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Happy 30th Anniversary: Third Generation Firebirds 1982 -1992

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Happy 30th Anniversary: Third Generation Firebirds 1982 -1992

Post by 69_RAG_TOP on Sat Nov 19, 2011 9:27 pm

Happy 30th Anniversary: Third Generation Firebirds 1982 -1992

It is the 30th anniversary of the third generation Firebird and Trans Am.

Launched in the fall of 1981, the third generation Firebirds started arriving in dealer showrooms thirty years ago this month.

3rd Generation 1982 -1992

1983 Pontiac TransAm
Information adapted and footnoted from Third Generation page at [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

The third generation Firebird debuted with an all new body style that was lower and more angular than the second generation. The car featured unibody construction and a hatchback body that was different from the second generation which had been manufactured using body on frame construction. Firebird received a new front end and rear tail assembly which made the car look very different from the Chevrolet Camaro. Both F-body cars were very similar using interchangable chassis design and common mechanical components. Both cars shared similar General Motors engines which saved the company millions of dollars using the same power plants in common body styles. While this saved GM money, the legendary Pontiac engines of the past that set the division apart were gone.

The third generation Firebird was launched in 1982. The car was all new with a long angular hood and a short trunk deck. . The nose had retractable headlights and a wedge shaped front end . The new 3rd generation Firebird downsized from the heftier muscle cars. It shrunk an inch and lost 500 pounds. The body styling was completely new and emphasized aerodynamics. It had a new 62 degree angle front windshield, split grilles which sat inside air slots in the ultra-low nose, which had now electrically opened quartz-halogen headlamps or "flip-top lights". The Trans Am hoods now featured an off-center power blister with their fresh-air induction system for the CFI.

The 82 Trans Am had two different engine options available. One, was an 145 horsepower 4 BBl carbureted version, while the other, was an 165 horsepower Cross-Fire Fuel Injection model. The interior was re-designed with a full-length console.

The models available to customers were cut down to Base, S/E and Trans Am. Base cars had as a standard engine the "Iron Duke" 2.5 liter OHV inline four cylinder engine rated at a 90 bhp which was not enough power for an automobile of this size. Most of the car buyers bought either the S/E equipped with the 2.8 liter OHV V6 rated at 105 bhp or one of the available V8 engines. Optional in the Base and S/E models and standard in the Trans Am was a (5.0 L) 305 cid V8 with four barrel carburetor rated at 145 bhp. This engine was available with either a four-speed manual transmission or three-speed automatic. Another option for the Trans Am was the unreliable "Cross-Fire Injection" V8 engine which used Throttle Body Injection to produce 165 bhp and was only available with automatic transmission. But the big news for Firebird fans was the debut of "Kitt", a talking Black Trans Am from the hit TV show "Knight Rider", which improved the Firebird's attractiveness. Engines that were available in 1983 were the 2.5 liter I4 90 bhp. 2.8 liter V6 105 bhp. 5.0 liter V8 145 bhp. 5.0 liter ("Cross-Fire Injection) V8 165 bhp.

Not much changed for 1984 except for the delayed availability of the L69 engine and the elimination of the Cross-Fire Injection V8. A limited and unique white with blue trim 15th Anniversary Trans Am was offered that featured Recarro seats.
Engines that were available in 1984 were the 2.5 liter I4 90 bhp. 2.8 liter V6 125 bhp. 5.0 liter V8 145 bhp. L69 5.0 liter V8 190 bhp.

The 1985 Firebird was restyled with a minor change to the nose, new taillights, and full rocker and quarter panel extensions on the Trans Am to present it with a more aggressive appearance. The 5.0 liter V8 was now available with Tuned Port Injection which permitted it to produce 205 bhp, although it could only be ordered with the four-speed automatic


A new WS6 suspension package was available on the Trans Am, which also included 16-inch wheels with P245/50VR16 tires. Engines that were available were the 2.5 liter I4 90 bhp. 2.8 liter V6 125 bhp. 5.0 liter V8 145 bhp. 5.0 liter TPI V8 205 bhp.

A new 5.7 liter (350 cid) V8 with Throttle Body Injection was introduced for model year1987. Even though it was rated at 210 bhp and only available with the four speed automatic transmission, the engine's high torque made it the best engine ever installed in a 3rd generation Firebird. The 5.0 liter TPI engine was now available with a manual transmission. To make the Firebird attractive, Pontiac cut the S/E model and eliminated the weak four cylinder engine. A new budget performance model, the Formula 305, joined the lineup as well as a new top of the line Trans Am called the GTA.

Engines that were available in 1987 were the 2.8 liter V6 125 bhp. 5.0 liter V8 145 bhp. 5.0 liter TPI V8 205 bhp. 5.7 liter TPI V8 210 bhp.

There were a few changes for 1988 including a new steering wheel, new wheels for the Formulas, and new radios. The carbureted 5.0 V8 finally disappeared. Engines that were available in 1988 were the 2.8 liter V6 125 bhp. 5.0 liter TPI V8 205 bhp. 5.7 liter TPI V8 210 bhp.

