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Thread: Pontiac Firebird (2nd gen) 1970-1981

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    Pontiac Firebird (2nd gen) 1970-1981

    The Pontiac Firebird was an American automobile built by Pontiac from the 1967 to 2002 model years. Designed as a pony car to compete with the Ford Mustang and Mercury Cougar, it was introduced on February 23, 1967, simultaneous with GM's Chevrolet division platform-sharing Camaro. This also coincided with the release of the 1967 Mercury Cougar, Ford's upscale, platform-sharing version of the Mustang.

    The name "Firebird" was also previously used by GM for the General Motors Firebird 1950s and early 1960s concept cars.

    Second generation (1970–1981)
    The second generation debut for the 1970 model year was delayed until February 26, 1970, because of tooling and engineering problems; thus, its popular designation as a 1970 model, while leftover 1969s were listed in early Pontiac literature without a model-year identification. This generation of Firebirds were available in coupe form only; after the 1969 model year, convertibles were not available until 1989.

    Models
    - Firebird Base
    - Firebird Esprit
    - Firebird Formula
    - Firebird Trans-Am

    Special versions and appearance packages
    - Formula Appearance Package "W50" (1976–1981)
    - Black-and-Gold Trans Am Pontiac 50th Anniversary Limited Edition (1976)
    - Black-and-Gold Trans Am Special Edition (1977–1978, 1980–1981)
    - Sky Bird Esprit Appearance Package "W60" (1977–1978)
    - Gold Trans Am Special Edition "Y88" (1978)

    Replacing the "Coke bottle" styling was a more "swoopy" body style, while still retaining some traditional elements. The top of the rear window line going almost straight down to the lip of the trunk lid, a look that was to epitomize F-body styling for the longest period during the Firebird's lifetime. The new design was initially characterized with a large B-pillar, until 1975 when the rear window was enlarged.

    1970
    There were two Ram Air 400 cu in (6.6 L) engines for 1970: the 335 hp (250 kW) L74 Ram Air III (366 hp (273 kW) in GTO) and the 345 hp (257 kW) LS1 Ram Air IV (370 hp (280 kW) in GTO) that were carried over from 1969. The difference between the GTO and Firebird engines was that the secondary carburetor's throttle linkage had a restrictor which prevented the rear barrels from opening completely, adjusting the linkage could allow full carburetor operation resulting in identical engine performance.

    For the 1970 and 1971 model years, all Firebirds equipped with radios had the antennas mounted "in-glass" in the windshield.

    1971
    The Pontiac 455 cu in (7.5 L) engine first became available in the second generation Firebird in 1971. The 455 engine was available in the L75 325 hp (242 kW) version and the LS5 335 hp HO version, which was the standard, and only engine option, for the Trans Am. The HO engine also included Ram Air IV.

    1972
    During a 1972 strike, the Firebird (and the similar F-body Camaro) were nearly dropped. Again the 455HO was the only engine available for the Trans Am.

    Starting in 1972, and continuing until 1977, the Firebird was only produced at the Norwood, Ohio, facility.

    1973
    Actual production cars yielded 1/4 mile results in the high 14 to 15.0 second/98 mph range (sources: Motor Trend Magazine, July '73 and Roger Huntington's book, American Supercar) – results that are consistent with a 3,850 pound car (plus driver) and the engine equipped with a 4-barrel Rochester Quadrajet carburetor rated at a maximum power of 290 bhp (294 PS; 216 kW) at 4000 rpm and a maximum torque of 395 lb⋅ft (536 N⋅m) at 3600 rpm figure. An original rating of 310 bhp (314 PS; 231 kW) SAE net had been assigned to the SD-455, though that rating was based on the emissions non-compliant "pre-production" engines, as mentioned above. That rating appeared in published 1973 model year Pontiac literature, which had been printed prior to the "pre-production" engines "barely passing" emissions testing, and the last minute switch to what became the production engine. The 1974 model year production literature listed the specifications of the production engine (290 SAE net horsepower).

    In 1973 and 1974, a special version of the 455, called the Super Duty 455 (SD-455), was offered. The SD-455 consisted of a strengthened cylinder block that included four-bolt main bearings and added material in various locations for improved strength. Original plans called for a forged crankshaft, although actual production SD455s received nodular iron crankshafts with minor enhancements. Forged rods and forged aluminum pistons were specified, as were unique high-flow cylinder heads.

    The 480737 code cam (identical grind to the RAIV "041" cam) was originally specified for the SD455 engine and was fitted into the "pre-production" test cars (source: former Pontiac special projects engineer McCully), one of which was tested by both Hot Rod and Car and Driver magazines. However, actual production cars were fitted with the milder 493323 cam and 1.5:1 rocker ratios, due to the ever-tightening emissions standards of the era. This cam and rocker combination, combined with a low compression ratio of 8.4:1 advertised (7.9:1 actual) yielded 290 SAE net horsepower. Production SD455 cars did not have functional hood scoops, while the "pre-production" test cars did.

