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In the days before the introduction of mandated bumpers that actually protected the body, the 1970 Firebird Formula 400 had a purity of line that was on par with the best designs from Europe. The Pontiac stylists were heavily influenced by the designs coming from the Continent.

Automoblog Book Garage: Pontiac Firebird: 50 Years

Book Garage

This weekend in our Book Garage series, we go back to the 1960s, where one of the most memoriable parts of American history was emerging. The muscle car era was unlike any other, not just in the automotive landscape, but in the entire picture of American culture.

One of the defining moments came when Pontiac Chief Engineer John Z. DeLorean, with Bill Collins and Russ Gee, bolted a 389 ci V8 onto a Tempest chassis prototype for the GTO. It took them 20 minutes to create one of the most successful GM muscle cars ever built.

Competitive Spirit

However, cross town rivals Ford were winning in the sales game with the Mustang, the brainchild of Lee Iacocca. Although a tough sell to then Ford chief Henry Ford II, the Mustang ended up a home run. In response, Pontiac entered the pony car market in 1967 with the Firebird. The car is now famed as a “greatest hit” of the muscle car years, but at the time, it was aimed squarely at the Mustang.

Eventually the top Firebird model, the Trans Am, became the pinnacle for automotive performance in the United States, carrying the muscle car banner through the 1970s and 80s.

Pontiac Firebird: 50 Years chronicles the Firebird’s legacy, from the initial attempts to capture the market in the early 1960s, through the glory days of the muscle car era, to the resurgence of performance in the 1980s.


David Newhardt is one of the top automotive photographers today; a lot of the photography in this incredible book is his. He has provided photography for best-selling Motorbooks titles like Muscle: America’s Legendary Performance Cars, Corvette: Fifty Years, Mustang: Forty Years, Mopar Muscle: Fifty Years, and Shelby Mustang: Racer for the Street.

Pontiac Firebird: 50 Years will be available soon from Motorbooks or you can preorder today on Amazon.

Pontiac Firebird: 50 Years Gallery

Last weekend in the Automoblog Book Garage we featured some impressive hot rods.