(first posted 6/22/2016) Few things are as iconically American as a Firebird convertible. So when the drop-top version of Pontiac’s pony car was discontinued after 1969, an empty place was left in the American highway soul. For the next two decades Firebirds would come in many iterations, but no convertibles. Finally, 22 years later, this example was built. A 1991 model, it is one of about 1,500 made that year and represents the rebirth of an American icon.
The Firebird convertible’s story of rebirth, after having long been considered dead, reads more like that of a phoenix than a firebird, but never mind… it’s an interesting tale nonetheless.
Pontiac’s Firebird was first offered for sale in 1967, in delayed response to Ford’s wildly successful Mustang, and the car was offered as both a hardtop and convertible for its first three model years. During those years, convertibles accounted for 16% of the Firebird’s 280,000 sales. But despite that good showing, convertibles were considered as being on their way out.
The 2nd generation Firebird was introduced in 1970, and throughout that generation, it indeed seemed that there was a Firebird for every purpose, except for driving with the top down. No convertible was offered, not that its absence seemed to hurt sales much. By 1976, convertibles had all but disappeared from the US market, but on the Firebird, T-tops were introduced to regain some vestige of open-air motoring. While the T-top option grew in popularity as the years went by, GM never hinted that a true convertible would return.
1982 saw Pontiac introduce a 3rd generation Firebird, which would eventually sell over 800,000 copies during 11 model years. However, neither the Firebird nor its GM F-body twin the Camaro were initially offered as convertibles. That was bound to change sometime – if for no other reason than archrival Ford reintroduced a convertible Mustang in 1983. The Mustang entered unchartered waters, as it was unclear whether consumers would again warm up to top-down driving, but Ford’s gamble paid off. By the late 1980s, Ford was producing around 30,000 Mustang convertibles annually, and with no competition from GM, that growing market was Ford’s for the taking. GM suddenly found itself wanting an F-body convertible… fast.
Fortunately for GM, there were companies that specialized in convertible conversions, and for the F-body assignment, ASC, Inc. got the job. ASC (originally American Sunroof Corporation) built quite a business around just this scenario – creating specialty cars for manufacturers who were unable to make such cars on their regular production lines. As its name implies, ASC began life as a company installing aftermarket sunroofs, and the firm rapidly grew from a one-man shop in the 1960s to an industry leader making custom bodies, such as convertibles.
ASC Founder Heinz Prechter was a German native who moved to California in the early 1960s to attend college. While still a student, Prechter established a small operation in a local body shop to install aftermarket sunroofs (common in his native Germany, but a rarity in the US). He found a great niche in this market, and his business quickly grew.
Prechter expanded his business from sunroofs to more extensive car-customization, and in the 1980s he sensed another niche. Interest in convertibles was rekindling, but the relatively low volume and high tooling costs meant that most manufacturers weren’t ready to commit to making drop-tops for themselves. That’s where ASC came in – partnering with carmakers to produce “official” convertible versions of their cars, even though the customization work was done at ASC’s own facilities. The first such car ASC produced in this way was the 1982 Buick Riviera, and that endeavor proved successful enough to bring ASC many more contracts. Many low-volume convertibles of the 1980s and ’90s were produced by ASC in just such a fashion.
It was not the Firebird, but rather the Camaro, that got ASC’s convertible treatment first. Starting in 1987, Chevrolet began offering ASC Camaro convertibles as officially sanctioned GM products. The Firebird however, while mechanically and structurally identical, did not get a convertible option.
That’s not to say that Firebird enthusiasts weren’t anxious for a convertible – they were, and had been since the 3rd generation car was introduced. Rumors of a convertible Firebird proliferated, and several aftermarket companies made their own versions.
