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