The Firebird has turned 30, and many would argue it's looking better than ever! There have now been four generations 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 current fourth generation released in '93 and still going strong.

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 new Firebirds deliver. Even the "base" V-6 beats the horsepower rating of many of the previous Trans Ams. I'm not going to go on and on about Firebird-4, just go to the closest dealer and check it out.

I've been fortunate enough to have owned at least one example from each generation. Of what I'll call the collectible generations (1, 2, and 3) 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. However, the Firebird I currently own is a '97 WS6 Trans Am. It's definitely my pick of the fourth generation, and possibly my overall choice. 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...

Production Figures

 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