Additionally, several hundred “semi-official” Firebird convertibles were produced by ASC from 1987 to 1989 – customers could arrange through Pontiac dealerships to have their own Firebirds shipped to ASC and converted. (Since Firebird conversions were nearly identical to Camaro conversions, such requests were easily accommodated on ASC’s part.) Cars produced in this manner were even warranted by GM, though these were still considered unofficial convertibles.
For 1991, both F-body cars received their first significant facelifts since the 3rd generation was introduced nearly a decade earlier. Firebird’s most noticeable change was the front end, which sported a more aggressive-looking beak suggestive of the 1988 Banshee show car. Mechanically, the 1991 models carried over largely unchanged, as the freshening was only intended to carry the Firebird through the following two years, until a more thoroughly revised F-body platform would debut.
The biggest change for 1991 waited until early spring – at last, Firebird’s first official convertible in 21 years! With the tease of the late 1980s Camaro convertibles, and the persistent rumors of Pontiac’s own offering, there was considerable pent-up demand for Firebird convertibles by the time the car was finally released. Pontiac apparently had dealer orders for the year’s entire production run before the first car was built. Perhaps this is why marketing was light; few ads ran for the 1991-92 convertible, and even in Pontiac’s own brochures, little was said about this car. It literally sold itself… and these cars weren’t cheap, either.
The convertible came at an approximate $6,400 price premium over the coupe. Convertible prices started at $19,649 – for a well-equipped model such as this one, the sticker price was likely around $22,500, or equivalent to about $40,000 in 2016 dollars.
“Base” Firebird convertibles such as this one were available with either the standard 140-hp 3.1L V-6, or a 170-hp 5.0L V-8. This particular car features the V-8, as well as the optional 4-speed automatic transmission and crosslace pattern alloy wheels. Convertibles were offered in Trans Am trim as well, with a higher-output 205-hp 5.0L engine. The Trans Am coupe’s optional 5.7L V-8 was not offered in convertibles.
All Firebird convertibles came equipped with the otherwise optional Aero package (rocker panel extensions, etc.); in most other respects, convertibles and coupes came similarly equipped.
3rd generation F-cars were often full of squeaks, rattles and road noise – even when new, and even when a coupe. It goes without saying that sans roof, those creaks and groans intensified. These cars are, however, considerably more solid than the 1980s ASC convertibles, with greatly reduced (though still present) chassis flex and cowl shake.
But even though a convertible version was clearly an afterthought, the Firebird’s design lent itself nicely to being a ragtop. The lines are clean – even cleaner perhaps than the coupe – and the steeply raked windshield sends wind smoothly over the passenger compartment, with minimal buffeting.
The convertible’s interior was largely unchanged from the coupe’s. Our featured car’s interior likely appears familiar to anyone who has ridden in a 3rd generation F-body car. Firebirds featured a dashboard with instruments spread out horizontally in front of the driver (the beefy airbag steering wheel blocked many of these from view), and, oddly, no glovebox. This particular car features all available power accessories, air conditioning, and the highest-end stereo system available, with a CD and equalizer.
Overall fit and finish was not one of the Firebird’s strong suits. Front seats, however, were comfortable, and the upholstery was of high quality. The comfy cloth seats, shown here in camel, helped to cushion their occupants against the sometimes-jarring suspension.
Convertibles received the coupe’s rear seat, which, as with all F-bodies, was not a great place to spend time. Trunk space, likewise, was minimal, but no one bought a Firebird to regularly haul cargo or back-seat passengers, so these shortcomings can be easily overlooked.
Although power tops were becoming common by the 1990s, the Firebird maintained a manually-operated top that folded underneath a hideaway hatch. Operation of the top was simple, and the hatch enabled the car to achieve a clean, finished look when the top was down.
source of production figures: www.transamworld.com
In 1991, 1,505 Firebird convertibles were produced, edging up to 1,928 for the nearly identical 1992 model year. Altogether, convertibles accounted for 4% of the 79,000 Firebirds produced over these two years. Despite these low production numbers, the exercise was worthwhile for GM. Firebird sales had fallen from their highs in the mid-1980s, and the convertibles were seen as a way to inject some interest in an otherwise shrinking market segment. Though produced in small numbers, the 1991-92 Firebird convertible was an important offering for General Motors, and for the Firebird model range. Serving as the Firebird’s flagship, it captured sales from an important niche, and kept consumers’ interest, even as overall Firebird sales dwindled.
