There’s no better car that’s deserving of a comeback than the Pontiac Firebird. More specifically, the iconic Trans Am.
Fanatics around the globe were devastated when GM decided to drop the Pontiac brand. One of the highlight cars in its lineup was the Pontiac Firebird. More specifically, the Trans Am. Who doesn’t remember Burt Reynolds in “Smokey and the Bandit” and his theatrics with the Pontiac Trans Am.
But why is the Trans Am back in the news again? Is it making a comeback? Is General Motors reviving the Pontiac brand? Well, to answer the first question—we reckon the Pontiac Trans Am is deserving of a comeback, hence the title. Answers to questions two and three are—no and no. To put it lightly, the chances of Pontiac’s revival are slim, while that of the Trans Am is still possible. However, there is no official confirmation from GM as of yet.
Although poor financial decisions led to the brand’s downfall, fans across the country are loyal to Pontiac. Pristine examples of rare Trans Ams with the iconic “screaming chicken” hood decal end up in auction lots fetching decent money. Suffice to say, the car—even though a 20th-century item—has quite the following. We think GM should capitalize on the Trans Am’s popularity and revive the icon for the 2023 model year. There’s no better car that’s deserving of a comeback than the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.
Pontiac introduced the Firebird on February 23, 1967, a couple of months after the Mercury Cougar came about. The Firebird was Pontiac’s take on the Chevrolet Camaro, and the Cougar was Mercury’s say on the Ford Mustang. Being structurally similar, both cars competed against each other in every facet.
One of the standout features of the Firebird debuted was its coke-bottle-like design, which unsurprisingly, was shared with its corporate sibling, the Camaro. Akin to most cars of the eighties and nineties, the Pontiac had sharp edges and weird box-like designs. From 1977 to 1981, the Firebird used four square headlamps. It wasn’t until the Trans Am’s “Smokey and the Bandit” debut that popularized the car among the youth, making it an icon.
The ‘90s saw two generations of the Firebird: the third generation, which was on sale from 1982 to 1992, and the fourth generation, from 1993 to 2002. The third-gen Firebird came during a time when fuel economy and efficiency were of prime importance. Folks at GM even thought of bringing a more efficient front-wheel-drive layout to the F-body platform, which later ended up getting scrapped. The third-gen featured an array of engine options ranging from economic inline-4s to powerful V8s.
The fourth-gen was, in many ways, a refined approach. Sharp edges were smoothened to make them more in line with the late-nineties automotive trends. As before, the Formula and Trans Am received a close derivative of the Corvette's LS1 5.7-liter V8, as the LT1 V8s were discontinued. By now, all Firebird trim levels got four-wheel disc brakes with dual-piston front calipers and larger rotors at each wheel with ABS.
Here’s our thoughts on what the next Trans Am should be. GM could position the new Trans Am as a posher alternative to the Camaro. Just like the previous Trans Am, the latest iteration could most likely be a Camaro underneath but with better interiors and restyled exteriors. For starters, GM could incorporate a design reminiscent of the seventies' Trans Arm with dual-split headlights and the signature taillights, as seen in these rendered images our graphic designer Timothy Adry Emmanuel created exclusively for HotCars.
GM can one-up itself by using lightweight materials and not to mention the iconic “screaming chicken” hood decal, harking back to the original car. The new Trans Am’s interior should employ nostalgia along with retro styling that could tie in with the exteriors. We reckon GM’s fundamental ethos should be to reinterpret everything that was good about the iconic Trans Am and give it a modern twist.
Since GM is likely to use the Camaro’s underpinnings, we expect the new Pontiac Trans Am to house the Gen V 6.2-liter LT1 V8 under its hood. Or, GM could go all guns blazing and plonk the mighty 650-horsepower supercharged LT4 V8 as an alternative option. Either way, we expect robust chassis upgrades to make the most out of GM’s new generation engines. Our ambitious minds would love to see a revised steering geometry, carbon-fiber body panels, a trick differential, and uprated springs, much like the Camaro ZL1.
The resurrection, as you can tell, is pretty much us guesstimating. But since we’re here, might as well talk about the worst possible scenario. Perhaps, GM could—in a controversial move—revive Pontiac as an all-electric brand and rather sacrilegiously, slap the EV title on the Trans Am. General Motors brought back the Hummer as an EV, so the possibility of an all-electric Trans Am is not entirely worth ruling out.