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4 generations of Pontiac Firebird in the driving report: sometimes a Mustang competitor, sometimes a 911 fighter

Arturo Rivas
4 generations of Pontiac Firebird in the driving report
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D he sales slogan' We build excitement '- we build enthusiasm - dates back to the 80s when Pontiac introduced the third generation of Firebirds. It was 16 centimeters shorter and almost 200 kilograms lighter than its five meter long predecessor. With the practical tailgate, the relatively economical engines and the lowest air resistance ever achieved by a General Motors (GM) automobile, the future of the great traditional coupé seemed secure.

After 35 years it is over with Firebird

Nevertheless, GM discontinued the Pontiac Firebird series in 2002 together with the sister model Chevrolet Camaro. Even worse: The Pontiac brand, introduced in 1926, which distinguished itself as particularly sporty at GM, was completely phased out in 2010. One of their most respected legacies is the compact Firebird series.

Thanks to the lively US car scene in Stuttgart, it was possible to find a V8 representative of all four Pontiac Firebird generations for one photo and one Call for driving dates: from the early 67 Mustang competitor to the Porsche 911 hunter of 2002. Apart from the name, they only associate the V8 engines with 188 to 330 hp, a rear rigid axle, the tight rear seat space and the Firebird logo with the spread out Swing. The four bodies, on the other hand, differ significantly and show almost no family affiliation.

Ford Mustang as a model for the pony car

The look of the Pontiac Firebird of the first generation from 1967, for its Incidentally, the development was no less responsible than John DeLorean, and is clearly based on the Ford Mustang, which was introduced in 1964: long bonnet, short notchback. In addition, a sexy hip swing in front of the rear wheel and the two-part radiator face with protruding chrome nose, which is typical for Pontiac. Almost all window frames, the wide rocker panels and the rear bumper shine icy-cool in the lavish style of the 60s.

There is plenty of chrome in the interior too: on the three-spoke steering wheel, on the automatic selector lever and its rectangular console, as well as on the different switches. So is this early, extremely pretty vinyl roof Pontiac Firebird just a self-indulgent show car for gentle boulevard riding?

Ur-Firebird with a 6.6 liter V8 and a comfortable chassis

Certainly not. Under the hoodA 6.6 liter V8 with 325 SAE horsepower is waiting for the relatively compact, 1,570 kilograms heavy pony car to take off. The 400 cubic inches (Cui) engine, which is coupled to a three-speed automatic, reacts spontaneously to the most delicate gas command from idling. With a little more emphasis, the rear tires of the Pontiac Firebird are already whining for mercy - and things are moving quickly.

But be careful! The comfortably sprung chassis and the imprecise power steering require well-planned changes of direction. Proper disc brakes on the front wheels prevent worse things if necessary.

Gold stripe Trans-Am in John Player Special Design

Now we are going to focus on the black giant with the gold stripes in the style of the Formula 1 Lotus from the 70s. Pontiac designer John Schinella adopted the color scheme of cigarette sponsor John Player Special for the Pontiac Firebird Limited Edition Trans Am in 1976. The gold stripe Trans-Am was created for the 50th anniversary of the Pontiac brand. The special model, which was also offered later, became really popular with the road movie 'Smokey and the Bandit' (1977, second part 1980) with Burt Reynolds at the steering wheel. We did the humorous drift orgy under the title 'A boiled rascal'.

But how has our hip swing pony changed! With the same wheelbase, the coupé grew by 20 centimeters to a full five meters in length. The hood with the two-part Pontiac radiator face is as big as a motel double bed. Part of the responsibility are the safety bumpers, which have been mandatory since 1974 and which stretched the body of the second Pontiac Firebird generation introduced in 1970 by ten centimeters.

Big-block V8 with a displacement of up to 7.4 liters

Now the look of the Pontiac Firebird is no longer as lively as it used to be, but rather scores with the sheer force of a wrestling star. The big block V8 with a displacement of 6.6 (400 Cui) and even 7.4 liters (455 Cui), which remained in the range until 1979 and 1976, respectively, go well with this. The sister model Chevrolet Camaro had to do without the large V8 as early as 1973.

