1971 Pontiac Firebird
2dr Hardtop Coupe
8-cyl. 350cid/250hp 2bbl
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With an experienced team and a lot of data.
The muscle car boom was winding down when 1971 models launched in August 1970. Compacts made up the new battlefield. Pontiac wouldn’t have an economy car until the arrival of the Ventura in March of 1971, and that was no more than a Chevy Nova with a split nose.
In preparation for lead-free gas, compression ratios were lowered with a corresponding loss of horsepower. The calculation of horsepower also changed to SAE net figures instead of gross horsepower at the crankshaft. For 1971, manufacturers quoted both net and gross power output, though the net numbers were discouraging. Pontiac had bumped the Trans Am’s 400-cid HO V-8 to 455 cubic inches for 1971, but it still only delivered 305 net bhp instead of 335 bhp under the old system.
Pontiac Firebird sales had been crippled by production delays and the GM strike in 1970, and held to only 48,739 units over a shortened cycle. But the 1971 total of 53,125 units was proportionally worse, and foreshadowed the shape of things to come.
Top dog on the engine front was now a 455-cid V-8, good for 325 bhp (255 net) in normal trim and 335 bhp (305 net) in HO form. There were no high-performance Ram Air III and IV packages available, but Formula 400 hood scoops were functional and the Trans Am had a rear-facing “shaker” scoop attached to the carburetor.
Base Firebird production broke down into 2975 six-cylinder hardtops and 20,047 V-8s. A total of 20,195 Firebird Esprits sold, along with 7802 Firebird 400s. Only 2116 enthusiasts stepped up for a 1971 Firebird Trans Am.
Standard equipment on the 1971 Trans Am included bucket seats, rally gauges with clock and tach, engine-turned dashboard, honeycomb mag wheels, front and rear spoilers, front and rear wheel opening flares and functional extractor on the front fenders, dual exhaust, shaker hood, heavy duty 4-speed or automatic transmission.
Prices rose slightly with the base Firebird beginning at $3047, the Esprit at $3416, the Formula 400 at $3445 and the Trans Am at $4594. As before, options could add $1,000 to the cost of a new car. To simplify production luxury options were now combined and averaged about $500 for the different models, offering savings over a la carte ordering.
Exterior paint options for the 1971 Pontiac Firebird diminished to just 15, including Cameo White (11), Nordic Silver (13), Starlight Black (19), Adriatic Blue (24), Lucerne Blue (26), Limekist Green (42), Tropical Lime (43), Laurentian Green (49), Quetzal Gold (53), Sandalwood (61), Aztec Gold (59), Canyon Copper (62), Castillian Bronze (67), Cardinal Red (R), and Rosewood (78).