Pontiac Firebird

1978 Pontiac Firebird

“Hearts flutter at its mere mention. And start beating madly with the very first sight…” 1978 Firebird brochure

  • Gold, Blue and Red Trans Am Special Editions also were introduced.
  • Horsepower increased on the 400 CID V8 for the first time since 1974.
  • The grilles were slightly revised to distinguish the cars from the 1977 models.

Muscle Car Specifications

Performance Model
1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Zero to Sixty
6.5 sec
Quarter Mile
15.3 sec

With sales skyrocketing, Pontiac didn’t feel the need to change very much on the 1978 models, and the cars were essentially a carry over from the previous year. However, a few small changes distinguished the cars from those of the previous year.

Retaining the “Batmobile” nose that had been introduced in 1977, the grilles were revised into a honey comb pattern, most of which were black (the black and gold Special Edition Trans Ams were the exception). Additionally, the Trans Am logo was slightly revised. Around mid year, the taillight surrounds were changed from body color to black.

Under the hood, Pontiac was finally making an effort to reverse the trend of declining power. In an age of rising gas prices and insurance premiums, horsepower for nearly all cars had been falling to compete with the new slew of very popular compact cars (with many more to come). But the 400 CID V8 added 40 horsepower from the year before with a total of 220.

Other engine options remained nearly identical to 1977 models, and the base engine was a Buick 231 six-cylinder producing 105 horsepower. A 305 CID V8 was standard for both the Esprit and Formula models and produced 145 horsepower. This replaced a 301 engine that had been used for one year in 1977. Three 350 CID V8s were available, and produced either 155 or 170 horsepower. The former output was only available in California to meet the state’s emissions requirements. Finally, two 400 CID V8s were available. In addition to the aforementioned model that was optional for the Trans Am and produced 220 horsepower, another version returned from the previous year and was rated at 180 horsepower.

Once again, total production was up, this time to 187,285, and this number would cross the 200,000 mark the following year.

Base Firebird

The base model included the six-cylinder engine, and was priced at $4,545. 32,672 were built throughout the model year.


Touted as the luxury model Firebird, the Esprit model included a standard 305 V8 engine and a unique trim package. It was the second best selling Firebird model behind the Trans Am, and production for the model year was 32,672.

Firebird Formula

Like the Esprit, the Formula models also included the 305 engine, but also included a heavy duty suspension for better handling. Production of the car was at 24,346 for the year, and the car had a base price of $5,448.

Trans Am

As it had been since 1975, the ever more popular Trans Am was the best selling Firebird model. In fact, almost half of all Firebirds produced in 1978 were Trans Am models. Sales would continue to grow, and well over half of the Firebirds produced in 1979 would be Trans Ams.

Pony Car Competition

Firebird and the Chevy Camaro were the only cars of the original pony car class that could still be considered pony cars in 1978, and the lack of competition boosted sales numbers of both car models. With the Mustang now a compact car and the Cougar now a mid-sized luxury car, both the Firebird and Camaro would enjoy increasing sales through the end of the decade. Camaro production in 1978 was a staggering 272,631, though Firebird had the car beat in terms of available power.

Engine Specifications

Type Size Carb Horse Power Tourqe
V6 231ci 1x2bbl 105 hp @ 3400 rpm 185 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
LM1 305ci 1x4bbl 170 hp @ 4800 rpm 270 lb-ft @ 2400 rpm
LG3 305ci 1x2bbl 145 hp @ 3800 rpm 245 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
W72 400ci 1x4bbl 200 hp @ 4000 rpm 320 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm
L78 400ci 1x4bbl 180 hp @ 3600 rpm 325 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
L80 403ci 1x4bbl 185 hp @ 3600 rpm 320 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm

Performance Statistics


0 to 60 mph Quarter Mile Engine Source
6.5 sec 15.3 sec

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