Mention the Pontiac Firebird to virtually any person and they’ll know that it was one of the most memorable cars ever to roll off the manufacturer’s line – even if they know nothing more about it. The car has defined the lives of so many car lovers and it is truly one of the most spectacular muscle cars ever. The Pontiac Firebird emerged quite unpretentiously halfway through 1967 only to get heads turning and people talking. Before long, the motor industry was abuzz with excitement. The car was produced by the Pontiac Motor Division of General Motors and it was designed and marketed as a pony car – an affordable, compact and stylish sporty car. Were it not for the Ford Mustang and the Mercury Cougar released that same year, the Pontiac Firebird would have completely dominated the scene.
The original model was built on GM’s F-body platform and it had a more likeable rendition of the Pontiac nose. A twin-scoop hood and nice curves further added to its sporty appeal. The Firebird also had a solid, rear axle – a feature which continued to be incorporated into future versions of the car. In 1969, the car had a major facelift. The entire front end was redesigned, making use of an Endura bumper to house the headlights and grilles. Even the instrument panel, steering wheel and ignition switch were changed and updated. For a bit of extra money, buyers could have the Trans Am Performance and Appearance Package which was a little bit more buff than the newly remodelled Firebird and which was named after the Trans-Am Series without permission. In the first year just 697 Trans-Ams were built – only eight of which were convertibles. The Trans-Am cars could be standard or beefed up but they only came in polar white with blue stripes. Today these are highly prized collectors’ cars.
The 1970s Firebird was a completely remodelled version of the classic. This second generation car featured a more sweeping body styling as opposed to the classic ‘coke bottle’ shape. The twin-scoops were made smaller and positioned closer to the front of the bonnet while the double-grille was split further apart and positioned between a single, functional headlight on either side of the car. The remodelling was a complete success and the car enjoyed massive sales. Ironically, the Firebird Trans-Am that emerged at this time were actually more boxy in shape with a protruding Pontiac nose and more angular shapes. Between 1982 and 1992, the third generation of Pontiac Firebirds emerged. The new models were lighter than older cars and incorporated GM’s CCC engine control system. They benefited from improved performance and better fuel economy and had a lower emission rate than previous models. The styling also changed somewhat, with two pop-up lights becoming the most prominent feature on the beautifully restyled front end. By 1984 the unique T-top styling also became a feature.
The fourth and most recent generation of Pontiac Firebird emerged in 1993 and ended in 2002. These beautifully sleek, aerodynamic cars have kept in line with the Firebird tradition of producing fast, stylish and affordable little cars. Truly, not enough can be said about the Firebird’s contribution to the world of muscle cars – but they continue to live on as a most memorable motor vehicle.
This section of Autoracing.com delves into the wide world of automobiles, and explores the reasons why cars and trucks have become much more than simple tools of transportation.
- Sports Cars provides fresh insights as well as basic information on these exciting adrenaline-pumping vehicles. Find out how sports cars first came to be, and learn how they have evolved over the century that cars have traveled our highways and byways.
- Touring Cars introduces you to the world of touring car racing and explains what exactly a “touring car” is. What it isn’t, is the good ol’ Family Truckster from National Lampoon’s Vacation!
- Muscle Cars rips the lid off these rip-snortin’ tire squealing beasts and discusses the amazing transformation of classic muscle cars from bargain-basement big-engined stockers to megabuck machines that bring spectacularly high bids at high-powered car auctions.
- Off Road explores the off the beaten track world of four-wheel drive vehicles and SUVs. From rock crawlers to beach buggies, it’s all here in Off Road at Autoracing.com!
- Production Vehicles tells the story of the daily drivers we all use to commute to work and play. Perhaps surprisingly, they don’t have to be boring “plain janes”.
- Racing Manufacturers explores and explains the companies who produce some of the racecars we love to watch. What makes a NASCAR stock car different from an actual stock car? You could ask a racing manufacturer – or just browse our Racing Manufacturers page.
We’re sure you’ll find Autoracing.com’s Automobiles section interesting, informative, educational and entertaining. We love cars just as much as you do, and it shows! Come on over… you’ll enjoy the ride!
Produced by the Pontiac division of the General Motors Corporation, the Pontiac Grand Prix was first introduced as a full-size model in 1962. The term ‘Grand Prix’ has also been used to describe personal luxury cars and mid-sized cars. In its first year the car was basically a standard Pontiac Catalina coupe with little external chrome trim and sportier interiors. The cars could be beefed up with any of the options on the Pontiac performance option list and a handful were even fitted with the Super Duty 421 powertrain.
The Pontiac Grand Prix continued to do very well in the 1960s and its minimalist exterior trim was seen as a positive aspect. However, some considered it to be a lesser model than other personal luxury cars available at the time though the Grand Prix had a much stronger performance image than other cars in the same market at the time. Over the years the car was restyled somewhat and the rear window was made concave while the front made use of rather exclusive grillework. The interiors remained luxurious with as many bits and gadgets being fitted as was probably possible. Though the bucket seats that were fitted in the car were popular, consumers had the option of having a bench seat with folding armrests fitted as an alternative if they wanted to at no extra cost.
