Pontiac’s days of building excitement are long gone, though the brand arguably faded into the sunset long before the division was axed in 2009 as part of the fallout of General Motors’ bankruptcy.
Yet old Pontiacs are getting a second life in the world of collector cars as values of many classics, good and bad, continue to soar in value, and for true Pontiac enthusiasts the Firebird is impossible to ignore, especially the Trans Am version made famous in the 1977 hit movie “Smokey and the Bandit” starring Burt Reynolds.
Jay Leno in the latest episode of his online series “Jay Leno’s Garage” took a close look at a near-perfect 1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am finished in the same black and gold as the movie car. While he’s no fan of the chicken on the hood, he appreciates the car and the way it drives. He couldn’t drive it too hard, though. This particular example normally resides in a museum, the Audrain Auto Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, to be specific.
This one has the 400-cubic inch V-8 that was offered in 1979, which is good for about 220 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. This example also has a 4-speed manual which, as Leno rightly points out, only adds to the fun.
The 1979 model year was a final holdout for the Firebird Trans Am before new emissions and fuel economy regulations seriously capped performance in the years ahead. But the Firebird Trans Am was never about only going fast; it was about looking and sounding right, something Leno definitely understands.