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
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 liter). 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 was 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 Daytona Pace Car Trans Am
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 Formula Production

Manual Automatic Total
LU8 301 Turbo 0 909* 909*
All other engines - 5,018 5,018
Total - - 5,927

1981 Trans Am Production

Trim Manual Automatic Total
Trans Am Coupe (non-SE) * 8,938 11,804
Trans Am T-Top (non-SE) * 11,201 14,426
Trans Am Black SE Coupe * 106 121
Trans Am Black SE T-Top 477 4,665 5,142
Daytona Pace Car Edition 0 2,000 2,000
Total 3,500 26,455 33,493

1981 Trans Am by Engine Option

Engine Option Manual Automatic Total
Trans Am Coupe (non-SE)
W72 301 E/C 0 5,087 5,087
LU8 301 Turbo 0 3,851 3,851
LG4 305 * * 2,866
Trans Am T-Top (non-SE)
W72 301 E/C 0 4,589 4,589
LU8 301 Turbo 0 6,612 6,612
LG4 305 * * 3,225
Trans Am Black SE Coupe
W72 301 E/C 0 41 41
LU8 301 Turbo 0 65 65
LG4 305 ** ** 15
Trans Am Black SE T-top
W72 301 E/C 0 1,160 1,160
LU8 301 Turbo 0 3,050 3,050
LG4 305 ** ** 932
Daytona Pace Car Edition
LU8 301 Turbo 0 2,000 2,000
Total 3,500 29,993 33,493

1981 Firebird Optional Equipment

V-8 Engine30,980*43.7
V-8 Engine, Turbocharged16,520*23.3
6 Cylinder Engine23,400*33
Transmission-3 Speed0*0
Power Brakes70,899*100
Front Wheel Disc Brakes47,010*66.3
Four-wheel Disc Brakes23,890*33.7
Limited Slip Differential27,440*38.7
Power Steering70,899*100
Power Windows36,160*51
Air Conditioning59,560*84
Adjustable Steering Column52,250*73.7
Vinyl Roof--
Cruise Control32,050*45.2
Radial Tires70,899*100
All numbers were taken from The Standard Catalog of Firebird 1967 - 2002 by John Gunnel

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
Examples shown on this page consist of scanned images or reproduction artwork that can not be faithfully reproduced on a computer screen. Illustrations are for example only. Consult with your vendors offerring reproduction parts for their historical accuracy.