History of the Firebird
The Pontiac Firebird was Pontiac's most popular, stylish and recognizable sports car. Pontiac began production of the Firebird in 1967 to compete with the Ford Mustang, which began production two years earlier. The Firebird shared the same platform as Chevrolet division's Camaro. Production ended in 2002 with the closure of General Motor's Pontiac Division. The first two generations of the Firebird (1967-1969 and 1970-1981) focused mainly on performance. But in the early 80's, consumers were demanding better fuel economy. In 1975, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards were enacted to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks produced for sale in the United States. Congress specified that CAFE standards be set at the "maximum feasible level" considering the technological capabillity; economic feasibility, and the need for the nation to conserve energy. The availability and cost of gasoline meant the weight and the fuel consumption of the 3rd generation were major design criteria. The answers to those criteria was an efficient fuel-injection system and a more aerodynamic body.
1st Generation Body Style
2nd Generation Body Style
Features & Performance
Our Firebird - The 3rd Generation Body Style
Our Firebird was the 3rd Generation body style, completely redesigned beginning the 1982 model year. Designers began with a windshield slope of 62 degrees, steeper than any vehicle ever had before. For the rear, a large, all-glass hatchback that required only a thin metal frame to support it. Two concealed pop-up headlights and a functional rear wing rounded out the aerodynamic improvements. In addition to being about 500 pounds lighter than the previous generation, the new design was the most aerodynamic product GM had ever released.
Our 2d Firebird
The sand interior with gauge package
After just five years, we had decided to trade our 1987 Pontiac Grand Am for a new Pontiac. We were considering a new Bonneville or Grand Prix. As we walked between the open lot and the Pontiac showroom, the salesman noticed we kept looking at a black and gold 1992 Firebird. He said, "You keep looking at that black Firebird sitting there, let me get the keys, take the tops out, and you take it for a spin." We objected, but he insisted. Tammy got to drive. As Tammy pulled out of the lot on to the boulevard, she launched it. Before she knew it, she was doing 60 mph in 40 mph zone. I told her she needed to slow down, but all she said in return was:
I want this car.- Tammy
Throttle Body Injected 5.0L (305 cubic-inch) V-8
You might say we came late to the party; the 1992 model was the last year of the 3d generation Firebird. The '92 had four engine options, ranging from a small, 130 HP V6 to a monster 240 HP tuned-port V8. Our Firebird had the L03 5.0L (305 Cubic inches) Chevrolet throttle body injected V8. It produced a respectable 175 HP through a 4-speed automatic transmission. It took only 7½ seconds from 0-60 mph. But where the Firebird really shined was in fuel economy. With the transmission in high gear, the Firebird's engine could maintain a cruising speed running at close to 1200 to 1400 rpm. Our Firebird gave us 22 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, yet it still had the get-up-and-go to back up the aggressive styling.
As most common 1992 Firebird owners, we were happy with the regular V8's power. Excellent suspension and handling made for a sporty ride, though it was somewhat stiff. Our model had optional gold enameled wire-look wheels, cloth sand-colored interior, power steering, power brakes, power windows and door locks, and an AM/FM/tape deck with a five-band equalizer. Fold-down rear seats and the hatch offered good cargo space. Of course, the style was a big head-turner; the Firebird looks more expensive than it is.
Where Is It Now?
We kept the Firebird for eleven years. It never had any major failures. I had to replace the battery and the alternator, and one of the motors that raised the pop-up headlights. The car had two major inconveniences. First, whenever you parked, you had to put lock the T-Tops back in because there was no where else to secure them. Second, I learned not to lift the rear glass during or after a rainstorm; it would funnel all the water to the inside of the car. After eleven years, the electrical syatem started giving trouble. I had to replace the stater twice, and the car would go into lock-down mode to prevent theft at random times. When it did, you had to wait 5-10 minutes to start the car. Fearing the worst, I sold the car and bought a fleet rental 2001 Mazda Millenia