Because of the incredible success of the Ford Mustang, General Motors wanted to get its fair share of the pony car market. The Mustang first came out for the 1965 model year (purists will tell you it was ’64 1/2), and it took General Motors a couple of years to create a suitable competitor.
For the 1967 model year General Motors actually attacked the Ford Mustang on two different fronts. The Pontiac division created the Firebird to compete with the Mustang, and Chevrolet came out with the Camaro. Over time, the Camaro came to be thought of as a muscle car rather than a pony car.
The head of the Pontiac division during this era was none other than John DeLorean. He actually had a different car in mind, a sports car that would rival the Chevy Corvette, but General Motors didn’t want to go in that direction. The Firebird became the alternative.
During its first year of production the lower-end engine in the Firebird was an in-line six with a single-barrel carburetor, but they also offered three different V8 options. The most powerful one was the 325 hp, 400 cubic inch Pontiac Ram Air.
The Firebird was quite successful from a sales standpoint, even though it made a late debut in February of 1967. There were a total of 67,032 hardtop coupes produced for that initial model year, and there were 15,526 convertibles manufactured.
It would certainly be nice to own one of the convertibles from that first year of production, given the historical value and the relative rarity of the ’67 ragtops. At the time, the sticker price for a Pontiac Firebird convertible started at around $2900.
That sounds like an incredibly small number these days, but you have to remember that the median annual household income in the United States in 1967 was $7,200.
Firebird sales increased during the sophomore year of production. In all, there were about 107,000 units produced.
The Firebird Trans Am was introduced for the 1969 model year. It was an option that costs $725, and you got the killer rear spoiler as part of the package. These cars are very hard to find these days. Pontiac manufactured 689 Trans Am hard tops, and just eight convertibles.
That was the end of the first generation for the Pontiac Firebird. The car reemerged in 1970 with a very different outward appearance. We will examine the second generation of the Firebird in a future post.