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1974 Facts and Interesting Notes
The First Major Restyling of the Second Generation
1974 marked the first major restyling of the second generation Firebird.  The Firebird received a new sloping front facia made of endura.  The new front end featured square intakes and black strips simulating a rubber bumper.  Whereas the strips really were not needed Pontiac styling felt that the look made the car sturdier (these would disappear in 1976).  The rear end was also restyled with elongated tail light divided by the rear license plate.  When the brakes were applied the entire back end lit red.  The chrome bumper was eliminated replaced by a soft urethane bumper with black strips emulating the front.  Sales continued to climb with 73,728 sold versus 46,313 in 1973.
The First Black and Gold Special Edition
A glimpse of the 76 to 81 Black and Gold Special Edition, to be forever known as the Bandit, was displayed in 1974 trim at the 1974 Chicago Auto Show.  The car, a one of a kind show car was actually a 1973 model updated to '74 specs.  The car featured a special black paint with gold metal flakes and a gold matte hood bird.  This car has reappeared in recent years and is now privately owned.  As it appears now it has been modified to 1976 specs by Pontiac as it had been shown in subsequent shows.
Super Duty 455 Engine Option
The Super Duty 455 engine was offered again in 1974 for the last time.  This engine, conservatively rated at 290 hp, is arguably the best engine Pontiac ever produced.  943 were installed into Trans Ams and another 58 into Formula Firebirds. 
Formula Engines
Formula 350 was now standard with a 2 barrel carb rated at 170hp.  The 190hp and 225hp 400's were also available in the Formula and the mammoth 455.  A 250hp 455 and the 290hp Super Duty 455 were both available on the Formula model.
 
Formula Shaker Scoop
The 58 Formula 455s that received the Super Duty 455 engine received the Trans Am's shaker hood scoop rather than the standard dual snorkel hood scoops that came standard on the Formula.
Trans Am Engines
The 400 cubic inch engine made its way back into the Trans Am for the first time since 1970.  The 225hp 400 was standard and the L75 455 cubic inch rated at 250hp was optional but available only with the Turbo Hydramatic transmission.  The Super Duty 455 was again available rated at the same 290hp as the previous year.
 
Trans Am Transmissions
The M40 Turbo Hydramatic Transmission was standard in Trans Am this year.  The 4 speeds were optional in all but the L75 250hp 455 engine.  Sadly, this would be the last year for the sturdy Turbo Hydramatic 400 as it would not fit with the catalytic converters that appeared in 1975 and thereafter.
 
Seat Belt/Ignition Interlock
By law all 1974 cars received a ignition/seat belt interlock that prevented the cars from being started if the front passengers seat belts were unbuckled.  This law was changed quickly but the 1975 Dealer Album Firebird lists the ignition interlock as a standard safety feature so it is unknown when the factory actually stopped installing the interlock.  Reportedly some 1974 Firebirds left the factory without the systems after the repeal of this law.
Power Steering
Variable ratio power steering was now standard equipment on all Firebirds.
HEI Ignition
The High Energy Electronic Ignition (HEI) was now standard with the 400 and 455 cid engines.
Dual Exhausts
This would be the last year for dual exhausts on any second generation Firebird.
Cordova Top Available on Trans Am
The Cordova Vinyl Top (SVT) was available on the Trans Am for the first time in 1975.  This option would last only two years, 1974 and 1975 for Trans Am.
Radial Tuned Suspension
The Radial Tuned Suspension (TGJ and TGK) became available this year (standard on Trans Am) and necessitated GR70x15 steel belted radial tires.
 
The Rear Spoiler Bird Decal
The Rear Spoiler Bird Decal that debuted in 1973 for Firebird and Formula was still available in either Black or White but a new two colored bird also became available in Blue, Green or Orange.   The Trans Am continued to use the Trans Am logo on the rear spoiler with larger letters this year.
Last Year for the 160mph Speedometer
1974 would mark the last year for the 160mph speedometer in the Firebird replaced in 1975 with a 100mph unit, and finally in 1980 with a 85mph unit. This was truly a symbol of the regulatory environment of the day where speed and performance were being ruled out.
Buckle Up For Safety
Originally all 1974 cars were required by law to have an ignition seat belt interlock that prevented the car from being started until the front passengers seat belt was buckled.  The regulation was later changed.  The seatbelt interlocking system does appear in the 1975 Pontiac Dealer Album but Gary Witzenburg's book, Firebird, America's Premier Performance Car, reports it as having been eliminated during the 1974 model year.