On February 26, 1970 Pontiac debuted the all new Firebird mades its debut at the Chicago Auto Show. Due to the delay in its introduction many dealers sold 1969 Firebirds as 1970 models causing many to refer to this model as the 1970 1/2. This model is the true 1970 Firebird and the '69s that were sold as '70s each had VIN numbers identifying them as '69s. The new Firebird was sleek, clean, and unlike any other car before it or since. To simplify the model lineup Pontiac reduced the available model selection from five to four organized into more discernable functions: the base Firebird was the least expensive entry level model; the Esprit was optioned with additional luxury appointments; the Formula 400 for performance-minded buyers offering muscle car performance at a great price; and the Trans Am for the serious driver, complete with all the high performance options.
The base Firebird was the bargain 'bird equipped with a Chevrolet-built 6 cylinder engine. The 350 was available as an upgrade. The Esprit was more luxury oriented with the upgraded custom interior as standard equipment along with bright moldings around the hood, doors and wheel lips. The Esprit also had a wider chrome molding on the rocker panel that was strictly unique to this model. The standard engine for Esprit was the 2bbl 350. The 400 2bbl as an option. Next up was Formula 400 with unique dual snorkel hood scoops and a standard 400 4bbl with the venerable Ram Air III 400 as an option. Last, but certainly not least was Trans Am with front and rear spoilers, a shaker scoop protruding through the hood, wheel flares, and racing stripes. Trans Am was only available in white with blue stripes or blue with white stripes from 1970 to 1972. The Ram Air III 400 was standard in Trans Am while the Ram Air IV 400, designed for racing primarily, was available throgh the back door using a special order form. With this being the case the Ram Air IV is extremely rare and very desirable.
It can be difficult to tell a 1970 Firebird from its 1971 and 1972 variants looking at one from the outside. The most distinctive characteristic of a '70 is the front seats with a unique low back design with separated head rests. 1971 and 1972 models had a one piece back with no headrests. The 1970 and 1971 models shared the front grille design with a fine square grate inset into the nose where the 1972 model displayed an elongated honeycomb grille design. To tell a 1970 Firebird from the 1971 look for the vent on the lower fender that is only found on '71s. Trans Ams did not have this fender vent and since both variants came in blue and white with opposite stripes look for the hood scoop. A correct 1970 hood scoop has no decals where the 1971 and 1972 would call out 455-HO.
1970 Production Numbers
1970 Base Firebird Production
1970 Esprit Production
1970 Formula Production
1970 Trans Am Production
|400cid Ram Air III||1,769||1,339||3,108|
|400cid Ram Air IV|
High Performance Pontiac magazine in its September 2007 issue listed a breakdown of Ram Air IV cars. According to HPP 63 of the RA IV cars were Polar White while only 25 were Lucerne Blue. Of the Lucerne Blue cars 22 were built in Norwood OH and only 3 at the Van Nuys Firebird production facility.
Firebird Optional Equipment
|6 Cylinder Engine||3,134||6.4*|
|Front Wheel Disc Brakes||30,706**||63.0*|
|Limited Slip Differential||8,188**||16.8*|
|Adjustable Steering Column||2,561||5.3*|
Source: The Fabulous Firebird by Michael Lamm
* Source: Firebird! America's Premiere Performance Car by Gary Witzenburg
**Source: Estimated based on percentages published in Witzenburg's Firebird!
***Derived from subtracting Auto and 4 speed from toatl production
Note: Numbers published in Fabulous Firebird may not correlate with percentages published in Firebird! America's Premiere Performance Car.