Handling was the big thing about the 3rd generation Pontiac Firebird. F-body platform went through many tests including aerodynamic tunnel – in this way Firebird became the most aerodynamic GM’s product. The Bird even had functional wheel caps [aka, “Bowling Ball”] and spoiler. It became 227 kg lighter, got a windshield that was 3 degrees steeper than anything else in GM [60 degree] and had good metal structure to support glass-dominating hatchback. The engine variety was from 2.5 liter 2-barrel I4 to 5.7 liter Tuned Port Injection V8.
Even though 3rd gen Firebird had 3 1982 models – Firebird, Firebird S/E and Firebird Trans Am [Formula was retired] – it had about 60% part-share with Camaro. It was more than ever before. Firebird remained Pontiac’s standard model, while S/E was a mid-level luxury version which could have almost any option as Trans Am. Still, T/A was a performance-level Bird. At first, T/A was planned to use refined 4.9 liter engine, but it was scrapped at the last minute. The Black and Gold Trans Am S/E continued with its new form – Recaro T/A. Very limited Bright Red Pontiac Trans Am was selected to pace Daytona 500 races in 1982.
There were many interior features to choose from and a few engines. The fuel-economy minded 2.5 liter 4 cylinder fuel-injected engine had 90 HP and was the first Pontiac’s 4 cylinder engine – the standard one. Sadly, it also was the last truly-pontiac designed engine. There also were 2.8 liter V6 [102 HP] and 2 units of Chevrolet 5.0 liter V8 [305 cubic]. LG4 was the most common one and had Computer Comand Control electronically assisted carburetor system – 145 HP. An other 305 cubic engine was the new LU5 Crossfire with fuel injection [165 HP]. It could be matched with 3-speed automatic or 4 speed manual transmissions.
Pontiac Firebird has faced some interior changes and was again selected to pace Daytona 500 races in 1983. This time Pontiac took full advantage of this occasion and delivered 2500 replicas with full package of aerodynamic ground effects through dealerships. Two new transmissions were released that year too – 4-speed automatic and 5-speed manual. In the middle of 1983 CCC controlled H.O. 5 liter Chevy engine was released. It had its own version of cold air induction system and produced 190 HP. During the next year, 1984, Firebird achieved highest 3rd gen sales, discontinued problematic 305 Crossfire engine, featured new automatic gearbox and manual one with hydraulic clutch, revised Recaro T/A trim and celebrated its 15th Anniversary. The Anniversary model was a spectacular White and Blue Trans Am and was limited to 1500 units.
The 1985 Pontiac Firebird got significant facelift, redesigned interior and various improvements. 2.8 liter V6 was now replaced with the new multi-port-fuel-injected 2.8 liter V6 that made 135 HP. Trans Am model got new 5.0 liter fuel-injected Chevy V8 [LB9] producing 210 HP. LB9 did not feature manual T5 transmission, so automatic one was offered only with 5.0 liter LG4 and L69 engines. 1986 model received new tail light design and 3rd brake light. The standard 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine was replaced with 2.8 liter V6. Overheating problems caused the discontinuation of L69 engine.
1987 was the grand return of Firebird Formula model – S/E was discontinued. Formula model marked Pontiac’s effort to revive performance – 3 V8s were offered. 1987 saw the release of GTA – the luxurious Trans Am version which was available in a variety of colors and options. In 1988, Firebird faced some changes and also was available in Z20 appearance package. The new GTA notchback was released too – it had flat rear window [similar to Fiero one. 1989 marked to special model – Indy 500 pace car and 20th anniversary Turbo Trans Am [TTA] which was based on GTA. TTA was equipped with turbocharged 3.8 liter V6 from Buick and was seriously fast car.
1991 Pontiac Firebird model was restyled and got new nose design, new ground effects. Formula model received new flat rear spoiler and no ground effects. It also was the only 3rg gen T-top Trans Am. GTA was updated with new 2-piece tail lights. Special high performance Firehawk SLP Firebird Formula was available through dealerships. 1991 was also a return of convertible body [done by ASC]. 1992 was the last year for the 3rd generation Pontiac Firebird.