1981 Firebirds

The last year of the Firebird's second generation saw a marked decrease in sales, down 34% from 1980 and Esprit had no Skybird, Redbird, or Yellowbird options this year. A new Trans Am, the Daytona Pace Car Edition was released and came with special black graphics, a blacked out roof, black striping, and new Recaro seats with red inserts. The seats were the only second gen to ever offer reclining buckets. The Pace car was limited to only 2000 units and had a standard Turbocharged V8. The Black and Gold Special Edition was again available.
1981 Trans Am with Burt Reynolds
1981 would see the last of GM divsion specific engines so the Pontiac V8 would be no more after this year. The computer age was dawning and this year GM engines were equipped with Computer Command Control to continously adjust fuel and air mixtures. The 4 speed returned to the menu this year for Formula and Trans Am having been EPA certified for use with the Chevrolet built 305 (5 Litre). The Base Firebird and Esprit had the standard 231 Buick V6. The Pontiac 265 and 301 V8s were optional. Formula started the year with the Pontiac 265 V8 with the base 301 being dropped. After October 1, 1981 the Formula would come standard with the Buick 231 V6. Trans Am. The standard Trans Am engine was the L37 301 (the W72 designation was dropped but this was the same engine). The LU8 Turbocharged 301 V8 and Chevrolet 305 waa optional in Formula and Trans Am.
All Trans Am graphics were changed this year using a two color, hollow design which easily distinguishes the '81. Decal color choices were expanded to gold, red, orange, blue and silver in both Turbo forms and standard. Mid year the gold and orange decals were changed to darker tones to show up on the lighter and brightly colored cars offerred this year. The standard Formula was changed eliminating the W50 like two tone and instead the base Formula's were decked out in solid colors with only a small FORMULA decal on the front fender and rear spoiler to identify the model. The W50 Formula Appearance Package was continued unchanged.
1981 Trans Am with Burt Reynolds
New cloth inserts for the standard seats were available in Millport cloth trim, available in Camel Tan or Blue. The custom interior with cloth seats were treated to a new fabric called Pimlico replacing the popular hobnail cloth. Changes were minimal to the option list but many 1981 Firebirds came loaded because of new marketing offerring discounts for purchasing options in groups. This option package marketing strategy is more the norm today but options were still available individually.
Identifying a 1981 Firebird can be difficult, '79 to '81' are nearly identical. The most visible difference is in the bird relief found in the center of the tail light panel covering the gas cap. Trans Am's are easier, assuming they have the correct graphics. Trans Am decals use only two colors where '79-'80 used five.

1981 Production Numbers

  Firebird (Base) 20,541
  Esprit 10,938
  Formula 5,927
  Trans Am 33,493
  Total 70,899

1981 Base Firebird Production

  Engine Manual Automatic Total
  All engines - - 20,541

1981 Esprit Production

    Transmission    
    Manual Automatic Total  
  All engines - - 10,938  

1981 Formula Production

    Transmission  
    Manual Automatic Total
  LU8 301 Turbo - 942* 942*
  All other engines - - 4,985*
  Total - - 5,927
*Estimated by subtracting estimated number of Turbocharged V8s (given as a percentage in Gary Witzenburg's Firebird! America's Premire Performance Car and subtracting that total from the total number of turbo Trans Ams produced. Accurate + or - 10 cars.

1981 Trans Am Production

Summary
   
Transmission
  Engine Option
Manual
Automatic
Total
  Trans Am Coupe 2,866 8,938 11,804
  Trans Am T-Top
3,225
11,201
14,426
  Trans Am SE Coupe
15
106
121
  Trans Am SE T-Top
932
4,210
5,142
  Daytona Pace Car Edition
2,000
2,000
  Total
7,038
26,455
33,493

1981 Trans Am Breakdown

   
Transmission
  Engine Option
Manual
Auto
Total
  Trans Am Coupe      
 
W72 301 E/C
- 5,087 5,087
 
LU8 301 Turbo
- 3,851 3,851
 
LG4 305
2,866 - 2,866
  Trans Am T-Top      
 
W72 301 E/C
- 4,589 4,589
 
LU8 301 Turbo
- 6,612 6,612
 
LG4 305
3,225 - 3,225
  Trans Am Y84 Coupe      
 
W72 301 E/C
- 41 41
 
LU8 301 Turbo
- 65 65
 
LG4 305
15 - 15
  Trans Am Y84 T-Top      
 
W72 301 E/C
- 1,160 1,160
 
LU8 301 Turbo
- 3,050 3,050
 
LG4 305
932 - 932
  Daytona Pace Car Edition - 2,000 2,000
  Total 7,038 26,455 33,493

Firebird Optional Equipment

  Option Total
Percent
  V-8 Engine 30,980* 43.7
  V-8 Engine, Turbocharged 16,520* 23.3
  6 Cylinder Engine 23,400* 33.0
  Transmission-Automatic 66,500* 93.8
  Transmission-4Speed 4,400 6.2
  Transmission-3 Speed 0* 0
  Power Brakes 70,899* 100.0
  Front Wheel Disc Brakes 47,010* 66.3
  Four-wheel Disc Brakes 23,890* 33.7
  Limited Slip Differential 27,440* 38.7
  Power Steering 70,899* 100.0
  Power Windows 36,160* 51.0
  Air Conditioning 59,560* 84.0
  Adjustable Steering Column 52,250* 73.7
  Vinyl Roof - -
  Cruise Control 32,050* 45.2
  Radial Tires 70,899* 100.0
Source: Firebird! America's Premiere Performance Car by Gary Witzenburg
*Source: Estimated based on percentages published in Witzenburg's Firebird!
1981 Firebird Formula
1981 Esprit

What else was happening in 1981

Ronald Reagan takes office of President of the United States
Raiders of the Lost Ark. top grossing movie
Rapture by Blondie is the first rap song played on MTV
US Embassy hostages released from Iran
Betty Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes, top song
A Lamborghini Countach outruns a Turbo Trans Am in Cannonball Run
Stripes debuts in movie theaters
A red camaro Z28 is featured on TVs Simon and Simon