My sole experience driving an F-body of this generation was when I talked a dealer into letting me take out a brand new 1993 Camaro Z-28 with a manual transmission and of course a V8. That was a fairly thrilling experience at the time although I knew going in that I had zero intention (or ability) to purchase it. These days I see plenty of Camaros and Firebirds/TransAms of that era in the junkyard; for the most part they are completely used up and usually look like they’d been somehow kept on the road for about a decade beyond which most other cars would have already been scrapped.
What I don’t often see at the junkyard, however, is a very clean example of any F-body, even if it is the base model. Yet that’s what we have here, a fairly base model 1994 Firebird in almost showroom condition.
Seeing this car makes me wonder who owned it. Was it someone’s mom? Or grandmother? Or someone who always wanted a red sports car no matter what it was? Or someone whose father bought it for them for their sixteenth birthday as a surprise with a big white ribbon on the hood? Who knows. But what they got is a car with a lot of show and adequate go, even if not endowed with the big motor from the factory.
This, being a 1994 model, is a second-year example of the fourth generation Firebird. Overshadowed by its corporate cousin Camaro for most of its life, the ‘Bird often got somewhat swoopier sheetmetal and of course pop-up headlights starting with the generation prior to this one. As a Pontiac, it had to be “exciting”, which in the 1990’s was often achieved (or intended to be achieved) by adding lots of gingerbread and cladding to the sides of their cars. Thankfully, the more basic models often escaped this and in hindsight (such as this one) look relatively cleanly styled.
Yes, of course there are still scoops and vents and various bird-like things to approximate the look of a beak when viewed from the front but it does look swoopy and bird-ish. In red it even looks as if on fire so it’s all entirely appropriate.
The tail end isn’t horrible either except maybe for that protrusion around the license plate area but big wide lights are always a good look for a sporting car and make the rear look sort of thruster-ish. Still, even the huge spoiler is well integrated into the design and looks modest compared to all of the more fast and furious possibilities.
Actual motive force was provided by the standard 160hp 3.4l V6 which isn’t terrible for the time at all. Of course the red paint may add another 5hp but that isn’t acknowledged in any of the literature I found. Likely it had enough get up and go to launch itself (albeit more sedately then the 5.7l V8) but the upgrade to a standard Buick 3800 V6 with 200hp a couple of years later was likely welcomed anyway. For all of the long hood that this has, it’s somewhat amazing how far back under the cowl this engine sits, there’s a lot of metal, plastic, and air ahead of the front of it.
GM was big into labeling their cars with some of their features, such as the standard ABS in this case as denoted on the wheel center caps. This one being equipped with Goodyear Eagle HP tires, while not really much of a performance tire, does seem to indicate an owner not averse to spending money on their car.
This Firebird was virtually complete with almost no exterior damage beyond a dent in the quarterpanel which is just as likely if not more so to have been inflicted after it arrived here than before. No rust, and not even a large helping of dirt to be found on it.
Somebody wanted to get at something under the center console and the seat has some wear on the bolster and cushion but otherwise this is a fine example of 1990’s Pontiac engineering, complete with very gray and plasticky switchgear on the dashboard and steering wheel. Lo and behold, this one even has a manual transmission, I’m curious what the take rate was on that combined with the V6 engine.
Airbags were standard on both sides of the dashboard on this year’s Firebird, and was touted as such in the advertising. The base price was $14,589 (so about $25,300 today) which seems pretty good, I’m having a hard time coming up with much these days for that amount that tries to look as fast as this does. After a quick look, it seems that the 2020 Camaro actually starts at $25,995, also with a manual transmission but a turbo-4 and no T-tops so the pricing is generally inline with what used to be even if that current base engine now produces 275hp. And if you thought you sat low and had a hard time seeing out of this F-body, will you be in for a surprise if you run down and check out that 2020 Camaro!
I pity anyone who had to wedge themselves back there but there are few signs of that having ever happened in this one. GM did do pretty good velour back then.
