North American Curbivores will be familiar with this feeling. You go to a classic car show and every Chevelle is an SS and every Mustang a V8. You know there are Chevelle sedans and Mustang V6s out there but they’re the beater in the depressed neighborhood or the discarded relic engulfed in the long grass. Now, imagine you don’t live in the US or Canada but somewhere like the UK or Australia, where such cars weren’t sold. The pool of non-SS and non-V8 models isn’t deep enough to drown in.
That’s why this ’82 Firebird V6 fills me with such joy.
The odds of me seeing a brown Firebird with wire wheel covers in Australia are infinitesimally small. There are already so few third-generation F-Bodies here, with no Firebird ever officially sold here and the Camaro only arriving on our shores with the latest generation (even though we engineered the last, Zeta-platform model).
The only thing that would make this Facebook Marketplace listing more morbidly fascinating is if it had an Iron Duke under its hood.
Fortunately, this base Firebird has the 2.8 V6 – the fuel-injected four-cylinder was actually a credit option. While still no speed demon, Consumer Guide found the V6 models to be more nimble and comfortable than the V8, though it still had its work cut out for it hauling around 3000 pounds of pony car.
For the third-generation’s debut year, there was only one tune of the carbureted 2.8 available. It produced 112hp at 5100 rpm and 148 ft-lbs at 2400rpm and was available with either a four-speed manual or the featured car’s three-speed automatic.
Next year was where the V6 option saw some attention, with a high-output version in the mid-range S/E that added 23hp and the option of a five-speed manual and a four-speed overdrive automatic.
I’ve heard about these cars’ flaws, chiefly the rattly, plastic-fantastic interiors and stiff ride. Nevertheless, these are extremely handsome cars, even the root beer brown paint and wire wheel covers failing to detract from this Firebird’s aesthetic appeal (perhaps perversely, they enhance its appeal to me).
The Fox-body Mustang may have enjoyed greater critical acclaim, at least later in its run, but if you showed an ’82 Firebird and an ’82 Mustang to someone unfamiliar with both, it’d be the Poncho that’d get their attention.
Speaking of interiors, by the way, have you ever seen an ’82 Firebird with a cabin this nice? Those seats look almost showroom fresh.
There are still plenty of third-generation F-Bodies on Craigslist and Marketplace but this one is remarkably clean. And, again, I should point out this is a brown pony car with wire wheel covers. We’ll never see a new one of those, and none of us is likely to see an old one at a car show. That’s a pity as, much like not every Chevelle was an SS, not every Firebird was a Trans Am.
If this is a turkey, it’s a pretty tasty one to me.
Curbside Classic: 1983 Camaro Berlinetta – The Last One Of Its Kind Left With Its Original Wheels?
Classic Curbside Classic: 1989 Camaro RS – GM’s Deadly Sin#6 – 46 Trips To The Dealer In The First Year
This is quite the find, especially in Rust Country (TM). I should mention I owned a 1983 Trans Am for a brief period of time. I was pretty tough on the old bird, and it exacted it’s revenge by breaking frequently.
The car shown is quite the time capsule, as I don’t ever remember seeing Firebirds with the wire wheel covers, other than in brochures. I’d love to find a set of stock “bowling ball” wheels and covers (like I had on my T/A), but they might look a little odd with the brown paint.
I wish I were in the market as this isn’t too far away from me, but not right now…
I had to do some deep Googling to find a brown Trans Am of this generation.
Now the Gen2? Looks like they were a dime a dozen; brown vehicles were pretty common in the ‘70s.
I bought a new 84 Firebird with the wire hubcaps. The dealer was a Cadillac/ Pontiac store, everything on their lot had wire hubcaps.
Well, Will – I can solve all of your problems as this car is within an hour’s drive from my house. Just wire the guy the money and I will go and pick it up for you and hold it until you can arrange shipment! 🙂 Actually I had not even noticed the location until Geozinger mentioned rust country, and I scrolled back up and saw the license plate.
Wow, like Geo I cannot recall seeing these with the wire wheel covers, but some stylin’ grandma clearly took care of this one. I can both feel and smell that interior just from the picture, as a school roommate would occasionally get his mother’s 81 or 82 Pontiac Phoenix to use around move-in or move-out time. It had that exact color and material of upholstery, though the outside was a darker brown.
