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Protect your 1980 Pontiac Firebird from the unexpected.
The year 1980 was not a good one for the industry and Pontiac Firebird sales fell off in a big way. The Trans Am suffered particularly hard as total sales dropped 56 percent, despite offering 11 different models (including an Indy Pace Car) with five different engines, including a Turbo V-8.
Base prices jumped more than $300 for each model in the spring, while the highest horsepower available was 210 bhp, from the new turbocharged 4.9-liter V-8. A total of 23,422 Trans Ams and Formulas were fitted with this engine. Ward’s Automotive Yearbook reported all 1980 Pontiac Firebirds featured automatic transmissions.
Firebirds changed little in appearance from 1979, the main exception being the introduction of an off-center hood power bulge for the Turbo engine, with a different screaming eagle decal. The Esprit was offered with a Yellow Bird package this year, replacing the Red Bird, but the Black Bird special edition continued. New Turbo mag wheels debuted and eventually were available across the Firebird range. Firebird Formula models also gained blacked-out taillights and twin split exhausts like the Trans Am. T-top production was limited to 35 percent of 1980 Firebird output.
Base Firebirds now started at $5604 with a Buick V-6 and $5784 with a 140-bhp 301 Pontiac V-8. The base engine for California was a 150-bhp Chevrolet 305 V-8 and all California cars were fitted with air conditioning. Esprit prices began at $5967, Formula at $6955, and Trans Am from $7179. The 1980 Indy Pace Car was white over gray with special decals and the 301 turbo engine. The Indy Pace Car cost a staggering $11,194, with an additional 14 more options available.
Many black and gold Special Editions had T-tops in 1980. Trans Am equipment included bucket seats, rally gauges with clock and tach, engine-turned dashboard, snowflake or Turbo mag wheels, front and rear spoilers, front and rear wheel opening flares, functional extractor on the front fenders, dual exhaust with split tips, and power bulge hood. The Trans Am Special Edition package cost $1443 with T-tops, or $748 without that feature.
The 1980 Pontiac Firebird was available in 15 exterior paint colors, including Cameo White (11), Platinum (15), Starlight Black (19), Tahoe Blue (24), Nightwatch Blue (29), Yellowbird Accent (37), Tahitian Yellow (51), Yellowbird Edition (56), Solar Gold (57), Barclay Brown (67), Francisco Red (72), Montreux Maroon (76), Carousel Red (79), Fiero Bronze (80), and Ontario Gray (84).
Car and Driver tested a 1980 Turbo Trans Am with the 210-bhp LU8 engine. The results were modest but respectable, with 0-60 mph in 8.2 seconds and a quarter-mile in 16.7 seconds at 86 mph. Motor Trend was blunt: “We had the distinct impression we were driving a normally aspirated 350 two-barrel Firebird of several years ago.” Pontiac slipped to fifth place in the sales race behind Buick in the U.S. market.