That’s a horrendously poor excuse for a trunk but I’m guessing at least one set of golf clubs (or maybe two with small shoulderbags?) fit into the well at the rear. The rear lid is an absolutely massive assembly with a huge piece of glass and then the decklid and big wraparound spoiler, when the struts go out, it’s not easy to lift this and keep it up without smashing down.
This ‘Bird wants to keep going, even at rest here it looks fully warmed up with half a tank of gas and some oil pressure…158,260 miles was the final verdict on the flightline though if in fact it’s here due to something mechanical and not just the usual not being able to find anyone that wants to drive a manual transmissioned car.
It’s even got the T-tops!
Built in April of 1994, laid to rest here in April of 2020, so a 26 year run from the day it was built at the Sainte-Therese plant in Quebec.
Not being part of the F-body scene it surprises me that someone wouldn’t have snapped up this body to build a lightweight sleeper of a car. Add slightly larger wheels and tires and a bigger engine and some suspension work, this seems like it would have appealed to someone if they of course were given the chance at it.
But the curtain falls and this ‘Bird quiets down for good, another Pontiac having outlasted its maker by eleven years. Don’t miss the video below!
In-Motion-Classic: 1998 Pontiac Firebird – The Last Flight by Joseph Dennis
Nice find. Its a shame to see damage- free cars in the wrecking yard that are nicer than the car I’m actually driving. This means , of course, they threw away a car I’d happily pay cash for.
I totally agree with your assessment. I never aspired to one of these, and I don’t do red cars, but I’d almost make an exception for this one. It would make a fine commuter car. Rust free, cloth seats, and three pedals – what a shame. This vehicle wouldn’t have ended up like this in the Detroit area.
I completely forgot that the 3800 wasn’t a FWD/transverse-only V6.
A great find, and nice pics. I’m a bit surprised this Firebird is in the boneyard, given its excellent condition. Circa 1995, I actually found the newly restyled Sunfire a better looking car. In fact, I found the previous generation F-bodies, and the similarly styled RX-7, more attractive than this over-styled, bulbous design.
If you looked in the cassette player, you would have found this cassette single in immaculate condition. 🙂
Perhaps a dealer trade in that failed at auction being a standard Bird and not a Transam and a stick shift?.
This was my first car, a ’95 Firebird in white. As a newly minted driver, I abused it. Apart from one oil change a buddy and I did, all work was done at a GMC/Pontiac dealer, which meant very little work was done, because they charged a fortune for everything.
I had a lot of problems with the firebird over the 6 or so years I owned it. On the second day of ownership, the glovebox broke and I velcroed it shut for the next 6 years. I recall one day, going down the hill from where we lived at the time, and the car losing power with all the lights coming on on the dash like a Christmas tree. Turns out the fan belt slipped right off of the alternator.
The car featured a gorgeous design, but it was low slung, and it got backed into all the time by inattentive drivers, including my best friend’s father, who was a terrible driver. I couldn’t tell you how many times it was in the shop getting one of the plastic guards on the front or back replaced.
My senior year of college, when living in a complex in a shoddy part of LA, the neighbor, who was recently sprung from jail, stole the T-tops. I couldn’t prove it, but we’d had a conversation about how scarce (and valuable) they were becoming couple of days prior. I drove the car around for the next year and a half or two years without a roof, come rain or shine. It developed a pretty nasty mildew problem and the interior was thrashed by the time I got rid of it.
When I sold it, it had a mere 60k miles on it and the transmission was slipping. It was a bad car, but in spite of that, I still miss it and sometimes think about getting one, as you just don’t see them that much anymore.
Thank you for sharing your ownership experience. It’s probably fairly representative of these cars, for better or for worse. More of the latter, I suspect.