But that brown kills it for me. I can deal with a brown car, but I would call this color something less appetizing than root beer. This brown was to GM of the early 80s what avocado green was to Chrysler in the early 70s. Not light brown, not dark brown, but this sort of non-committal shade that never looked good on anything. So you don’t have to worry about me stealing it from you once I have picked it up.
Will, you’d look mighty debonair cruising around Brisbane in this Firebird.
Unlike JP and Geozinger, I do remember a few of the wire wheeled Firebirds running around back in the day. It sent such mixed messages, but Mustangs could also be acquired with wire wheel covers, so it wasn’t like it was blazing new territory.
A college acquaintance (this would have been mid-90s) had a similar vintage Firebird with wire wheel covers, although his was more of a root beer float brown. His had been born with an Iron Duke. For reasons now lost to time, the Iron Duke was removed. In its place, this young mechanical engineering student had removed the 327 from a ’60s model Impala and installed it in the Firebird (I’m thinking he may have even kept the 327 matched up to its Powerglide). It was also a mixed message mobile, as the sound didn’t match the appearance. It was quite the car.
Yep, my ’80 Mustang 2.3 came with wire hubcaps. I didn’t keep those very long. Or the orange stripe that went down the side. And I don’t feel bad about it.
Wow, I had a college friend with a nearly identical Firebird — brown, wire wheel covers, V-6 automatic — except his wasn’t in nearly as good condition… and that was 25 years ago!
These base-model Firebirds usually led hard lives, with their original owners often selling them to folks who wanted a cheap, fashionable car, but each subsequent owner had less and less ability to pay for repairs (which weren’t infrequent). And eventually, they wound up in the hands of folks like my friend, who was a 20-year-old college student.
My friend was from east Africa, and this was his first car, so he was thrilled to own something like a Firebird. As far as I remember, it served him well for the two years I knew him. However by most vivid memory of him in this car was one day when it snowed. Of course, being African, he had no snow-driving experience, but for some reason decided to drive somewhere on a snowy afternoon. He never made it out of our apartment’s parking lot — wheels spinning under full throttle to try to get up a tiny hill. Wisely, he quit trying, and parked for Firebird for the day.
It’s a turkey alright, but it’s still cool at the same time. Firebirds of that period were still straddling the malaise era. This one looks like a time capsule, though, and good luck finding another like it.
These birds just didn’t seem to get a whole lot of love. My first car was a ’95 Firebird, and while it was a looker, it was nothing but problems. Under my stewardship, it slid into beaterdom pretty quickly. Most of these were used up and discarded, which is why it’s refreshing to see an anomaly like this one. The color, clean interior, and automatic transmission give it a “secretary special” vibe. I wonder if a middle-aged woman bought it in the 80s and kept it all these years until now.
‘Secretary Special’ was the first thing that crossed my mind, as well. The Firebird’s hidden headlights and sloping hood give it a slight Corvette vibe which I’m sure heightened its appeal.
Of course, the downside is these would be a lot tougher for someone of a shorter stature to see out of and drive, and surely the reason why the GM f-body got clobbered annually by the Mustang (although I think there might have been one or two years where the f-body topped the Ford in sales).
I always thought that one of the more interesting anecdotes of these later f-bodies was how they were used as chase cars to recover the take-off gear from the U-2 spy plane. When the f-body was discontinued, that duty was transferred over to the last generation GTO. I don’t know what they’ve used since.
A most “Real World Appealing” survivor!
The exterior/interior color combo really does appeal to me. The classy-but-somewhat-plain models often do have their own appeal. Wide tires, “screaming chicken” hood decals, fender flares and spoilers can detract from what is shown here as an appealing, graceful body style.
I recall driving each engine version of this bird when new/near new.
The Iron Duke 4 cylinder engine was loud, rough, shaky, vibration prone and a D O G in traffic situations. Sluggish, slow and unhappy in it’s job. Dismal gas mileage as it had to be pushed/punched so hard to keep up with other cars.
The V8 was …adequate…but not for the gas mileage it did not give.
I thought the V6 was a pleasant daily driver; pleasing in urban situations. The engine/transmission power-train combo was a harmonious one with much better gas mileage numbers than the lackluster V8 engine.
Just my opinion. Just like your gas mileage; it may vary from person to person.
These 3rd gen cars are very attractive. The smooth clean shape of the base model is nearly perfect. The various decals, wings and deflectors of the pricier models don’t improve things.
