1980 Firebird Esprit
The 80's decade began with $1 gasoline and the death of the big block in domestic production sports cars but Pontiac was willing to shake things up
by turbocharging the popular 301 V8 and making it available in Formula and Trans Am. Sales were down by almost
half in a great part due to the anticipated release of the next generation Firebird announced for the 1982 model year.
Pontiac still sold more than 100,000 Firebirds and new editions appeared on the scene. The big news was the introduction of the
Indianapolis Pace Car Edition to commemorate Pontiac's Turbo V8 being chosen to pace the Indy race this year.
The car was decked out in White to stand out among the race cars on the track but had a special charcoal gray two tome treatment similar
to the 1979 Tenth Anniversary Trans Am. Pontiac sold 5700 of the Pace Cars, all delivered with a model specific Oyster Hobnail interior,
special striping, and mirrored T-Tops. The Esprit introduced the Yellowbird model replacing the Redbird and featured a yellow exterior
with dark yellow accents and a tan interior. Yellow wheels and a yellow accented brake light completed the picture. Ironically yellow
would be dropped from the Firebird line after a brief production run to be replaced by Nightwatch Blue so if you wanted a yellow
Firebird the Yellowbird was your car. All other 1980 yellow Firebirds are extremely rare.
With the new Turbocharged 4.9 liter engine the design required an asymmetric look with the air cleaner on the right and and the turbo on the left.
This required a new asymmetric hood design for Formulas and Trans Ams equipped with this engine. The turbo could also be ordered with Turbo Boost Guages
(option UR4), lights that would light up in order as more boost was applied by the turbo. These guages were standard on the Indy Pace car, optional on others.
Cloth inserts, called Sparta Cloth inserts for the standard interior were introduced mid year, available in Camel Tan or Blue. A new seek and scan radio with digital
clock (UM7), Halogen headlights (TT5), and dual front speakers (UP8 or with UQ1 stereo) made the option list for the first time.
980 Indianpolis pace Car Edition
Pontiac managed to release another new V8 for 1980, a fuel efficient 265 cubic inch that would be optional for Base Firebird and Esprit. Still standard in those models was the Buick V6. The Pontiac 4.9 Litre (301) 2 bbl was also available and was the standard powerplant for Formula. Another 4.9 Liter version, the W72 with electronic engine control was available in Formula and standard in Trans Am. The new Turbo 301 was optional in Formula and Trans Am. In California buyers could not order any of the 301's or the new 265 V8 and were left with the Chevrolet 305 as the only optional V8 and the only engine available in Trans Am (the only Trans Am that ever came with a 2 bbl carburator). All 1980 Firebirds had automatic transmissions, none could pass the strict EPA laws with 4 speeds this year.
Identifying a 1980 from a '79 is very difficult without looking at the VIN. The standard seats had a smooth upper section versus '79's vertical ribs. Trans Am graphics were changed slightly with the Gold decals replaced by a darker gold, Red Orange replaced by Red/Dark Red, and two new color decals added: Bronze (for Bronze cars) and Burgundy for burgundy cars. The silver and blue decals were unaltered except for the addition of a Turbo version. All '81 Firebirds had a bird inset into the rear tail panel, distinguishing those from the '79 and '80.