Pontiac produced a special 20th Anniversary edition Trans Am for 1989 by borrowing engine and components from the Buick division. Pontiac acquired the Buick turbo-charged 3.8 liter V6, the same engine used in Buick Gran Nationals and GNX. Pontiac adapted the cylinder heads and turbo intake, and fitted it into the Firebird engine bay with a four-speed automatic as the only available transmission. Pontiac rated the engine at 250 bhp, but most independent testers felt that it made closer to 300 bhp. The turbo TransAm was moderately easy to drive and pretty fast. Additionally, Trans Am GTAs could also be ordered with a limited number of notchback-style hatchbacks which gave the car the look of a coupe. Engines that were available in 1989 were the 2.8 liter V6 125 bhp. 5.0 liter TPI V8 205 bhp. 5.7 liter TPI V8 210 bhp. Performance was 3.8/250: 1/4 mile in 14.2 seconds @ 97.8 mph.

In 1990 the turbo-charged engine from Buick was eliminated, so Firebirds went back to their regular engine choices. The base V6 was increased to 3.1 liters displacement and rated at 135 bhp. Engines that were available were the 3.1 liter V6 135 bhp. 5.0 liter TPI V8 205 bhp. 5.7 liter TPI V8 210 bhp.

A new front end was introduced for 1991. Some critics thought it was unattractive, while others thought it made the Firebird more forceful and powerful looking. The thrilling news was the arrival of the convertible Firebird, the first top down model since 1969. Everything else was carry over from the earlier model year. Engines that were available were the 3.1 liter V6 135 bhp. 5.0 liter TPI V8 205 bhp. 5.7 liter TPI V8 210 bhp.

There were little changes for the 1992 Firebird, the last year of the 3rd generation. GM added some bonding agents and insulation to the joints and interior panels of the car to quiet noises, and the Performance Equipment Group increased the output of the TPI 5.7 liter V8 to 230 bhp. Engines that were available in 1991 were the 3.1 liter V6 135 bhp. 5.0 liter TPI V8 230 bhp. 5.7 liter TPI V8 210 bhp.1

Source document: History of the Pontiac Firebird TransAm Third Generation page located at [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

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Get your motor runnin'. Head out on the highway Lookin' for adventure. And whatever comes our way. 1978 Pontiac Trans Am WS6, W72 Engine. bored .030 over Coded WC, 4-speed, Forged rods, pistons, 6X Heads Hays performance clutch, Flowmaster 40 Series 3" stainless dual exhaust, Hooker super competition, Ceramic coated long tube headers, 4 core HD radiator, Edelbrock Performer Series Carb
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Re: Happy 30th Anniversary: Third Generation Firebirds 1982 -1992

Post by Steve on Sat Nov 19, 2011 9:52 pm

I always lied third gens. Interestingly I went to a Pontiac dealer in 1982 with my Dad. There was a black and gold Trans Am on the showroom floor with no hood bulge. It turns out the only way to get the hood scoop was by ordering the cross fire injected. The engine seem to be well received but not duarable due to some warping on the throttle bosy assembly.



I still beleive that the '89 Turbo Pace Car is still the fastest Trans Am made as a production Trans Am. I am pretty sure it beat the SD 455 hands down in showroom stock form.
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Re: Happy 30th Anniversary: Third Generation Firebirds 1982 -1992

Post by 69_RAG_TOP on Sat Nov 19, 2011 10:14 pm


Steve,

I think that the 1989 Turbo Pace Car is still the fastest Trans Am made as a production Trans Am.

It was rated by Road & Track performance testing as taking 4.6 seconds to go zero to 60 mph and a quarter mile of 13.2 seconds.

And this is with a turbo charged V6 engine! The only V6 in a Trans Am.

I would love to see a showdown with the SD 455 and Turbo Trans Am in showroom stock form.


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Get your motor runnin'. Head out on the highway Lookin' for adventure. And whatever comes our way. 1978 Pontiac Trans Am WS6, W72 Engine. bored .030 over Coded WC, 4-speed, Forged rods, pistons, 6X Heads Hays performance clutch, Flowmaster 40 Series 3" stainless dual exhaust, Hooker super competition, Ceramic coated long tube headers, 4 core HD radiator, Edelbrock Performer Series Carb
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Re: Happy 30th Anniversary: Third Generation Firebirds 1982 -1992

Post by Steve on Sun Nov 20, 2011 1:33 pm

Every time you see a comparison done comtemporarily there is always some caveat. Sometimes carbs are changed, or cams added. It is hard to say if you can really get a good test of a factory equipped car all these years later.

Car and Driver in 1973 clocked a '73 SD-455 at 13.8 seconds in the quarter mile and 5.4 seconds 0 to 60. Presumably that car was in tip top factory shape but even those tests were sometimes cheated. Of course it can always be argued that the '89's tire technology was far superior, which is true. The '89 also had air conditioning and t-tops and other luxurious appointments.

Will we ever know what the fastest factory Firebird was? Maybe it is irrelavent since a 2012 Toyota Camry can outrun most of them. My instinct says that the '89 was probably the fastest Firebird ever. We may never know.
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