Pontiac Firebird 50 Years

by David Newhardt. Review by Gary Smith.

“This is the beginning of tomorrow. Pontiac.” When that ad copy hit my ears in 1970, I was a believer. The second generation Firebird Trans Am was a vision of the future. Performance and style. A Trans Am race car for the street, at least in name. Wow. “Pontiac Builds Excitement.” They still turn my head.

Firebird! America’s Premier Performance Car (1982) by Gary L. Witzenburg and The Fabulous Firebird (1979) by Michael Lamm are both excellent historical references. They cover styling development and the people involved in more depth than Pontiac Firebird 50 Years. That said, David Newhardt’s book is very well written with enough historical and political background to provide a complete overview of the development of four generations of Firebirds. Bill Porter and John Schinella are quoted in the book. And there are stories about the involvement of DeLorean, Mitchell, and Rybicki as well.

Several interesting sidebars explain how the movie and TV screen time came about in Smokey and the Bandit, The Rockford Files, and Knight Rider (featuring KITT, the talking Firebird).

The role Herb Adams played in chassis development that set apart the Firebird from it’s sister car, Camaro is explained. The story is told about Pontiac’s persistent performance philosophy even during the dark years of the onslaught of federal regulations.

Several specific Firebirds not often mentioned are featured: the 1989 Turbo Trans Am, 1991 Firehawk, the 1985 Kammback prototype, and the 1982 200+ MPH Gale Banks twin turbo TA. Specs, options, and sales numbers are also covered in the book.

Pontiac Firebird 50 Years is a good book and well worth space on your bookshelf. When you get your copy, be sure to remove the dust jacket to take a look at the actual cover. It’s striking.

Available on Amazon

Description from the Publisher

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.

The Author

David Newhardt is one of the best automobile photographers working today and has provided photography for best-selling Motorbooks titles Muscle: America’s Legendary Performance Cars, Corvette: Fifty Years, Mustang: Forty Years, Mopar Muscle: Fifty Years, and Shelby Mustang: Racer for the Street.

Published by Motorbooks
Format: Hardcover Book , 208 Pages
ISBN: 9780760350423
Illustrations: 200 color & 100 b/w photos
Size: 9.75 in x 12 in / 248 mm x 305 mm
Published: Jan. 1, 2017

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