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My 1988 Pontiac Firebird

1988 Pontiac Firebird.
David Burrell
News Community Newspapers

20 Jun 2013 • 3 min read

...because I'm invariably asked "and what car do you own?"

Right now I have a 1988 Pontiac Formula Firebird. Until recently I also had a 1961 Pontiac Laurentian and a 1964 Pontiac Parisienne. They have now gone to other owners who will enjoy the excitement of negotiating suburban streets in those drum braked, two by six metre land yachts.

The Formula Firebird was the cheap version of the Trans Am, and I can tell you the emphasis was very much on cheap and not on the Trans. This is a poverty pack vehicle all the way-manual windows, manual seat adjustment, a simple AM/FM radio/cassette and the base level 5.0-litre V8 with the throttle body "injection "(a smart name for what is really a carburettor).


The motor pumps out a miserable 127kW and despite the lack of horsepower the fuel consumption is epic. A good day gets me 15 litres/100km on premium unleaded.  So why a Firebird? It's all about the styling!

The sleek, low slung shape is classic 'pony car': an ultra long hood and short rear deck. It makes for drop dead looks. The car stands a mere 1.2 metres off the ground and the windscreen is raked back at an aggressive 62 degrees.

You do not open the door and get into a Firebird. Rather, you lower yourself down into the velour seat. It is a practised art. The back "seat "is two small cushions with the transmission tunnel serving as the arm rest. I said this car is low!

Being 24 years and 160,000km old it does need attention every so often. There's no rust and the lack of power accessories cuts down on potential electrical and mechanical problems, but it's the small things, like switches and interior trim pieces, which are fiddly to replace.

I have it serviced every three to four months if only as insurance against a major mechanical failure.

I drive it like it almost every day. It goes out in the rain and to supermarket cars parks. GM made nearly one million of Firebird/Comaros in 10 years, so spares are not a problem.

What's it worth? Not much really, but who cares? It is bright red and a lot of fun. And those drop dead looks!

David Burrell is the editor of www.retroautos.com.au