More importantly, GM kept convertibles in the lineup for the Firebird’s 4th generation (though the ’93 model year was skipped for ASC to develop new tooling). In the 9 years during which 4th generation convertibles were made, they accounted for a more sizable 9% of production. For the last two years (2001-02), 16% of Firebirds were convertibles – the same proportion as in 1967-69.
Even when new, the 1991 Firebird was an old car. That’s why people loved it, and that’s why people hated it. The V-8 produced plenty of tire-squealing power, but an owner must be willing to live with certain compromises – compromises that had been engineered out of most other cars. The ride was firm, ergonomics questionable, and handling was tricky (except in the rain, in which case it was impossible). It was the feeling of driving such a car that was the main attraction.
In 1991, better cars could be bought – cars that were better built, that handled better, were more comfortable and offered more equipment. But few other cars could match the aura of a Firebird convertible. The Firebird wasn’t everyone’s idea of a 1990s performance car, but for many buyers it fit the bill perfectly.
When Pontiac brought the Firebird convertible back to life after a two-decade absence, it served as validation that the dark years of malaise had officially ended. It also served as hope that other interesting cars long considered dead might one day come back to our roads. And as for this example, even when parked on a drizzly spring morning, such as when this car was photographed, it still evokes a feeling of warm-weather driving excitement.
Photographed in Jefferson City, Missouri in March 2016.
As for the squeaks & rattles, I can’t recall any on the 88 Camaro coupe I rented back in the day. I have read reports about the T top versions doing it.
Others have had different experiences, but mine was a positive one.
These cars interiors felt and looked like they were assembled with wood screws and duct tape.
Firebirds have since gen 2 have been so associated with T-tops that what was missed without a convertible wasn’t so obvious. The rumbling V8, the giant Eagle GTs and iffy structure all conspire to make a convertible seem a bad idea. The hatch area, admittedly oddly shaped, was roomy and had to be skipped. I know T-tops found their way to a few Nissans, but it seemed to enhance the Americaness of the car. This car was a bit of a brute, and maybe not every car has to be refined.
Found at the Runge Nature Center? Very good catch, indeed.
When I attended the Loafers Car Show in Hannibal back in May, there was a Camaro convertible there, one of the ASC cars. The owner had a display with it explaining that despite both the 305 and 350 V8 being available on the regular Camaro at the time, only the 305 was allowed for cars destined for being converted. It seems there was concern about the extra torque from the 350 putting to much additional stress on the structure. It makes me wonder how close the 305 was to that critical threshold.
Having driven a low mileage ’89 IROC Camaro with a T-top a few times back in the mid-90s, these did have a few squeaks and rattles. However, the seating position was amazingly comfortable for me and the power from the 350 was the type of power I had long been longing for in cars I had driven. Things have come a long way.
That’s right — it was at Runge. Not quite the kind of wildlife I was expecting to find at a nature center.
I’ve wondered the same thing about the structural strength of the 3rd generation convertibles. From what I’ve learned, GM made some structural improvements (to both coupe & convertible) for the ’91 F-bodies to tighten them up a bit. This seemed to focus on a new type of structural adhesive used to hold various body parts together. 9 years into an 11-year model run seemed like an odd time to make such an improvement, so possibly GM was testing out the adhesive for future applications? Just a guess. But still, the structural strength on these cars must have been marginal at best.
I think the 4th generation was designed with a convertible in mind, was more solid feeling, and the 5.7 was finally offered on the convertibles.
