1977 Pontiac Firebird
2dr Hardtop Coupe
8-cyl. 305cid/145hp 2bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
In 1977, the Trans Am entered history in an unlikely way when stunt man Hal Needham directed Smokey and the Bandit about smuggling a semi-truck of Coors beer from Texas to Georgia, where it was banned. Burt Reynolds and a black Pontiac Trans Am were the iconic stars of the joyful road movie, and irrevocably connected to it.
Needham planned to make Smokey and the Bandit for $1M, then showed the script to his friend Burt Reynolds, who said it was the worst he’d ever read but he’d do it. The resulting film featured 96 minutes of jokes, chases, and high-speed crashes.
Needham had seen ads for the new 1977 Trans Am and approached Pontiac, which provided four Trans Ams (actually 1976 models with ’77 front ends) and two Le Mans sedans. The film became the second-highest grossing movie of 1977 at $126,737,428.
Back in the real world, the 1977 Pontiac Firebird received an aggressive front end redesign, with four square headlights in the grille and an extended, vee-shaped bumper below it. Firebird sales soared to 155,735 units and almost half of them were Trans Ams.
Prices rose sharply and the base Firebird now started at $4270, attracting 30,642 buyers. The luxury Esprit cost from $4551 and 34,548 were sold. The Formula was basically a stripped Trans Am and 21,801 were sold to enthusiasts who paid upwards of $4977. The Trans Am was the ultimate Firebird and listed from $5456 for the standard model, which found 53,174 buyers. The Limited Edition Y81 Trans Am without T-tops found 1861 buyers, while the Limited Edition Y82 with T-tops was sold to 13,706 drivers who missed convertibles.
Engine choices were more complicated this year. The base engine was now a Buick V-6, which could be ordered in the base Firebird or the Firebird Esprit. Optional V-8s for both of those models included the 135-bhp 301 and the 170-bhp 350 L34 and L76. Base engine for the Formula was the 135-bhp 301 but the 170-bhp L34 (California) and L75 V-8s were optional for $155. In addition, two 400 V-8s were optional – the 180-bhp L78 ($155) and the 200-bhp W72 ($205). California buyers could only buy the 403-cid 185-bhp unit for $155. A 3-speed manual gearbox was standard but a 4-speed was available with V-8 engines and a Turbo-Hydra-Matic with all engines.
The basic Trans Am was available with the 180-bhp 400 L7 and 29,313 were sold, all with automatic transmissions. The 200-bhp W72 400 was optional and attracted 18,785 buyers. California buyers were limited to the 185-bhp 403.
The Trans Am Y81 Special Edition (no T-tops) with the L78 attracted 748 buyers, all automatic. The W72 attracted 933 buyers. California buyers were confined to the 185-bhp 403. The Trans Am Y82 (T-tops) with the L78 attracted 6030 buyers, all automatic. The W72 attracted 6459 buyers. Again, California buyers could only get the 403.
Special packages were becoming a feature of the Firebirds as they moved up-market with little competition. The Y82 Trans Am Limited Edition T-top package cost an impressive $1143. The Y82 Trans Am Limited Edition package cost $556. The W50 Formula package with a choice of six two-tone colors, decals and stripe cost $127. Two Sky Bird W60 Esprit packages were available with two-tone blue exteriors and custom blue interiors. The Lombardy trim package cost $342 and the Doeskin trim cost $315.
The April 1977 issue of Car and Driver tested a W72 4-speed Trans Am, which managed 0-60 mph in 9.3 seconds and a quarter-mile in 16.9 seconds at 82 mph. On the bright side, the V-6 powered models delivered up to 18.5 mpg. Pontiac maintained fourth position in U.S. sales with 850,620 units.