Very interesting, as a high schooler, this must have been quite the treat! I just this morning saw a doppelganger to this one, also in red but with one headlight stuck in the open position, it looked like it knew its twin was here and was winking at me 🙂
The headlight harnesses are dragged over some sort of bracket for the fenders everytime they operate. Fantastic GM design. Explains why so many ended up with one or both lights stuck open.
Then when they did the update and made the bumper-mounter turn signals the DRLs, those burned through sockets like mad (just like gen-2 W-Bodies, gen-2 U-Bodies, gen-4 4Runners, and the last few years od Tundra production).
Never liked the forth generation, the midcycle refresh was a slight improvement if not gaudy, but these earlier ones look like ant eaters. I can’t tell which body parts are steel and which are plastic, it all looks plastic. The interiors, woof. I hated how GM made various buttons primer grey in this era, and the instrument cluster looks like it was printed on construction paper from a color printer.
I went to tech school with someone (was actually my lab partner for a bit) who had a visual doppelgänger in red/black, but his had the 3.4/auto, and touted himself quite the car expert, but after getting to know him it was quite clear that wasn’t the case and the Firebird was a sort of ego boost for him. I forget the specifics but I vividly remember his reaction after he did something that messed it up while on the lift, he was very embarrassed and dropped the class the next semester.
Is this the generation that had the plastic (or SMC) front fenders as well? Even if not, you’re right, that whole giant nosecone is plastic, as is the rear of course, the spoiler is plastic or fiberglass I believe and the inside of the doors (where the VIN tag is) looks like it as well.
I too prefer the mid-cycle which I rarely do, it slimmed down the bulbousness somewhat.
I once owned a vehicle that wasn’t running and I was over it. Instead of selling it for a few hundred dollars, I donated it to charity. Within a few days of having it picked up, I found it in the Pic-A-Part. I’m guessing that’s what happened here.
Many charities that take car donations aren’t interested in the cars. They just auction them off for whatever they can get for them. Oftentimes, something like this is the result if they can’t find a buyer other than the scrapyards.
The hood, doors, front fenders and hatch were all fiberglass. Only the rear fenders and roof were steel, and of course the inner unibody. Not just the skin on the door was plastic, but the whole thing! Kind of amazing, but it worked pretty well. Just look at this car. 26 years and 158k miles and it still looks good!
These cars were ALL metal no fiberglass
Sorry you are correct
the hoods are metal and heavy. 95 red convert.
Clean manual transmission Firebird junked for a mechanical issue? This isn’t my type of car, but this thing not having a future is a social commentary.
Almost 20 years ago, a friend had a Z28 of this generation with a 6-speed and a number of high end aftermarket upgrades to make it road-course-worthy. It was immensely powerful and responsive to the throttle compared with the BMWs and Porsches I was driving at the time. Many of its other qualities were pretty annoying. It was huge on the outside and small on the inside. It creaked and rattled. You couldn’t place it in a corner because you couldn’t even approximate where its extremities ended. The sun deteriorated different parts of it at different rates, even from side to side. I don’t think we ever figured out how to change the fog light bulbs, even with the help of the owner’s manual, a service manual, and the internet.
The redeeming quality of that Camaro was that it make the scenery flash by in fast-forward. This car didn’t have that redeeming quality, and one can only hope that’s why it went to the junk yard needing something like a steering rack instead of because there are no longer any young or working class people who care about American cars.
Or don’t know how to drive a manual.
But I think it’s also about the car, V8 ones very seldom end up in junkyards and the few I have come across have been automatics(if I could find one I’d pull the 6-speed for my car). 6 cylinder American ponycars get no respect, you’ll find numerous V6/manual Mustangs suffering the same throwaway fate. These cars to enthusiasts are viewed as rolling chassis for engine swaps, and this generation isn’t the Firebird most desirable to sink the money or effort into for those when so many other cheap choices that are objectively better from the 90s to build up. You can get almost every loose end to bolt an LSx engine into a E36 BMW that’s as cheap to buy as a V6 Firebird it would drop into.