Despite its enormous size, the black and gold Pontiac Firebird Trans Am - that's the name of the top versions of the Firebird since 1969 - spoils us with superb details like the Alloy wheels in honeycomb design. Or the incomparable cockpit in authentic racing car style, where simple round instruments are embedded in a front made of brushed aluminum. Plus a cuddly leather steering wheel that would also fit nicely in a Ferrari or Lamborghini.

Sovereign 188 hp at 3,600 rpm

Unfortunately, from 1972 onwards, in the course of the legally prescribed reduction in pollutants and fuel consumption, some horses were lost. This is also the case with our Pontiac Firebird photo model from 1976: Of the approximately 280 DIN PS of the predecessor, only the same 6.6-liter V8 is left188 hp left. They are now marching very casually at 3,600 rpm. to the still leaf-sprung rear axle, which copes quite well with it: the size of the vehicle, the quality of the chassis and the engine power are an ideal match and are somewhat easier to control than on the predecessor.

In addition, 0 to 100 km /h is 9.5 Seconds for the 1,750 kilogram ship is still a good value. And when a Limited Edition Trans Am rolls along the highway with a dull babbling, the other drivers simply can't get enough of its gold-colored tattoos.

Third Firebird is an economical tailgate sports coupé

But then the fun was over. Pontiac presented the third generation of the Firebird in 1982. Its top version Trans Am GTA claims in 1987 to be an 'ultra serious sports coupé'. A very serious sports coupé - it was about time! All-round spoilers in contrasting colors or the 'screaming chicken' on the bonnet were now taboo.

America got an economical, practical tailgate sports coupé. From then on, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 90 hp served as the base engine for the Pontiac Firebird, which set the 1.4-tonner in motion rather slowly. The most powerful V8 in the Trans Am was initially satisfied with just 165 hp from five liters of displacement.

That changed in 1988 with the introduction of the TPI (Tuned Ported Injection) V8 with five (305 Cui) and 5.7 liters (350 Cui) displacement, which made 215 and 225 hp respectively. And because the V8 models of the third Firebird generation with full equipment weigh just under 1.6 tonnes, progress is again almost as fast as in the original model from 1967.

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am GTA can do with it Record Porsche 928 and Toyota Supra

Especially the top model Pontiac Firebird Trans Am GTA with 5.7-liter V8, which was offered from 1987 to 1992, came pretty close to the Japanese-German competition like a Toyota Supra or Porsche 928 . It is supported by its tightly tuned chassis, the wide 245 tires, the limited-slip differential and the direct steering. In contrast to its predecessors, it even shifts the first two gears of its four-speed automatic transmission a little too roughly. And when driving fast on the motorway it becomes a sauna inside.

The last Pontiac Firebird goes like a pig

It was 1993 Introduced, rounded successor looks much more balanced and works like the much-cited sow. We have the pleasure to take a seat in one of the really last Pontiac Firebirds from 2002 to be designated as a Collector Edition. Due to the inclined panes and the soft organic design, the interior hardly looks bigger than in a Renault Clio. Totally sausage, because there is enough space for the right foot. During the GTA at about 4,500 rpm. slowly runs out of breath, he puts the samelarge, but 100 PS stronger Ram-Air-V8 really starts again and turns greedily up to 6,000 rpm.

With a six-speed manual transmission, the 100 km /h sprint can be done in 5.5 seconds, Top over 260 km /h. These are values ​​that none of its legendary predecessors achieved, not even with the large 7.4-liter engine. Even the handling of the last Pontiac Firebird is convincing: Despite a length of almost five meters, the cute American masters tight corners with almost Italian grandeur. What the two younger Firebird models lack in charisma and typical US style, they make up for with their amazingly good driving manners. The following applies to all four: Yeah! They really built excitement!


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