|The New Bird on the Fuel Filler Door
1981 Firebirds can be recognized by the one year only silver bird decal
on the fuel filler door. This was a special molded door panel that
will fit on 1979 and 1980 models but is incorrect for those years.
|The California Turbo 4.9
Thanks to the miracle of electronic wizardry the Turbo 4.9 engine was
now made available in California. This was probably the most
powerful Trans Am available since 1976. The new Turbo 4.9 received
GM's new Computer Command Control that allowed the engine to meet
California's strict emissions laws.
|Standard 4.9 Liter
The W72 option for the 301 cid 4 bbl engine was dropped but the standard
L37 301 for 1981 now made 150hp, 10 more than the 1980 L37 but 5 less
than the W72.
| The LG4 5.0 Liter 4 speed
The shift for yourself crowd was pleased this year since
a Trans Am or Formula could once again be had with a 4 speed. The
Pontiac purists were displeased because the only way to get the four
speed was when it was mated to the Chevy 305 (5.0 Liter) V-8. This
was the start of things to come since 1982 would be available only with
the 5.0 liter engine. When ordered with the LG4 engine the Trans
Am hood scoop received call out decals announcing 5.0 LITRE.
The LG4 305 cid engine was available only with the 4 speed in 1981.
Interestingly the Camaro Z28 also received this engine for its 4 speed
version since its 350 cid engine was available with an automatic only.
|The V-6 Formula
A Pontiac Car Distribution Bulletin dated October 21
announced that effective October 1, 1980 the standard engine in Formula
would be the LD5 3.8 Liter V-6 engine. This engine would be
available with an automatic transmission only. The Rally Gauge
Cluster and Clock, UPC W63 was removed from the Formula standard options
list because these gauges were not available with the V-6 engine.
Due to the changes in the dashboard without the W63 Gauges the V-6
Formula would receive a simulated wood grain dash appliqué. The
V-8 Formulas would continue to carry the engine turned aluminum dash
| The Daytona Pace Car Trans Am Edition
Another pace car edition debuted for 1981 in the wake of
the 1980 Indianapolis Pace Car. This time the Daytona 500 Limited
Edition Pace car would enter the scene. Once again decked
out in White this Trans Am received a special black hood bird, black
accents on the bumpers, roof, and A pillars. Again the Turbo 4.9
powered this pace car. Inside the interior was a drastic departure
from previous years. The black and red two toned interior was
marked by new Recaro seats. This was the first Trans Am to have
seats that offered a rake adjustment and race style lumbar support.
This Trans Am truly was a limited edition with only 2000 made.
|Skybirds, Redbirds, or Yellowbirds
For 1981 there were no special edition Esprits. The
Skybirds, Redbirds, and Yellowbirds were now a memory.
|New Birds and Decals
The hood and sail panel birds were redesigned for 1981 using a
new two color scheme and the Trans Am Fender/spoiler callouts were
redesigned to match. The disco era was coming to an end and these
decals were quite les audacious than their predecessors, some might
claim more tasteful. Five different colors were offered: Red,
Gold, Silver, Blue, and Orange in both standard and turbo versions.
With 14 car colors on the palette and 5 different birds the Trans Am
offered diversity beyond any other car with a theoretical 70 different
exterior color combinations. The limited edition Daytona Pace Car
had a unique black turbo bird. Early versions of the Gold and
Orange birds were a lighter shade than later versions. Presumably
the gold decals were not very noticeable on gold cars and the
orange not very noticeable on orange cars. See the Exterior colors
page form more information. The Trans Am rear spoiler call out
decal was much smaller than previous, again giving the car a more
The two tone color combination for the standard Formula was dropped in
1981 and all standard Formulas came with monotone paint and body color
scoops and lower. Because the standard Formula did not have two
tone paint anymore the W50 Formula Appearance Package added it causing
the price to increase from $100 in 1980 to $212 in 1981. The W50
Formula Appearance package continued mostly unaltered. The Formula
decals for the W50 Formula Appearance Package were unchanged even though
the Trans Am decals were all redesigned, with the large FORMULA decal on the spoiler in four colors and multicolored tape stripes
separating upper and lower body colors. The sail panel bird was
the new two color design, however. The W50 package was offered on
only seven exterior colors this year: Orange Metallic, Dark Charcoal
Metallic, White, Silver Metallic, Dark Blue Metallic, Black, and Dark
Maroon Metallic. The rear spoiler once again returned to the
Formula's list of standard options.
|New Cloth Standard Interiors
The Millport cloth material was introduced for 1981 optional for the
standard interior replacing the Strada cloth inserts introduced late in
the 1980 model year. This textured cloth was available in Blue or
|New Custom Cloth Interior
Although the seat style remained the same new fabric, called Pimlico
cloth, was offered for the cloth interior option. This fabric
replaced the previous hobnail fabric and featured monotone colors with
vertical ribs providing an elegant texture. Interestingly in the
cloth material a Beige interior could be specified in addition to the
Camel Tan cloth interior. The Beige was a step lighter in color
but it is difficult to tell looking at the cars which is which unless
they are side by side.
|Turbo Cast Aluminum Wheels
The Turbo Cast aluminum wheel now became a regular option for the
Esprit, Formula, and Trans Am and did not require with the Turbo 4.9
engine as in 1980. However this Turbo Cast aluminum wheel was
7.5 inches in diameter. The Turbo Cast aluminum wheel that was
used in 1980 was 8 inches and was still available with the WS6
performance package and the 4.9 Liter Turbocharged engine or the Y84
Black Special Edition when coupled with the WS6 option.
|Trans Am Limited Slip Differential
The second generation Trans Am always had the G80 Limited Slip
Differential standard until this year. The Limited Slip
Differential was included with the WS6 Performance Package if the Trans
Am was so ordered.