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Identifying the 1979 to 1981 Firebirds
Sail Panel Birds
The metal bird emblem was replaced by a bird decal from 1979 to 1981. 1979 to 1980 used a four color bird while the 1981 changed to a two color, hollow design matching the hood birds. The 1979 Redbird and 1980 Yellowbird received their own sail panel designs consisting of a pinstripe style bird, gold on the Redbird as in 1978, and yellow on the Yellowbird. The only Firebirds that did not receive these decals were the 10th Anniversary Trans Am, the 1980 Indianapolis Pace Car, and 1981 Daytona Pace Cars. Note, Black Special Editions received much larger sail panel birds.
Front Bumper Decals
All 1979 Trans Ams received TRANS AM PONTIAC decal on the front bumper. while 1980 to 1981 Trans Ams did not. All 1979 to 1981 Formulas had a FORMULA PONTIAC decal on this front bumper.
Grille Openings
Three different styles of grille were offered from 1979 to 1981. The standard Firebird an Esprit received black grilles with an argent (silver) rim. Trans Ams and Formulas had completely black grilles except for the Black Special edition which had gold rim.
 
Hood Scoops
The standard Trans Am hood scoop remained the shaker style for 1979 to 1981. The turbo model, available in 1980 and 1981 used a special off center hood bulge to accommodate the turbo unit beneath. This hood was standard on Formulas with the Turbocharged engine as well. The standard Formula retained the dual scoops that were available in 1977 to 1978. The Turbo hood scoop could optionally be had with turbo boost indicators, three lights inside the scoop telling the driver the turbo phase (low, medium, or high).
Hood Birds

The hood bird that was made available for the 1978 Solar Gold Trans Ams became the standard offering in 1979. In addition to gold orange, blue, and silver were added. A larger than normal dark gray bird appeared on 1979 Tenth Anniversary Trans Ams. In 1980 the blue and silver birds carried over but the gold was turned to a darker shade and red replaced orange. In addition a new burgundy bird was available (made specially for burgundy cars) and a bronze bird (made specifically for bronze cars) were added.

Turbo Trans Ams received special hood in birds to wrap around the off center hood bulge. These birds have exceptionally large flames that flow up the turbo scoop. The Turbo Hood birds were also available in dark gold, red, blue, silver, burgundy and bronze for 1980. A special darker silver bird was used on the two-toned 1980 Pace Car Trans Ams.

In 1981 all birds changed styles to a two color design with hollow feathers. These birds were available in gold, blue, orange, red, and silver. A special black was installed on the 1981 Pace Car Trans Am as well. Note that the gold and orange birds were offered in lighter shades in the beginning of the year and darker shades midyear to show up better on lighter colored cars.

Trans Am/Formula Hood Scoop Decals  

Trans Am Hood Scoop Decals varied by year and are among the most confusing items for restorers. Here are the scoops details year by year.

1979: Trans Ams with the Pontiac W72 400 cid engine received T/A-6.6 decals. Those with the Oldsmobile 403 received 6.6 LITRE decals. Trans Ams with the 4.9 Litre 301cid engine received no decal.

1980: Trans Ams and Formulas with the Turbo engine received TURBO 4.9 decals on the off center hood scoop. 301 Trans Ams with the W72 301 cid engine option received T/A-4.9 scoop decals. Trans Ams with the standard 301 received blank scoops. California cars with the Chevrolet 305 engine received no scoop decal.

1981: Turbo Trans Ams and Formulas again received TURBO 4.9 decals on the scoop. All 301 equipped cars received T/A-4.9 decals (only one 301 was offered this year. Trans Ams equipped with the Chevy 305 cid engine received 5.0 LITRE decals this year.

 

Trunk/Rear Bumper

1979 Firebirds still retained the metal Firebird emblem on non-spoiler Firebirds but were discontinued in 1980. All Formula models without the W50 Appearance package had FORMULA PONTIAC decals on the top of the rear bumper.

Tail Lamps
Tail Lamps were redesigned in 1979 to expand across the entire length of the rear panel. These were red in Firebirds and Esprits but Trans Ams and Formulas featured a black smoked lens that appeared red only when the lights were on. This may be one of the most exotic tail lamps ever. The 1980 Yellowbird received a special red lens with yellow ribs to accent the body color. In 1981 the designs were the same but a bird decal graced the center panel hiding the fuel filler door.

Spoiler/Trunk Decals

All 1979 and 1980 spoiler equipped Firebirds, Esprits and Formulas without the W50 Appearance Package (when ordered with a spoiler) received new bird decals shown in blue at left. These were offered in the same colors as Trans Am hood birds. This did not apply t 1979 Redbirds and 1980 Yellowbirds which received their own distinctive pinstripe style bird, either on the spoiler or on top of the trunk lid. Trans Ams received large TRANS AM PONTIAC decals on the rear spoiler for 1979 an 1980, shrinking to a smaller two color version in 1081. 1979 to 1981 Formulas with the W50 Appearance Package received large FORMULA PONTIAC lettering on the rear spoiler.

Turbo models received either a smaller script calling out either TURBO TRANS AM PONTIAC or TURBO FORMULA PONTIAC on the rear spoiler for Trans Ams and Formulas equipped with the W50 Appearance Package. 1979 Tenth Anniversary Trans Ams received a smaller script with a small 10th Anniversary Bird decal. 1980 Indy Pace cars received winged tire decals next to the TURBO TRANS AM decal.

Fender Emblems and Decals

All Firebirds, Esprits and Formulas received FIREBIRD emblems on the front fenders. Esprits also had an ESPRIT emblem underneath the FIREBIRD emblem. The 1979 Esprit used the traditional logo but 1980 and 1981 used a more angular logo. Both are shown at left.

Formulas in 1979 and 1980 received a FORMULA decal between the front fender striping (see far left) separating the standard two tone paint. The standard Formula for 1979 and 1980 had a similar paint scheme to the W50 Formula Appearance-equipped cars without the large FORMULA door decals or the FORMULA spoiler decal. 1981 Formulas had monotone paint and received a small FORMULA decal below the FIREBIRD emblem. This decal is so rare that a photo was not available for this web site. All W50 equipped Formulas still had large FORMULA door decals and two toned paint.

Trans Ams all received large TRANS AM decals on the front fenders in colors matching the hood bird. These were 4 color graphics in 1979 and 1980 and two color in 1981. The 10th Anniversary Trans Am received a small bird decal below the fender name and the 1980 Indianapolis Pace car received winged tires, the Indianapolis 500 logo. 1981 Daytona Pace Cars received a NASCAR decal below the fender script.