Almost everyone has an opinion about Pontiac Firebirds. Ours, for the record, is that they’re pretty great. Spanning 35 years, four generations, and myriad high-performance variations—not to mention three Smokey and the Bandit movies, Knight Rider, and countless other cultural touchstones—the Firebird transcends typical collecting considerations and cuts to the core reason most of us like old cars—they’re fun. Although most were relatively affordable when new and remain so today, a select few have appreciated into exotic-car territory. We looked at each generation, and here are the most expensive cars from each series.
First Generation (1967-1969): 1969 Firebird Trans Am Convertible
#2 (Excellent) condition average value: $1,000,000
1969 is when it all started, Pontiac introduced the famous Trans Am to the Firebird lineup. Aside from the famous Cameo White body with Tyrol Blue stripes, the Trans Am included plenty of other upgrades. This included a standard Ram Air III 400-cid engine, with the optional Ram Air IV, heavy duty suspension and quicker ratio steering. Trans Ams are very uncommon to start with.
Only 697 total cars were produced, so they bring six-figures for any car in excellent condition. Convertibles are a completely different story, though, with eight being produced. While all are equipped with the less powerful Ram Air III engine, a pristine T/A Convertible is easily a seven-figure car. Being even rarer than a Hemi Cuda Convertible, these cars come up for sale just about as infrequently.
Second Generation (1970-1981): 1970 Firebird Trans Am 400/370-hp Ram Air IV Coupe
#2 (Excellent) condition average value: $172,000
Although the second-gen Firebird achieved pop-culture fame in its later years—think, T-Tops and screaming chicken—serious collectors prefer the high horsepower, tightly wound thoroughbreds of the early ’70s. It should thus come as no surprise that a the most expensive of this era would be an early Trans Am. For the first few years of Trans Am production, numbers were the lowest and the most sought after engine options were offered. One of the rarest being the Ram Air IV. Pontiac offered this engine (distinguished by round-port, high-compression cylinder heads) in the Trans Am for only two years, producing only 88 of the cars. The Ram Air IV T/A is closely followed in value by the 455 Super Duty equipped cars in 1973.
Third Generation (1982-1992): 1992 Firebird SLP Firehawk Coupe
#2 (Excellent) condition average value: $61,000
GM discontinued production of Pontiac V-8 engines in 1981, forcing the third-gen Firebird to find other ways to distinguish itself from its Chevrolet twin, the Camaro.
The Firebird of this era that managed to do that well is the Firehawk, built by Street Legal Performance (SLP). While SLP was technically an outside tuning company, you could walk into your Pontiac dealer and order yourself a Firehawk using option code B4U. This got you a fire breathing Firebird making 350-hp out of it’s 350-Chevy engine and a number of additional braking and handling upgrades. With 25 cars produced in total, these represent the top end in terms of both performance and value, for F-Bodies. The very best of these cars can flirt with the $100,000 mark. Given how rarely they come up for sale, we wouldn’t be surprised to see these continue to climb.
Fourth Generation (1993-2002): 1997 Firebird SLP Firehawk 350/330-hp LT4 Coupe
#2 (Excellent) condition average value: $59,600
The final series of Firebird launched in 1993, lasting nine years with a final send off in 2002. Traditionally, the very last year of any significant car will bring the most money, this is not the case with 4th Gen Firebirds. It takes a truly special car to make that happen and the 1997 SLP Firehawk equipped with the LT4 engine is it.
The Firebird would see a major face lift and a complete engine change in 1998 to the LS platform; however for 1997, SLP had a few tricks hidden up its sleeve. It sourced a number of LT4 engines used in the Corvette program, most notably in the Grand Sport. SLP would install the LT4 in just 29 Firehawks (and 100 Camaros). Like the third-gen Firehawk, these cars rarely come up for sale and are highly coveted by Pontiac enthusiasts.