The Pontiac Firebird participated in the American pony car market from 1967 to 2002. The vehicle’s rivals were the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang; these vehicles had a fierce battle throughout those years.
Pontiac released the first vehicle in 1967; the platform was shared with the Chevrolet Camaro, but the Pontiac had different engines and slight styling differences, such as the front and rear ends and six vertical louvers. The Firebired was offered in five stunning versions and was available as a convertible and a hardtop coupe.
For the 1968 model, there were subtle changes that included wrap-around front turn signals, the addition of side-marker lights, the elimination of the front vent windows, and a number of mechanical changes. The base Firebird came with a 250 cubic inch overhead cam six-cylinder engine producing 175 horsepower.
The Pontiac Firebird came late to the Pony car competition that already had vehicles like Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang, but it still held its own that year.
This is why we love the 1968 Pontiac Firebird
The 1968 Pontiac Firebird Has A Delightful Body & Interior
The Pontiac engineers weren’t messing around when it came to designing the car’s body. Turn signals with a wrap-around design replaced the driver and passenger vent windows of the 1967 model. Pontiac upgraded the Firestone E70 Wide Ovals tires to F70.
They added a Pontiac V-crest rear marker lights and replaced the single-leaf rear springs with multi-leaf units. The engineers placed new straddle-mounted shock absorbers that improved ride and handling.
The interior came with a bigger cushioned instrument panel and sun visors, windshield pillar moldings, crushable armrests, and a flow-through ventilation system with adjustable round air outlets on the lower dash.
The designers added a lower door panel carpet, new instrument panel conical lenses and block lettering, and seat belts with push-button buckles for all passengers. The car came with an anti-theft ignition key warning buzzer and more robust door hinges of stamped steel for security.
Pontiac upgraded the options list with the addition of a four-way power bucket seat, Goodyear Polyglas tires, and an optional new Power-Flex fan on all V-8s without air conditioning.
The 1968 Pontiac Firebird’s Lineup Was Amazing
The base convertible cost $2,996, and Pontiac made 16,960 units. While convertible sales increased (by 9.22 percent), they did not expand at the same rate as hardtop sales. Convertibles weighed around 300 pounds more than comparable hardtop coupes and had the same engine options. Base cars came with that 175-horsepower six and a three-speed manual gearbox. The many engine options included a 215-hp version of the OHC six and a number of V8s while other transmissions included a 4-speed manual and 2- and 3-speed automatics.
The standard features included all-vinyl bucket seats, a wood grain dash, and 2-speed windshield wipers. The larger engines, a heavy-duty suspension, wide-oval tires, floor-mounted shifters, power windows and air conditioning were available as well.
Pontiac made 90,152 models of the hardtop. The base model had an MSRP of $2,781, with different engines costing anything from $116 to $351. Other alternatives, of course, came with extra costs.
How The Pony Car Competition Played Out
The pony car name came from one of the most successful cars in automotive history, the 1965 Ford Mustang. Many car designers tried to copy the car’s design but failed, but some, like the designers of the Pontiac Firebird, had their ideas, and they worked for them.
Although some use the terms pony car and muscle car interchangeably, pony cars are smaller and lighter sporty cars with tight back seats while muscle cars are larger and heavier and have more space for back seat passengers.
The 1965 Ford Mustang was the first pony car, and it was a huge hit, selling over 618,812 units. The Camaro-based Pontiac Firebird, the Mercury Cougar, and the AMC Javelin joined, and it started becoming a competition. Dodge came late to the party with the Dodge Challenger.
In 1968, the Mustang was still selling well and leading the pony car group in sales, but it was already seeing a drop in sales due to the new competition. The Pontiac Firebird and the Mercury Cougar were in a tight duel in 1968, with almost identical production numbers and both behind the Mustang and Camaro.
Only the Mustang, Camaro, and Firebird would be left standing in 1975 since the other cars were unable to keep up with the changing times and preferences. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Mustang continued to compete with Chevy’s Camaro and Pontiac’s Firebird. Unfortunately, sales of such cars began to decline as customers favored light trucks and sport utility vehicles.
The year 2002 would be the last for the Firebird and Camaro. At least until 2009 when the Camaro returned to the market. With Pontiac going under and gone by 2010, there was no chance of a Firebird revival.