1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Illustration for article titled 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

What car best sums up Malaise Era so-called performance cars than the late-70s Trans Am? Sure, there's the whole Burt Reynolds thing adding some camp value and general notoriety, but this car would be a caricature of its time and place even if "Smokey and the Bandit" had never been made. The scoops! The flares! The great big engine that wheezed out less power than the base 4-bangers in today's boring econo-sedans! Yet still, just like America in the gloomy post-Watergate/Vietnam/oil-embargo period, there was still some optimism to be found in the Trans Am's lines... if you looked for it.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am


No, this car wasn't quick (in factory trim). But, just like its Z/28 sibling, it looked quick.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am


California Trans Ams came with the Olds 403, an engine more or less synonymous with the word "Malaise." 185 horsepower, on a good day; they had to use nitrous in Burt's car to do burnouts in the movie. Scream, chicken, scream!

Illustration for article titled 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Advertisement


This car is rough, though not rusty. Try to imagine it back in '78, with its Firebirdly allure enabling its owner to catch a virulent case of herpes from a feathered-hair fox within hours of initial purchase!

Illustration for article titled 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Advertisement


Well, at least this wheel is only missing one lugnut, unlike the Mustang we saw the other day.




First 100 DOTS Cars

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

I believe the first year you could get the four wheel disks was also the last year you could get the large engine - 1979. I dropped a Olds 455 in mine. That seemed to cure the lethargy. I traded the body this year for the labor of getting the 455 into the Cutlass. I'm going to miss it.

What's worth noting is that they were the last to offer a "big block" engine even though it was choked by EPA and emissions, outlasting Mustang, Camaro, and Corvette by several years. It often outperformed the vette in magazine tests. It was supposed to be a big gaudy thumb in the eye of the malaise years.