There’s merit in forgoing the heavy chunk of small block iron in favour of a lighter V6 and a better balanced car. Too bad GM restricted availability of their decent 135 hp version for this model year. GM did this in many models, the 110 hp V6 was simply too weak for the A body, F body cars and the compact trucks in which it was installed. The first version of the 135 hp V6 differed only in larger valves and a different camshaft. There was no difference in manufacturing costs. But it simply wasn’t offered or installed in anything except a handful of Chevy X-11 Citations at the time. Too bad. I think GM should have made the 135 hp V6 exclusively.
Why do I love this base-model Firebird so much, color, wheel covers and all? The first year example of any new model often looks the purest, as this one does – devoid of spoilers, stripes, ground effects, etc. And I also like that the taillamp lenses provided some visual continuity with the preceding model.
This is also a really appealing shade of “root beer brown”. With its V6, it’s a little like a low-cal root beer float, but not nasty.
Joe, I’m convinced you just naturally think in metaphor, all the time 😉
Anyone here know the longevity of this year V6 engine?
Was this the same S-10 installed engine that suddenly lost all it’s oil/oil pressure and seized up in a heartbeat?
This is the way I remember 3rd generation Firebirds. Maybe what we saw on our local roads came down to what our local dealers ordered. While the Knight Rider clone T/As were nice looking cars, and the potential was always there to order a Firebird that was even cleaner and more graceful, it seemed like most of the ones stocked by my local dealer all had one foot in the tacky ’70s. The other sad thing about third generation F-bodies is that the better their mechanicals became, the further they strayed from the purity of their design.
Base Camaros with the styled steel wheels were very good looking cars in their release form, but they didn’t stay stock or straight for long where I lived. Did GM have to monkey around with the appearance of the F-bodies to distance later models from the slow early ones? In 1981, a Dodge Charger 2.2 was quicker than a Trans Am. 1982 saw the return of the 302 to the Mustang, leading to years of GM playing catch-up. Was GM worried that later customers wouldn’t want to be associated with the 1981-1983 Firebirds and Camaros that couldn’t get out of their own ways?
I seem to remember those Dodge ads that compared the Charger 2.2 to the Trans Am and Camaro Z-28 showed the *zero-to-fifty* times, instead of to 60 mph. I’m pretty sure both GM F-Bodies (and the Mustang / Capri) were faster to 60 than the Charger 2.2. I could be misremembering, but this is what I recall.
The national speed limit was 55 mph (‘double nickel’) from 1974 up ’til it was partially repealed in 1987 for rural interstates, and wasn’t fully repealed until 1995. Maybe the lawyers kept the ad guys from touting speeds above 55.
These same ads also criticized the Mustang and Camaro/Firebird for having “old technology” rear wheel drive whereas the Charger 2.2 had modern front wheel drive.
I presume the broomstick in the back is for holding the hatch open. Or as backup transportation in case it breaks down? Seriously, this car doesn’t look that unusual (for then) as some people have commented, though maybe I’m conflating with other GM’s of the era. Metallic brown plus wire wheel covers seemed common on everything from LeMans to Bonneville, including Firebirds, back in the day. My limited experience driving a few different vehicles with the carb’ed 2.8 V6 was that it was fine with a manual transmission, not so good with a 3 speed automatic.
Well, one must remember this time period and what the new cars drove like.
Until the 1983 5.0/302-4BBL Mustang GT was revived; nothing in this era was what anyone would call quick and powerful.
I briefly owned from new a 1981 Firebird with the California-only Chevy 5.0/4 speed combo. It was nothing like an earlier TA nor like a later 5.0 HO Mustang, but it was better than any GM 2.8 automatic. As was my daily driver in 1983, an ‘82 1500 Civic 5 speed.
I had a similar 84 model with the TBI 4 cyl and 4 speed manual. It had the wire wheel hubcaps and a rear wing spoiler. Total POS, the seat belts fell apart, the diff had to be replaced, numerous electrical issues, the last GM product I ever bought. Good looking car, except for those damn wire hubcaps.