    A production line stock SD455 produced 253 rear wheel HP on a chassis dyno, as reported by High Performance Pontiac magazine (January, 2007). This is also consistent with the 290 SAE net horsepower factory rating (as measured at the crankshaft). Skip McCully verified that no production SD455s released to the public were fitted with the 480737 cam. When asked about the compromises for the production SD455 engine, McCully responded, "Compression, camshaft, jetting, and vacuum advance." He followed by stating that he would have preferred a compression ratio of 10.25:1, a camshaft with 041 valve timing, slightly richer carburetor jetting, and as much vacuum advance as the engine would tolerate. However, that proved to be impossible due to the emissions regulations of the era. Overlooked however, is a June 1974 test of a newly delivered, privately owned SD-455 Trans Am. This appeared in Super Stock and Drag Illustrated. With an unmodified car and a test weight of 4,010 lbs the testers clocked 14.25 seconds at 101 mph. The car had automatic and A/C.[16] Also, the factory rating of 290 hp was listed at 4,400 rpm while the factory tachometer has a 5,750 rpm redline.

    Pontiac offered the 455 through the 1976 model year, but the engine could not meet tightening restrictions on vehicle emissions. A total of 7,100 were produced with the 455 engine.

    1974
    Curb weights rose dramatically in the 1974 model year due to the implementation of 5 mph (8.0 km/h) telescoping bumpers and various other crash and safety related structural enhancements; SD455 Trans Ams weighed in at 3,850 lb (1,746 kg) in their first year of production (1974 model year; actually 1973).

    The 1974 models featured a redesigned "shovel-nose" front end and new wide "slotted" taillights. In 1974, Pontiac offered two base engines for the Firebird: a 100 hp (75 kW) 250 cu in (4.1 L) inline-6 and a 155 hp (116 kW) 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8. Available were 175 to 225 hp (130 to 168 kW) 400 cu in (6.6 L) V8 engines, as well as the 455 cu in (7.5 L) produced 215 or 250 hp (160 or 186 kW), while the SD-455 produced 290 hp (216 kW). The 400, 455, and SD-455 engines were offered in the Trans Am and Formula models during 1974.

    A 1974 Firebird was driven by Jim Rockford in the pilot movie and the first season (1974–1975) of The Rockford Files, and every following season, Rockford would change to the next model year. However, in the sixth season (1979–1980), Rockford continued to drive the 1978 Firebird from season five, as James Garner disliked the 1979 model's restyled front end. The cars in the show were badged as lower-tier Esprit models, but in reality were Formulas with the twin-scoop hood replaced with a scoopless one. Another hint was the twin exhausts and rear anti-roll bars that were not used on Esprit.

    1975
    The 1975 models featured a new wraparound rear window with a revised roofline and the turn signals were moved up from the valance panel to the grills which distinguished it from the previous year model. The Super Duty engine, Muncie four-speed, and TurboHydramatic 400 automatic were no longer available in 1975. Due to the use of catalytic converters starting in 1975, the THM 400 would not fit alongside the catalytic converter underneath the vehicle. The smaller TurboHydramatic 350 automatic was deemed enough. The 400 was standard in the Trans Am and the 455 was optional for both 1975 and 1976 models.

    1976
    Pontiac celebrated its 50th anniversary year in 1976. To commemorate this event, Pontiac unveiled a special Trans Am option at the 1976 Chicago Auto Show. Painted in black with gold accents, this was the first "anniversary" Trans Am package and the first production black and gold special edition. A removable T-top developed by Hurst was optional, but proved problematic. This was the last year with the 455 engine.

    Source: Wikipedia
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    1977
    A distinctive, slant-nose facelift occurred in 1977. There is a way to tell an early 1977 built car as there was a production change in the hood scoop. Early cars were supplied with an off-center scoop. Furthermore, early W72 cars came with the standard 180 hp air cleaner. Pontiac offered the T/A 400 cu in (6.6 L) with a single 4-barrel Rochester Quadrajet carburetor RPO W72 rated at 200 bhp (203 PS; 149 kW) at 3600 rpm and a maximum torque of 325 lb⋅ft (441 N⋅m) at 2400 rpm, as opposed to the regular 6.6 Litre 400 (RPO L78) rated at 180 hp (134 kW). The T/A 6.6 equipped engines had chrome valve covers, while the base 400 engines had painted valve covers. In addition, California and high-altitude cars received the Olds 403 engine, which offered a slightly higher compression ratio and a more usable torque band than the Pontiac engines of 1977.

    From 1977 to 1981, the Firebird used four square headlamps, while the Camaro continued to retain the two round headlights that had been shared by both second generation designs. The 1977 Trans-Am Special Edition became famous after being featured in Smokey and the Bandit. The 1980 Turbo model was used for Smokey and the Bandit II.

