For the third gens several
updates had taken place beneath the skin as well. Perhaps the most significant
was the replacement of the wishbone front suspension with a MacPherson-strut
design. Invoking Harry MacPherson’s name was a bit of a stretch; however,
General Motors, like Ford's pony car, mounted the coil spring inboard of the strut cylinder to reduce
the need for upper-body reinforcement. At the rear a live axle remained, but it
was now coil sprung, and located by two trailing links and connected to the
transmission through a massive torque arm that controlled axle windup.
In addition, a panhard rod behind the axle helped absorb lateral loads.
had come a long way since the 1967-69 versions, and the 1982 Firebird's offering
reflected technology's answer to the new constraints of the decade. For the
first time, the base engine had four cylinders.
The venerable ohv "Iron Duke" was hardly firebird material, rated at 90
bhp, but it was good enough for the EPA. Next was Chevrolet's
2.8-liter ohv V-6, rated a mere 102 bhp. The mainstream V-8 displaced 5.0
liters, and breathed through a 4-barrel Quadrajet which helped produced 145 bhp. A
fuel-injected version of the engine, whose "Crossfire" throttle-body
injection system was borrowed from the 1982 Corvette, shot out an additional 20
bhp, boosting the Trans Am’s main powerplant to a mere 165 bhp.
Posting a 0-60 time of 9.2 seconds and an impressive 0.856g on the skidpad, the
Firebird won a straw preference poll, with the conclusion that both cars were a
dramatic improvement over their predecessors.