Young working class people who care about cars aren’t bound by country and brand, today people look at these in junkyards the same way they look at an Express workvan “hmm, what engine does this have that I can pilfer”
I liked at one back in the late nineties. It was the cheapest V8 on the British market,20 000 ,1998 pounds. Dealer did his damdest to talk me out of the 6 speed manual. The interior quality looked like it was built by Arfix. OK I admit I looked at a Z28 . We never got the Bird, officially.
What is Arfix?
(I’m in the US and not familiar)
Airfix is a scale model company, mainly in Europe, similar to Revell, Monogram etc. They do sell over here as well but mainly in specialty hobby shops. It’s somewhat similar to us describing something as Fisher-Price quality.
Airfix is world famous as a plastic model kit maker.
Thanks to both of you for the replies.
What a bummer to see a rather well-kept example of this car junked. These cars’ styling was based on the Banshee concept car from a few years earlier. The Firebird was reasonably close to that car.
As much as I want a Firebird Formula from this era, I would have gone ape over a 3.4L V6 five speed coupe. 15 years ago, I would have yanked out the original drive train for the usual LSx swap, but now I think I would rock it stock…
damn homie. you are so right about the banshee this specific model is the most beautiful of all firebirds. my 95 is a convertible. and everyone is baffled many claiming it a corvette had teens jaws dropping saying thaaaaats bad. had everyone wanting to race me i soon realized i had a hot rod with a v6.
Why on earth would anyone JUNK this?!? 158,000 miles is a lot, but it looks as though someone took reasonably good care of it!
And people WANT these, at least a certain group of devotees do. Surely the owner would have realized a nice profit if he’d tried to SELL it!
Like so many of the vehicles that get posted in this series, I don’t get why anyone would junk them.
The only time I’ve ever done that was with cars in far worse condition than this example looks to be
Insurance cost could likely be still a factor, even today, that for someone who would be attracted to one with a stick for a daily? Or it really did shit the bed, it is 26 years old. If it wasn’t running it wasn’t worth anything regardless of the outward appearance…
I didn’t like these Firebirds, until I drove one. Back in 2004, I attended by brother-in-law’s wedding, and he asked me to drive his Firebird from the wedding reception back to his parents’ house (he, meanwhile drove off in his new wife’s Camry… such is married life). His parents’ house was about 100 mi. away, so of course I said yes.
His car was probably my favorite of this era’s Firebirds — a 1995 Formula (350 V8 and 6-spd. manual). Yes, it was rough, plasticky, noisy, rattly, unrefined, and everything else that’s been said about this car. But it was dang fun to drive that car through the countryside on a cool spring night. It was fast — very fast — the driver sits low, like in a cocoon, and you feel every single thing that’s going on with the car. Fun, in other words. Even for a Firebird-ambivalent person like myself.
I still wouldn’t buy one, but I look back fondly on having driven it.
He kept that car for another 15 years… last year he got rid of it due to a leaking head gasket (3rd time that happened), and other issues not uncommon to a car that had been daily driven for over two decades. The Firebird had a very respectable 220,000 miles or so in the end.
I, too, am sad to see this example in the junkyard.
I never got to drive one, but I do have similar (vicarious) warm feelings about these. A good friend of mine loved Firebirds, wanted one all through high school and college, then finally took the plunge after getting his first real job. He adored that car, and even all these years later and despite their many problems it’s nice to remember that sometimes things just work out right.
I wonder if, relatively early in its life it was serviced at a GM dealer and was introduced to Dexcool. If that was done at around the 3/30k mark, 158 would be a good guess at a failure time for the lower intake gasket. And at this point, the value of a manual 26 yr old V6 F-Body is somewhere under $300, and paying someone to do the LIG would run somewhere around $1500-2000.
I have a 1994 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
I’m looking for a Front Bumper, Hood, dashboard and some plastic framing that’s attached to the front bumper.