1978 Pontiac Firebird
2dr Hardtop Coupe
8-cyl. 305cid/145hp 4bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Pontiac didn’t mess with success for the 1978 Firebird, so the car changed very little in appearance from 1977. However, Firebird Esprit interiors got new seats, upholstery, and door panels as well as a velour option. The biggest changes to 1978 Firebirds took place under the hood, where GM streamlined a muddled range of powerplants.
The base Buick V-6 remained, but a 145-bhp 305-cid Chevrolet V-8 engine replaced the 301 Pontiac unit. Base Firebirds received a 170-bhp Chevrolet-built 350 as an option. Both V-8s lost 10 bhp if coupled with an automatic transmission. Meanwhile, the 400-cid V-8 was now called the “6.6 liter” engine.
Firebird sales jumped another 30,000 units to 187,284 sales, and almost exactly 50 percent were now Trans Ams. Pontiac’s 400 V-8 was used nearly nationwide while the 403 Oldsmobile V-8 was fitted for California and only available with an automatic transmission. Trans Am engine/transmission combinations were recorded.
Base Firebird prices now started at $4842 and attracted 32,671 buyers. Firebird Esprit prices started at $4842 and engines were the same as the base Firebird.
The blue Sky Bird package continued through mid-season when it was replaced by the Red Bird package, with two-tone red paint, vinyl or cloth custom interiors red steering wheel, grille liners and taillight frames, plus red-trimmed snowflake wheels. The Sky Bird package with Lombardy velour cost $461, with Doeskin vinyl it was $426. The Red Bird package with Lombardy cost $465 and with Doeskin $430.
The Formula cost from $5448 and had a new interior, black accented grille and Rally II wheels. Base engine was the 145-bhp 305 but a170-bhp 350 was optional. The 180-bhp 400 L78 was optional, as was the 200-bhp 400 W72. California buyers were limited to the 185-bhp 403 Oldsmobile engine.
The 1978 Firebird Trans Am started at $5799. Engines were the same as 1977, with a few more horsepower. Base engine was the 180-bhp 400 L78. The 200-bhp 400 W72 was optional. California buyers could only buy the 403 Oldsmobile and all were automatics.
All black and gold Special Edition models had T-tops this year. Standard Trans Am equipment included bucket seats, rally gauges with clock and tach, engine-turned dashboard, snowflake mag wheels, front and rear spoilers, front and rear wheel opening flares, functional extractor on the front fenders, dual exhaust, shaker hood, and heavy duty 4-speed or automatic transmission. The 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am was available in Cameo White, Platinum, Starlite Black, Martinique Blue, Chesterfield Brown, Mayan Red and Solar Gold.
Road Test magazine tested a Trans Am against a Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, a Corvette, and a Mustang II King Cobra. The Trans Am won comfortably, covering a quarter0mile in 15.2 seconds at 93.4 mph and hitting a top speed of 123 mph. Pontiac maintained fourth position in U.S. sales with 900,380 units, its second-highest ever total.