    1978
    Changes for 1978 were slight, with a switch from a honeycomb to a crosshatch pattern grille being the most obvious from the outside. Beginning in 1978, the Pontiac group introduced a new special edition vehicle. The Firebird Formula LT Sport Edition which featured a revised 10% raised compression Chevy 305 V8 powertrain producing 155 hp (same as 1977 Chevy Monza Mirage) combined with a floor center console four-speed manual T-10 BW transmission coupled to a limited-slip differential final drive. The limited touring package (LT) also included a cabin roof, door, fender and hood graphics scheme, the Trans-Am sports handling package with HD gas shocks, modular alloy wheels and the SE Trans-Am rear deck spoiler with "Formula" word graphic detail. T-tops in 1978 transitioned from Hurst units to Fisher (GM) in mid year. In 1978 Pontiac also made available the Red Bird package on the Firebird Esprit model. Painted in Roman Red with a matching red interior it had a Gold pinstripe treatment with Red Bird graphics on the b-pillars. It also utilized the Trans-Am style steering wheel and dash except these were finished with gold spokes and a gold dash face which was unique to the Red Bird option.

    The engineers also revised the compression ratio in the 400ci through the installation of different cylinder heads with smaller combustion chambers (1977 Pontiac 400 engines also had the 350 heads bolted to the 400 blocks, these heads were known as the 6x-4 heads and were taken from the Pontiac 350). This increased power by 10% for a total of 220 during the 1978–79 model years. The 400/403 options remained available until 1979, when the 400 CID engines were only available in the 4-speed transmission Trans Ams and Formulas (the engines had actually been stockpiled from 1978, when PMD had cut production of the engine).

    1979
    The front end was restyled for 1979, which also marked the 10th anniversary of the Trans Am. A limited edition anniversary package was made available: platinum silver paint with charcoal gray upper paint accents and mirrored t-tops, and a special interior featuring silver leather seats with custom-embroidered Firebird emblems and aircraft-inspired red lighting for the gauges. The 10th anniversary cars also featured a special 10th anniversary decals, including a Firebird hood decal that extended off of the hood and onto the front fenders. Pontiac produced 7,500 10th anniversary cars, of which 1,817 were equipped with the high-output Pontiac T/A 6.6 W72 400 engine, the last of the line of the Pontiac 'big-block' V8 motors (and coupled with the four-speed Borg Warner Super T-10 manual transmission). The only option on these cars was the engine (the 400 was not certified for California, nor was cruise control available with it), which dictated the transmission and the gear ratio (3.23 on the 400 cars, 2.73 on the cars with the Oldsmobile-produced 403 engine and the TH350 automatic transmission). Two 10th Anniversary Trans Ams were the actual pace cars for the 1979 Daytona 500, which has been called the race that made NASCAR. Car and Driver magazine named the Trans Am with the WS6 performance package the best handling car of 1979. During period dyno testing, the National Hot Rod Association rated the limited-availability T/A 6.6 high-output Pontiac 400 engine at 260–280 net horsepower, which was significantly higher than Pontiac's conservative rating of 220 hp. In 1979 Pontiac sold 116,535 Trans Ams, the highest sold in a year.

    1980
    In 1980, due to ever-increasing emissions restrictions, Pontiac dropped all of its large displacement engines. 1980 therefore saw the biggest engine changes for the Trans Am. The 301, offered in 1979 as a credit option, was now the standard engine. Options included a turbocharged 301 or the Chevrolet 305 small block. The turbocharged 301 used a Garrett TB305 turbo forcing air through a single Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor, which was, however, too antiquated to take full advantage of the forced air from the turbo. Also, the low-octane (87–90) fuels would have led to severe detonation, had it not been for the ECU, which led to the cars feeling not very powerful at all. Some owners have claimed quite reasonable performance numbers with the modern fuels though.

    A 1980 Turbo Trans Am was featured in Smokey and the Bandit II. However, due to the turbocharger problems, the cars used for the filming had to be fitted with nitrous oxide tanks by Marvin Miller Systems to get the desired performance.

    1981
    In the final year of the second generation Firebirds (1981), Trans Am still used the same engines as it had in the previous model year, with the only change being the addition of a new electronic carburetion system.

    The assembly plant code for Norwood, OH is "N" (from 1972 to 1980 this would be the fifth VIN digit, for 1981 it is the 11th digit), and for Van Nuys, CA it is "L" (for Los Angeles, of which Van Nuys, Los Angeles is a district). In the later second-generation cars, Norwood used lacquer-based paint (there is an "L" on the cowl tag), and Van Nuys used water-based paint (there is a "W" on the cowl tag), due to California's tightening pollution regulations. The water-based paint often failed and delaminated during the warranty period and subsequently; cars had to be repainted.

    Source: Wikipedia

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    Pontiac Firebird (2nd gen) #3
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    Pontiac Firebird (2nd gen) #7

    1970 Trans Am (my favourite Firebird of all)
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    Pontiac Firebird (2nd gen) #8

    1970 Trans Am - part 2
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