The (Almost) Forgotten Engine: 1980-1981 Pontiac 265 CID (4.3L) V8 – Why Did They Bother?

Pontiac 1980 engines firebird

(first posted 1/3/2013)    As part of my ever-diligent fact-checking, I wanted to confirm that the 1980 Pontiac Firebird really did come with the Buick V6 as the base engine. Quite true; but I assumed  the next step up was the Pontiac 301 V8 (4.9L), which was hardly a fire-breathing monster in its time (135-140 hp), and would be the logical progression from the 110 hp V6. But what’s this? The 265 cubic inch Pontiac V8? Oh, right; this was 1980-1981, the golden era for GM’s undersized and underpowered V8s. An EPA special, one assumes, until one looks at the EPA numbers.

Pontiac 1981 engines epa

The only thing I could find was this from the 1981 brochure for the 116″ wheelbase Pontiacs (B-Body), that had EPA numbers for all three engines. The 3.8 V6 numbers (20/30).

The 4.3L Pontiac V8 checks in with city/hwy numbers of 18/27. And the 5.0L 4 barrel Olds 307 V8? 17/28. A virtual tie.  I can’t find any direct comparisons between the Pontiac 265 and 301, but it’s hard to imagine there being any meaningful difference. (Please note: these are the old, un-adjusted EPA numbers, which were substantially higher than the adjusted ones used more recently).

the only picture of a confirmed 265 on the whole web (

Chevy (262, 267) and Olds also built small-bore V8s (260), and some of them stayed around a bit longer. But it soon became all-too obvious that anything less than 5 liters wasn’t worth the trouble. But the Pontiac was almost undoubtedly the least built (and remembered) of the bunch. So before it slips from the collective memory, let’s give it it’s (useless) fifteen minutes of fame. Anyone ever had one?