“…Ford reintroduced a convertible Mustang in 1983. The Mustang entered unchartered waters, as it was unclear whether consumers would again warm up to top-down driving…
As much as I’m a Mustang fan, I’d say the credit for entering uncharted waters belongs to Chrysler, who introduced the successful LeBaron convertible a year earlier.
Notice on their pony car, the Daytona, Chrysler stuck to T-tops.
It was Chrysler who noticed that convertibles had not been banned, and were not likely to be under Reagan.
Good point, and there are a number of speculations we can make as to why Chrysler didn’t offer a convertible on the Daytona (or its Plymouth Laser sibling).
It may have been a production capacity issue at ASC, the fact that the Daytona’s hatchback body style would have required extensive reengineering, or a fear of cutting into sales of the LeBaron and Dodge 400 convertibles.
Oh my gosh – a Daytona convertible would’ve looked *sick* (good way). I wonder if anyone ever tried that conversion.
Wasn’t there a concern in the early 70s that the government would either ban convertibles as unsafe or create new regulation that would make them unprofitable to re-engineer? I recall Cadillac making a run of convertibles that many said were the last convertibles ever, and people bought them at marked up prices, only to have convertible return a few years later.
Is there any crash video of a Firebird or Camaro convertible? That would be interesting, just like the video of a Geo Metro or Yugo convertible!
Yes, and that concern (as well as safety concerns in general) was partially responsible for the declining interest of convertibles at that time.
Regarding the Firebird, while 16% of 1967-69 Firebirds were convertibles, a year-by-year analysis sheds some more light. 1967 started off at 19%, slipped to 16% for ’68 and then 13% for ’69. This downward trajectory, as well as the general safety concerns about convertibles at the time, likely influenced the decision to discontinue the convertible for the 2nd generation.
I’ve also read that the rising popularity of air conditioning played a role in declining convertible sales, but I have a bit of trouble seeing the correlation.
I tend to think that – as is the case today with hatchbacks and two-door sedans – for some reason, the taste of buyers in the US simply shifted, for whatever reason.
I think it’s correct that air conditioning spreading to all “levels” of US cars in the 1960s did cause a decline in convertible sales. The “Impending Rollover Rule of Doom™” thing I never bought into.(although I think it did kill off “hardtops”.) GM dropped “C” body ‘verts after ’70, “B” bodies after ’75 – Leaving the Eldorado as the “last”. As far as I know none were planned for the ’77 B/C. Further the revived convertibles of the ’80s were on “specialty” lines. The era of open cars among every mainstream line was over. The only one that was in the middle class was the Dodge.
Air conditioning was an expensive option in the sixties. Most people bought their first air conditioned car between 1965 and 1972, so it was a new extra expense. On top of adding AC to the invoice, the convertible top was a bridge too far.
Although the price really did decline. In the mid-50s, factory air on a new Cadillac was $620 — which the CPI Inflation calculator puts at around $5,500 in 2016 dollars. By the late ’60s, even the automatic system on an Eldorado was over $100 less than that (in nominal, not real dollars).
It was the 1976 ElDorado that was the “last” convertible. Some buyer’s did “sock” them away as “investments”.
The Motor Trend cover also shows a sharp-looking J2000 SC, which didn’t turn up any solid hits in a quick search. Wonder what the story behind that is?
It wasn’t a GM product, but rather a one-off exercise from a car customizer — and right now I can’t remember which one. The Firebird on the cover was from Straman Coachworks, but the J2000 was from a company I had not heard of before. Good looking car, though, and from what I recall, it had engine and suspension improvements over the stock 2000.
“Few things are as iconically American as a Firebird convertible.”
Sez who? The Firebird was an also-ran to the Camaro. Always was, always will be. Putting a huge decal covering the hood made it really silly, too.
Sorry, no taker, here.
