The designer, Harley Earl, was inspired by the innovations in jet fighter designs at the time. But the Firebird did not come into its own until Even then it had stiff competition. The first generation Firebirds, built from to , did not sport the phoenix decal.
In fact, their Firebird emblems had the wings turned downwards. The decal was bigger than anyone had done before, designed specifically to wrap around the backwards facing hood scoop. The powers that be did not like the oversized bird on the hood of the car and the project was shelved for two years. He started driving around town in a Formula Firebird dressed with a Trans Am rear spoiler and a TA hood decorated with the oversized flaming bird.
People started to notice the car and loved the phoenix decal. Soon he was mobbed at gas stations and drive-ins, people asking where they could get one. From on, Pontiac provided the decal only as an option on the Trans Am. Firebird had many different variations, the Trans Am being one of them. The iconic Firebird decal was added only to the Trans Am, to set it apart from the other Firebirds, since this was their top of the line production car.
The 10th anniversary edition of the Trans Am had the phoenix wrapped around to the front fenders. The movie started out as an idea by a Hollywood stuntman named Hal Needham.
At the top was the Trans Am, which was fitted with air dams across the bottom of the front and in front of the wheels. 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. Optional on the Trans Am was the Ram Air IV engine, whose output had increased to bhp due to bigger ports, better heads, swirl-polished valves, and an aluminum intake 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 bhp.
A four speed Hurst shifter was standard, but a three speed Turbo Hydra-matic automatic was available. The Trans Am featured one of the best tuned suspensions of any car including the Corvette and its European styling gave it instant class. Comments: saw little styling change for the Pontiac Firebird, with the addition of high-back bucket seats being the major appearance change.
Rather, the major changes were under the hood. In order to satisfy General Motors decree that all engines had to run on unleaded gasoline to meet federal emission standards, the engine options were significantly altered. A new V8 rated at bhp was added, but both Ram Air engines were dropped.
1969 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
In their place were two new V8s, rated at bhp and bhp. The Trans Am continued with its blue and white paint scheme, functional rear facing engine shaker hood scoops, and aero body pieces. Although the engines available in the Trans Am were less powerful than the Ram Air II and IV engines, their lb-ft of torque and less temperamental nature made them easier to drive on the street and were one of the high points in a time when performance was on the decline. Comments: was a disastrous year for the Firebird.
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GM executives considered dropping the Firebird altogether as sales fell drastically as the muscle car market collapsed, which was worsened by a crippling day strike at the only plant that produced Firebirds. Comments: saw some significant new changes to the Firebird, including a new eggcrate grille, and a revised front bumper. Engine ratings were down again, with the rated at a mere bhp and the at bhp. But two things would save the Firebird and firmly establish Pontiac as the performance manufacturer during the dark days of the s.
Pontiac rated the SD engines at a stout bhp and lb-ft, but experts agreed that it was closer to bhp. Sales of the Firebird and Trans Am were up dramatically, ensuring their survival. Comments: was a difficult year for the Firebird. Gone was the Endura bumper, replaced by new, Federally mandated, fiberglass front end with a slight wedge shape and rubber covered 5 mph bumpers. The chrome rear bumper was also gone, replaced by those pesky rubber bumpers.
All V8s included true dual exhausts, which made their last appearance on the Firebird. Also available for the last time on the Firebirds were the Muncie 4-speed manual transmission and the Turbo Hydramatic automatic transmission. The lower output of the engines would make those heavy-duty transmissions unnecessary. This would also be the last year of the Super Duty engines. Comments: In what had been a sea of pony car competitors, the Pontiac Firebird was all alone for The Ford Mustang was now offered on a Pinto platform and boasted a top engine offering of a bhp 2.
The instrument panel stayed the same, but the old mph speedometer was replaced by a new mph unit, to better reflect the new times. The base cid V8 Trans Am engine put out a pitiful bhp, but still cranked out lb-ft of torque. The main culprit: the new Federally mandated Catalytic Converters. This would be the first year that over , Firebirds were sold.
Production: Engines: V8 bhp. The Chevy inline six was dumped for a Buick cubic inch 3. A new 4. But would the year that firmly established the Firebird as the performance car of the s.
Comments: As the s drew to a close, the Pontiac Firebird received a new nose, with the four rectangular headlights all in their own bezels, and the split grille was moved below them. The rear end featured blackout panels disguising the taillights on Formula and Trans Am models. All models also received some revised graphics. A special silver 10th Anniversary edition Trans Am was sold in what would be the last year for the Pontiac engine.
Production: Engines: V6 bhp. Comments: In perhaps the ultimate insult to the Firebird, Pontiac dropped its V8 and installed a new turbo charged 4. There was no Turbo boost indicator as Turbo lag was a huge problem and the engine often made loud pinging sounds under heavy loads just before it self-destructed.
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Nevertheless, a Pontiac Trans Am paced the Indianapolis race that year. Sales dropped considerably. Production: Engines: Turbo V8 bhp. Production: 70, Engines: Turbo V8 bhp. However, under the skin, the Firebird was now even more like the Camaro, and would use GM corporate engines which were really Chevy engines instead of the previous Pontiac engines.
A large part of its uniqueness was gone. Comments: The third generation Firebird was introduced in featuring all new sheetmetal. The front end sported hidden headlights and sleek styling. Production: Engines: 2. Comments: Not much changed visually for , but under the hood, things were definitely improving. A new four-speed automatic transmission also was available. L69 5. Comments: Not much changed for except for the expanded availability of the L69 engine and the discontinuation of the Cross-Fire Injection V8.
A Brief History of the "Bandit" Trans Am: Pontiac's Surprise '70s Film Star | DrivingLine
A special white with blue trim 15th Anniversary Trans Am was offered that featured Recarro seats. Comments: The Firebird featured a restyled nose, new taillights, and full rocker and quarter panel extensions on the Trans Am to give it a more aggressive appearance. The 5. Comments: A new 5.
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Furthermore, the 5. A new budget performance model, the Formula , joined the lineup as well as a new top of the line Trans Am called the GTA. Comments: There were a few changes for including a new steering wheel, new wheels for the Formulas, and new radios. The carburetted 5. Comments: Pontiac created a special 20th Anniversary edition Trans Am for by raiding the Buick parts bin.
Pontiac took the Buick turbo-charged 3. Furthermore, Trans Am GTAs could also be ordered with a notchback-style hatch, that gave the car the look of a coupe. Performance: 3.
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