Well ok, it’s not an unattractive car in general. But I entered high school in 1982, and as friends and classmates obtained licenses and cars these things were jammed into our student parking lots like sardines. They were new or slightly used at the time and I rode in more than my share of them. I can’t conjure up any love or respect for them, no matter how nostalgic my mood may be. Just not any, try though I might. Sorry. My ’82 Charger 2.2 was just as tacky and just as poorly put together, but it managed to be practical, economical and had decent driving dynamics in spite of itself. These things? No such goodness ever emanated from any of them.
What is amazing to me is how big that engine compartment looks. Now I am accustomed to big V8 compartments in full size cars but this is V6 in a pony car. Seen so many V6 compartments of today in FWD that this one just jumped right off the page at me. Looks even bigger than the 289 in my 68 Mustang. Gotta be that fan shroud…
I hated the white stripes and wire wheel covers back in the day and they still look jarring on this car – part of that was that I was 8 in ’82 and all the toys based off these were of the Trans Am and Z28 too – but they’re so very ’80s I’d have to keep them.
Looks a nice car but get rid of the $2 shop hubcaps they cheapen it so badly nothing looks quite as trailer trash as fake wire wheels.
What looks wrong to me is all the open space above the tires. That is very jarring to me. Looks like the car is wearing hip waders.
Agreed. I recall reading once that John DeLorean routinely went to battle with GM beancounters who would spec out puny standard tires on a new car. DeLorean thought bigger tires always improved the car’s looks and made it an easier sell. I think he was right, from looking at this car.
You don’t necessarily want the strippers to be the easiest sell though. You want the price to get them in the door and then upsell them something that will make a higher profit.
I’m assuming it’s pretty effective because it’s still done today.
Agree – it could be quite an attractive car without the 4×4 stance.
This is a very well kept example – didn’t even know wire wheel caps were an option on these Firebirds – to me they don’t suit the overall styling of the car.
This would be a cool example of a basic car to take to the local show-n-shine. They weren’t all hot rods or fully optioned rides. There are more SS’s, GT Mustangs, and Max Wedge Mopars out there now than what originally left the factory.
This would seem to be one of the paradoxes of the car show ‘tribute’ queen. The whole theory behind having a car for a show is to attract fans who appreciate your vehicle. But if everyone has the same hopped-up musclecar, where’s the allure? That’s where these old cars with common, run-of-the-mill drivetrains that were a lot more common (but are now virtually extinct) are much more interesting.
I mean, full-size, six-cylinder, three-on-the-tree in terrific original shape? That’s a find.
I’ll just suggest that The Rockford Files probably ended at about the right time.
I’ve often wondered how many gold Firebirds James Garner “sold” for Pontiac during the tenure of his enjoyable tv show?
His Firebird was nice but I was more impressed that he had a telephone answering machine.
When I was a kid one of our neighbors had a blue Firebird like this with wire wheels and whitewalls. I thought the wheels looked hideous. Now, I still think they look hideous, but I can respect them in a retro sort of way.
I prefer the unadorned lines of this base Firebird to the Trans Am and other sporty models – I had forgotten this car offered standard red taillights as well as the smoked black ones usually seen. The interior was a dud though, not just for too much brittle plastic but also the uncomfortable 1982-only seats which were also used in the J2000 SE. The padding in the center lifted you out of the pocket of the seat, and the insides of your knees rested on that sharp edge near the front corners of the seat cushion.
I think the wire wheel hubcaps make the car. It would be 50% less interesting without them. Even when new, they weren’t common since they seem to be so out of character with the car. But I looked it up and they were indeed an option on the 82 Firebird, as were the whitewalls. I hope whoever buys this keeps it exactly how it is.
I’d buy it, but the seller is going to have to go down on the price b/c I’m changing out those whitewalls for some RWL tires. There’s some stuff you can do to the 2.8 to make it run better, right? Is performance in this case a lipstick/pig situation?
QUOTE: “There’s some stuff you can do to the 2.8 to make it run better, right?”
Sure, an LS swap. The fuel injected V6s were “alright”, especially the 3.1L update, but the early carb’d ones were truly worthless. I have direct experience driving 2.8L versions back to back, carb’d and FI, and the FI was just soooo much better it was drastic.
Same goes for the two different 2.8’s in Celebrity wagons, same takeaway. The carb’d one (1984) could barely get out of its own way, and ran poorly to boot. The difference in driveability totally belied the only 15-25 HP difference between the two.
The faux wire wheels, brown paint and 2.8 V6 make this the spiritual successor to the Firebird Esprit. The only thing misisng is a vinyl top