There were four generations of Firebird created. The first from '67 to '69. The second debuted in late '70 and lasted 11 years to '81. Just one year shorter was the third from '82 to '92. And the fourth generation released in '93 and the final 'Bird rolling off the line in 2002.

The first generation Firebird was developed at the last minute by Pontiac after John Delorean's pet two seater project was axed by GM management. Because the Camaro was so far along when Pontiac came aboard, they could only change a few areas for the Firebird's identity. This was basically limited to the grill, hood, and rear end treatment. It's still amazing to me how good a job they did on that beautiful front end. Drivetrains were pretty much straight out of the A-body (GTO, LeMans) cars with the notable exception being a hamstrung carb limiting the horsepower of the top of the line motors. For '67 and '68 the performance models were simply 400s. In '69 a new choice arrived: the Trans Am!

With the creation of the second generation, Pontiac was in the design room from the beginning. According to most sources, the overall appearance of the Camaro/Firebird was greatly influenced by Pontiac's stylists. This time, they could also differentiate the 'Bird with unique body sculpture lines creating a smoother less angular look than that of the second Camaro. DeLorean guided the new styling by insisting on a European look similar to the contemporary Maseratis and Ferraris. The only carryover model was the Trans Am. Pontiac performance specialist Herb Adams contributed greatly to the handling improvements made in the new T/A.

After incremental changes in styling and options, GM finally revised one of the most successful designs ever when they debuted the '82 F-bodies. The emphasis this time around was efficiency. The drag coefficient for the new Firebird was one of the best of any car. Engine choices were fewer than Pontiac enthusiasts were used to and geared toward fuel economy. The styling theme of the redesign was the aircraft. This is apparent in the smooth flowing lines of the body and the appearance of the dash with its large round gauges. It was during this generation's reign that performance as we knew it returned. The 350 Corvette motor found its way under the hood and newer technologies provided good performance while maintaining credible fuel economy.

And now for something totally different! Not really, but the fourth generation is certainly a vast improvement in many ways over its predecessor. Most important were structural rigidity and a manual transmission option on the performance motor! It's hard to beat the combination of performance, comfort, and style that the last Firebirds delivered. Even the base V-6 beats the horsepower rating of many of the previous Trans Ams.

I've been fortunate enough to have owned at least one example from each generation. Of all of them, my favorite would be the '70 Trans Am. I love the styling, the functional add-ons, the high compression motor, and the single body length stripe. Of course a '67 400 convertible would be nice, or a '69 Trans Am, and I always did like the GTA, and how about a Super Duty Formula, oh I forgot I liked the '78 Gold Special Edition Trans Am, and then there's the...
Year Coupe Convertible Trans Am Total
1967 67,032 15,528 0 82,560
1968 90,152 16,960 0 107,112
1969 76,059 11,649 697 88,405

Year Base Esprit Formula Trans Am Total
1970 1/2 18,874 18,961 7,708 3,196 48,739
1971 23,021 20,185 7,802 2,116 53,124
1972 12,000 11,415 5,250 1,286 29,951
1973 14,096 17,249 10,166 4,802 46,313
1974 26,372 22,583 14,519 10,255 73,729
1975 22,293 20,826 13,670 27,274 84,063
1976 21,206 22,252 20,613 46,704 110,775
1977 30,642 34,548 21,801 68,745 155,736
1978 32,672 36,926 24,346 93,341 187,285
1979 38,642 30,853 24,850 117,109 211,454
1980 29,811 17,277 9,356 50,896 107,340
1981 20,541 10,938 5,927 33,493 70,899
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