Firebird appeared mostly unchanged for 1978 with minor updates including new graphics for Trans Am and a redesigned custom interior. Trans Am's (except Black Special Editions) got new letterring all around and a new hood bird was designed for exclusive use on Solar Gold Trans Ams, including the new Y88 Gold Special Edition. Originally this new Special Edition replaced the Black Special Editions of 1977 but paint matching problems caused Pontiac to bring the Black SE back. All the striping from the Black Special Editions was there on the Gold Edition in a darker shape of gold. Gold accented grille lining, gold dash and shifter bezels, and a new gold Pontiac emblem on the nose (the Black Special Editions were red) accented this spectacular new car. The hood bird, also used on non_special Edition Gold Trans Ams, was a larger 5 color bird design that would prove amazingly popular on later Trans Ams. Even the T-Tops (standard on Gold SE) was gold tinted, a one year unique feature. For Esprit the Skybird package featuring an all blue car with dark blue accents was carried over but would be replaced mid year by a Redbird Appearance package. As you may have guessed the Redbird would feature a red exterior and interior but with gold accents.
1978 Firebird Esprit Skybird
The big news in the engine compartment for 1978 was uprating of the W72 available in Trans Am and Formula to 220hp from last year's 200. This would be the last year that the Pontiac big block would be produced. It was planned to save 10,000 for use in 1979 models but due to high demand only 8600 or so were left over. The Pontiac 301 was removed from the option list and the Pontiac 350 was now gone forever and the Oldsmobile 350 was dropped in favor of a Chevrolet 350 that would be ooptional in Base Firebird, Eprit, and Formula. The standard engine for Base Firebird and Esprit continued to be the LD5 Buick 231 cid V-6 with the LG3 Chevrolet 305 and LM1 Chevrolet 350 optional. The standard Formula engine was the LG3 Chevy 305 with the LM1 350 and both Pontiac 400's optional (the Trans Am's standard L78 400 and the W72 version). Trans Am would have a standard 400 for the last time with the L78 180hp version as standard and the venerable W72 optional. Neither 400 was available in California so the Oldsmobile L80 403cid was standard in Trans Am, optional in Formula.
New options for '78 included a second type of T-Top made by GM's Fisher Body division. These were larger than the Hurst Hatches and can be identified easly as the panel continues the window line on the C pillar. Buyers could not choose which T-Top they wanted so the only way to insure you got the Fisher tops was to order the Solar Gold Special Edition whick only came with Fishers. For Formula and Trans Am the legendary WS6 suspension package debuted this year with larger sway bars and larger 8 inch snowflake wheels replacing the standard 7 inch design. A new assortment of radios was offerred this year and new Controlled Cycle Windshield Wipers that could be set to rest between wipes.
To identify a 1978 Firebird from its nearly identical '77 sibling you have simply to look at the grille. The grille design was a diagonal cross hatch replacing the honeycomb design of 1977. Firebirds with custom interiors had square sections inset in the backrest where '77's had a round horsecollar shape. All Trans Am's except Black Special Editions had new block style lettering calling out TRANS AM on the fenders and rear spoiler.