In 1969, the Grand Prix was once again re-styled. The new styling was based on a slightly longer version of the GM A platform. It was smaller, lighter and had its own body. Though it fell into the intermediate category, it enjoyed a whole new level of luxury and style. This downsizing was incredibly successful and the luxurious interior features a wraparound cockpit-styled instrument panel. It was also the first time that the Grand Prix featured a concealed radio antenna, a rear window defogger and side-impact beams. In 1988 the first Pontiac Grand Prix coupe became a reality. While the sedan version, which had emerged sometime earlier, had not been terribly successful, the coupe was immensely popular. The Pontiac Grand Prix has continued to undergo many interesting developments over the years. As of 2006 the Grand Prix was one of Pontiacs most popular vehicles in production, with 2008 being its last year of production.
The golden age of the Great American Muscle Car began in approximately 1964 and ended in 1971, although these dates are arbitrary. Most people agree that the Pontiac GTO, actually an option package available on the Tempest intermediate car for 1964 and ’65, was the first true muscle car and set the trend for other manufacturers to follow. With its 389 cubic inch V8 and a Hurst shifter to channel the power to the red-lined tires, the GTO made a very big impression. Pretty soon everyone wanted in on Pontiac’s game, and the late 1960s saw legendary muscle cars from Chrysler (Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Challenger), Ford (Mustang Boss 302 and Boss 429, Mercury Marauder) and Chevy (Chevelle SS 396, Corvette 427). The Buick grand Sport and Olds Cutlass 442 were other offerings from GM. Even AMC got in on the act with its fearsome Rebel Machine and AMX models.
Sadly, like all good things, the bubble had to burst. Dropping a powerful engine into a small car might sound like a great idea to you and I, but the insurance companies and highway safety regulators were hearing a different tune – one played to the sound of rising accident rates caused by too much power in inexperienced hands. By the early 1970s, horsepower ratings were in steep decline and monster engines like Chrysler’s 426 Hemi were history. A very special era in automotive history had come to an end. These days, classic muscle cars can be purchased from dealers who specialize in finding, restoring and re-selling them. Muscle cars are also sold by private individuals, often on the Internet. The right muscle car with original parts and rare options can bring 10 to 20 times its original sale price at auction.
- AC Cobra 427/428
- AMC Javelin AMX
- Buick Riviera Gran Sport
- Chevrolet Camaro
- Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS
- Dodge Charger
- Ford Mustang Boss 302
- Mercury Comet
- Plymouth Barracuda
- Plymouth Road Runner
- Pontiac Firebird
- Pontiac Grand Prix
- Pontiac Tempest Le Mans/GTO
From 1962 to 1981 the Pontiac division of General Motors produced solid, intermediate-sized automobiles called the Pontiac LeMans. Then in 1982 the smaller Pontiac Bonneville model replaced the LeMans.
The LeMans was introduced as the top-line version of the smaller and more solid Pontiac Tempest and had more luxurious trimmings and a sportier look than the Tempest. In 1964 when the Tempest was restyled and enlarged in the form of the LeMans, it continued to have the same 326 cubic inch V8s and 215 cubic inch six-cylinder found in the regular Tempest.
Not long after the 1964 model was produced, the LeMans came out with an alternative performance package assigned as the GTO or the Gran Turismo Omologate. This version came with a lot of technical developments and upgrades, costing just under US$300. It was estimated that 5,000 GTOs would be sold that year but the sales ended up being 32,000, thereby accounting for a substantial portion of the Tempest and LeMans sales.
In 1996 the GTO was made separate from the other models, having the basic shape of the LeMans and Tempest models. The GTO kept the big-engined muscle car style where as the Tempest and the LeMans models received a new SOHC 230 cubic inch six-cylinder engine.
During the late 1960’s the Sprint-optioned LeMans and Tempest models were not as popular as the larger-engined GTO that was fueling the muscle car wars. Those that bought the normal regular LeMans and Tempest models mostly ordered V8 power, as the 326 and the later 350 cubic inch V8 version were the most ordered engines. In 1969 the SOHC six-cylinder engine and the Sprint option were stopped and replaced by an ordinary Chevrolet-built 250 cubic inch OHV six-cylinder engine, which became the base engine in most of the Pontiac intermediates.
When the LeMans was first produced it included a convertible and a pillared coupe with no hardtop option offered in the Tempest. Then in 1964 the hardtop coupe was added followed by the four-door pillared sedan a year later. In 1966 and 1968 the four-door hardtop and then a four-door Safari wagon replaced the previous versions. Over the decades the Pontiac continued to change its style, adding many amazing features and continued to be popular cars.