lineup that year, but unfortunately included an automatic transmission only. An example tested in April 1980 found that it was something of an enigma; while it served up little of the harsh, neck-snapping boost of its contemporaries, it also seemed to have little top-end enthusiasm. As a result, 0-60 time was barely below 10 seconds, a mighty fall for a car that, just four years earlier, had managed 8.4 seconds. 


CONTINUE READING - 1982 - 1992 Legends In The Mist  


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

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