50 Years’ Worth of Firebirds

“Leave it to Pontiac to do it right.” That was the lead sentence in a lavish brochure that promoted and educated buyers about the inherent rightness of putting a Pontiac Firebird in the garage. Since its inception in 1967, the Firebird has gone through dozens of configurations as it weathered the ups and downs of the muscle car group to eventually become one of the most beloved American performance cars by both collectors and modern enthusiasts. From the book Pontiac Firebird: 50 Years is quick photographic tour of the cars evolution over the years.

pontiac firebird, pontiac trans am, pontiac gto, muscle cars, history of pontiac, pontiac firehawk, pontiac firebird 50 years, david newhardt, general motors, john DeLorean, Pontiac F-body, history of pontiac firebirds, firebird convertible, firebird SSA, firebird GTA trans am, muscle car history, Knight Rider car, pontiac formula firebird,A little off the beaten path, this 1967 Firebird convertible poses for its beauty shot in Motor Trend magazine. Archives/TEN: The Enthusiast Network Magazines, LLC

pontiac firebird, pontiac trans am, pontiac gto, muscle cars, history of pontiac, pontiac firehawk, pontiac firebird 50 years, david newhardt, general motors, john DeLorean, Pontiac F-body, history of pontiac firebirds, firebird convertible, firebird SSA, firebird GTA trans am, muscle car history, Knight Rider car, pontiac formula firebird,Pontiac painted the 1969 Trans Am in traditional American racing colors. For decades, top-tier race cars were painted in national colors: red for Italy, silver for Germany, dark green for England. America’s colors were white with blue. From this high viewpoint, the tasteful roof stripes are fully seen.

pontiac firebird, pontiac trans am, pontiac gto, muscle cars, history of pontiac, pontiac firehawk, pontiac firebird 50 years, david newhardt, general motors, john DeLorean, Pontiac F-body, history of pontiac firebirds, firebird convertible, firebird SSA, firebird GTA trans am, muscle car history, Knight Rider car, pontiac formula firebird,Pontiac installed a racing-inspired, leather-wrapped steering wheel in the 1969 Trans Am, a nice complement to the race-inspired suspension. This particular Trans Am is one of the forty-six built with the Ram Air IV engine bolted to a four-speed manual transmission. This was a very potent combination.

pontiac firebird, pontiac trans am, pontiac gto, muscle cars, history of pontiac, pontiac firehawk, pontiac firebird 50 years, david newhardt, general motors, john DeLorean, Pontiac F-body, history of pontiac firebirds, firebird convertible, firebird SSA, firebird GTA trans am, muscle car history, Knight Rider car, pontiac formula firebird,Pontiac attached the rear spoiler to the 1969 Trans Am by a pair of pylons attached to the trunk lid. This would be the last year that the downturned-wings logo would be used; Pontiac wanted a more upbeat logo for 1970.

pontiac firebird, pontiac trans am, pontiac gto, muscle cars, history of pontiac, pontiac firehawk, pontiac firebird 50 years, david newhardt, general motors, john DeLorean, Pontiac F-body, history of pontiac firebirds, firebird convertible, firebird SSA, firebird GTA trans am, muscle car history, Knight Rider car, pontiac formula firebird,Pontiac’s Banshee III show car, which debuted in 1974, foreshadowed styling cues seen on later second-generation Firebirds, particularly in the nose treatment. Built on a Firebird platform, it used a SD-455 engine to coax it from trailer to show stand.

pontiac firebird, pontiac trans am, pontiac gto, muscle cars, history of pontiac, pontiac firehawk, pontiac firebird 50 years, david newhardt, general motors, john DeLorean, Pontiac F-body, history of pontiac firebirds, firebird convertible, firebird SSA, firebird GTA trans am, muscle car history, Knight Rider car, pontiac formula firebird,With its rear-facing hood scoop and vibrant graphics, it must be a 1981 Trans Am. Starlight Black with gold accents kept up the striking visual presence that T/As had since 1976.

pontiac firebird, pontiac trans am, pontiac gto, muscle cars, history of pontiac, pontiac firehawk, pontiac firebird 50 years, david newhardt, general motors, john DeLorean, Pontiac F-body, history of pontiac firebirds, firebird convertible, firebird SSA, firebird GTA trans am, muscle car history, Knight Rider car, pontiac formula firebird,The standard engine in the 1989 GTA was the beefy 5.7-liter V-8, sourced from Chevrolet, equipped with 235 horsepower and 330 pounds-feet of torque. The mandatory transmission with this engine was the capable Turbo HydraMatic 70R4 four-speed overdrive automatic.

pontiac firebird, pontiac trans am, pontiac gto, muscle cars, history of pontiac, pontiac firehawk, pontiac firebird 50 years, david newhardt, general motors, john DeLorean, Pontiac F-body, history of pontiac firebirds, firebird convertible, firebird SSA, firebird GTA trans am, muscle car history, Knight Rider car, pontiac formula firebird,Due to its windshield angle of 68 degrees, cleaning the inside of the 1996 Trans Am’s glass posed a challenge. But that steep angle created a very slippery shape to the wind, helping increase fuel economy and performance as well as reduce interior wind noise.

pontiac firebird, pontiac trans am, pontiac gto, muscle cars, history of pontiac, pontiac firehawk, pontiac firebird 50 years, david newhardt, general motors, john DeLorean, Pontiac F-body, history of pontiac firebirds, firebird convertible, firebird SSA, firebird GTA trans am, muscle car history, Knight Rider car, pontiac formula firebird,Cranking out 305 horsepower, this 1996 Trans Am was fitted with the optional WS6 package, which included suspension modifications and engine upgrades, courtesy of SLP.

pontiac firebird, pontiac trans am, pontiac gto, muscle cars, history of pontiac, pontiac firehawk, pontiac firebird 50 years, david newhardt, general motors, john DeLorean, Pontiac F-body, history of pontiac firebirds, firebird convertible, firebird SSA, firebird GTA trans am, muscle car history, Knight Rider car, pontiac formula firebird,Every one of the 2002 Collector Edition Trans Ams came equipped with the desirable WS6 suspension and performance package. The flowing tape stripe motif was used only on these T/As.

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pontiac firebird, pontiac trans am, pontiac gto, muscle cars, history of pontiac, pontiac firehawk, pontiac firebird 50 years, david newhardt, general motors, john DeLorean, Pontiac F-body, history of pontiac firebirds, firebird convertible, firebird SSA, firebird GTA trans am, muscle car history, Knight Rider car, pontiac formula firebird,Celebrate 50 years of Pontiac’s iconic muscle car.

The early 1960s saw American auto manufacturers desperately trying to sell cars to the emerging baby-boom market. Pontiac attained success with its original muscle car, the GTO, but as successful as the GTO was, it was handily outsold by Ford’s grand-slam home-run pony car, the Mustang. In response, Pontiac entered the pony car market in 1967, its new Firebird, a model that became one of the most iconic cars of the classic muscle-car era. Eventually the top Firebird model, the Trans Am, became the standard bearer for automotive performance in the U.S. market, kept the muscle car flame alive throughout the dark years of the 1970s and led the charge when performance reemerged in the 1980s.

Pontiac Firebird: 50 Years chronicles the Firebird’s rich history, from the early attempts to reach the youth market in the early 1960s, through the potent and turbulent years of the classic muscle car era, the resurgence of muscle in the 1980s, to the car’s continued popularity today.