1979 Firebirds

Pontiac originally planned to use the '77, '78 front end for the remainder of the second generation production run but when John Schinella showed the new "grilleless" design to Alex Mair, the Pontiac GM, he went "through the ceiling" and funding was procured for a new facelift. A new front end with the air intake down low, a breathtaking new rear end with a full width tail lamp (blacked out in Formula and Trans Am) and newly redesigned spoilers all around reamin controversial to Firebird enthusiast to this day..you either love it or hate it. In 1979 there was no controversy and the buying public went crazy for the new Firebird hitting a sales record that has never been beaten since by the Firebird line. At 211,453 units sales were up almost 13% more than 1978 with Trans Am accounting for more than half.
1979 Firebird Esprit
To celebrate the introduction of the Trans Am in 1969 a new model, the Tenth Anniversary Trans Am was available. Stunning in its Platinum paint with Charcoal two tone the TATA was a hit. The TATA also featured mirrored T-Tops, leather seats, and a huge hood bird that overlapped the front fenders. Black and red striping accented all body lines similar to the Special Editions along with one off name decals on the fenders and rear spoiler. The TATA was considered a separate model with the VIN stamped X87 instead of W87 and came standard with every factory option. The only choice the consumer got was engine choice, either the Oldsmobile 403 with Automatic transmission or the Pontiac 400 with manual 4 speed. With the 400 engine cruise control was deleted since this was not available with manula transmissions. The Tenth Anniversary Trans Am was the first Firebird to break the $10,000 cost at $10,620.
The Black Special Edition and Esprit Redbird were continued from 1978 in two tone red with gold accents. Black and Gold Special Editions with the W72 400 are very rare with only 1107 made making this even more rare than the Tenth Anniversary Trans Am with the same engine at 1817. The W50 Formula Appearance Package was continued but standard Formulas now had two tone paint very similar to the W50 without the FORMULA door decal or painted hood scoops. The W50 cars now loudly proclaimed FORMULA on the rear spoiler as well while standard Formula's carried the spoiler bird decal.
In the engine bay the big block would make its last appearance as strict new emmissions laws for 1980 would kill the engine altogther. Only 8.672 of the last Pontiac made 400 cubic inch engines were saved for installation as an option in Formula and Trans Am. The Oldsmobile 403 was also destined for extinction and came standard in Trans Am, optional in Formula. The Trans Am could be had with a 4bbl 301, the first year a small block would be installed under the hood of a TA, and was offerred as a credit option. Base Firebird and Esprit continued with the Buick 231 V-6 as standard equipment and could be had with either the 2bbl or 4bbl 301. In high altitude areas you could also get the Chevrolet 350 for the last time. For Califormia cars the Chevrolet 305 was the only option. Formula had the 2bbl 301 as standard equipment but could be had with the 4bbl 301, the 403, or the 400 except in California where the 305 was standard. The 350 was required in Formula as well in high altitude areas.
Formula and Trans Am were offerred with four wheel disc brakes this year as part of the WS6 performance package that included larger sway bars and wider 8 inch wheels. Pontiac could not keep up with demand causing them to offer the WS7 package that included everything from the WS6 package withour four wheel disc brakes.
Identifying a '79 from its predecessors is easy but '79 to '81 versions are almost identical. The '81 has a small bird relief in the center of the tail lamps but this is easily, and often, replaced. For standard interior equipped cars you can tell by the vertical ribs at the upper section of the seat that were smooth in '80 to '81. Trans Am graphics were substantially changed in '81 using a two color bird and logos with hollowed feathers. Identifying an '80 is much more difficult and short of checking the VIN you would have to know the colors available. A small feature in the dash is a clue where turn signal lamps were changed from arrows to circles.

1979 Production Numbers

  Firebird (Base) 38,642
  Esprit 30,853
  Formula 24,850
  Trans Am 117,108
  Total 211,453

1979 Base Firebird Production

  Engine Manual Automatic Total
  All engines - - 38,642

1979 Esprit Production

    Transmission    
    Manual Automatic Total  
  All engines - - 30,853  

1979 Formula Production

    Transmission  
    Manual Automatic Total
  W72 400 346* - 346
  All other engines - - 24,504
  All engines - - 24,850
*Source: Firebird, America's Premier Performance Car by Gary Witzenburg, page 178

1979 Trans Am Production

Summary
   
Transmission
  Engine Option
Manual
Auto
Total
  Trans Am Coupe 4,075 55,503 59,578
  Trans Am T-Top
4,447
34,029
38,476
  Trans Am SE*
1,320
10,234
11,554
  Tenth AnniversaryTrans Am
1,817
5,683
7,500
  Total 11,659 105,449 117,108
*Pontiac records indicate all Special Edition Trans Ams were equipped with T-Tops as it was standard. However option WV1: hatch Roof Delete offered a $695 credit and at least a few buyrs ordered it..

1979 Trans Am Breakdown

Transmission
  Engine Option
Manual
Auto
Total
  Trans Am Coupe
  L37 301 1,590 7,015 8,605
  W72 400 2,485 - 2,485
  L80 403 - 48,488 48,488
  Trans Am T-Top
  L37 301 1,530 3,301 4,831
  W72 400 2,917 - 2,917
  L80 403 - 30,728 30,728
  Trans Am Y84 SE      
  L37 301 213 360 573
  W72 400 1,107 - 1,107
  L80 403 - 9,874 9,874
  Trans Am Tenth Anniv
  W72 400 1,817 - 1,817
  L80 403 - 5,683 5,683
  Total 11,659 105,449 117,108

Firebird Optional Equipment

  Option Total
Percent
  V-8 Engine 198,760* 94.0
  6 Cylinder Engine 12,690* 6.0
  Transmission-Automatic 195,170* 92.3
  Transmission-4Speed 14,590* 6.9
  Transmission-3 Speed 1,690* 0.8
  Power Brakes 209,760* 99.2
  Front Wheel Disc Brakes 175,500* 83.0
  Four-wheel Disc Brakes 34,250* 16.2
  Limited Slip Differential 126,030* 59.6
  Power Steering 211,453* 100.0
  Power Windows 101,500* 48.0
  Air Conditioning 180,160* 85.2
  Adjustable Steering Column 133,000* 62.9
  Vinyl Roof    
  Cruise Control 29,600 14.0
  Radial Tires 211,453 100.0
Source: Firebird! America's Premiere Performance Car by Gary Witzenburg
*Source: Estimated based on percentages published in Witzenburg's Firebird!
1979 Firebird Formula 400
1979 Trans Am

What else was happening in 1979

The Shah of Iran flees the country and seeks asylum in the US. Iran radicals take US embassy hostage.
Dukes of Hazzard debuts on CBS
Mad Max debuts in theaters
Three Mile Island, the worst nuclear disaster ever in US.
Top Rock Song: Highway to Hell by AC/DC
Top Pop Song: My Sharona by The Knack
Alien in movies. "In space, no one can hear you scream"