In the FWIW department, the first time I saw a post-1970 Camaro convertible was in a first-year episode of “Charlie’s Angels” in 1976. Must have built by ASC, perhaps? I was impressed and wanted one. I would have taken the “angel” in the car, too, if I wasn’t already engaged at the time!
An aside note: The debut of the 1983 Mustang convertible proudly touted in its ads that “roll the windows down – ALL of them”! I got a good laugh at that and felt a bit vindicated… by Ford!
I must also be “Un-American” since I don’t immediately think of a Firebird convertible as being “iconically American”.
Even though the Firebird is not the kind of car I would buy, I do consider it iconic – as in it’s emblematic of American car-market eccentricities.
Regarding the sometimes garish image of Firebirds, I can’t help but think of Jerry Reed’s song “The Bandit” – a song as closely linked to a Firebird as anything could be. The lyrics go:
Some say they despise you,
Well maybe they do,
But deep down inside them,
I bet they wish they were you.
I feel that way about Firebirds, too. Even though I’ve never been tempted to buy one, deep down I’d love to drive showy car with a screaming chicken on the hood. At least just for a little while…
Maybe it’s because I grew up in the early 80’s with so much malaise, but I love the garish boldness of Firebirds, screaming chickens and all.
Perhaps Knight Rider and The Bandit influenced me as well. They were rather tasteful after all compared to the General Lee. 🙂
I don’t consider a Firebird convertible iconic, but I don’t consider the Camaro iconic either – it’s an also ran Mustang – at least the Firebird looked good consistently from gen 1 to gen 3, whereas the Camaro went from a faceless/assess first generation, to a gorgeous Italianate coupe…briefly for 70-73, got ugly for 74, railroad tie bumpers and all, copied the Firebird’s endura bumpers for 77-81 to become merely palatable, then the third gen car looked like a Monza with long overhangs(with the sloping nose on the Firebird the overhang actually makes sense!)
“also-ran Mustang”? That’s a good one!
Almost every time a Camaro and Mustang were compared and optioned similarly, the Camaro won.
I like the 67-69 Camaros the best, but that’s when I was a teenager, and what you find impressive when you are young sticks with you. Hey! I’m a Chevy guy at heart and always will be. No apologies, either.
Give me a 1967 Camaro coupe, 250 cu. in. 6 cylinder Powerglide and I’ll be the happiest guy on earth! In red with saddle tan interior, please.
It may have won in the buff books but until it’s fifth generation reintroduction the Mustang utterly eclipsed the Camaro in sales, which is the win that ultimately counts.
A lot of the comparison results depended on how well the cars matched up. Certainly, during the Mustang II years, it was no contest.
In an early 3rd generation F-body versus the Fox-chassis Mustang test, Car and Driver put it well when they stated that, although the F-body technically won, the Mustang was more fun to drive. But then the tables would turn when the OHC SN95 Mustang went up against the 4th generation F-body.
With today’s cars, I think I’d take a Mustang (or even a Challenger), simply because they seem like they’d be a lot easier to drive everyday. The Camaro looks like it would be nearly impossible to see out of.
But then the tables would turn when the OHC SN95 Mustang went up against the 4th generation F-body.
But even then, the Mustang may not have had Camaro’s quarter mile stats but as far as being fun AND livable, it was no contest between the SN95 and F-Body, and sales reflected it. The fourth gen Camaro was littered with weird ergonomic issues(passenger floor hump), the infamous 90s fisher price interiors, were very difficult to work on, and the division between V6s, the primary sellers, wasn’t as nearly wide as the V8s were.
I don’t know. Those SN95 V6 Mustangs were dogs, particularly when the heaviest convertible version was equipped with an automatic. Given the reported test results of the time, I dare say that a Neon 5-speed from the same era would give one a good race.
While the 4.6L OHC engine was certainly better than the V6, it was still no contest against an LT1 car. It wasn’t until the DOHC V8 arrived with the Cobra Mustangs that things seemed to be on a much more level playing field. Even then, the price for a Cobra was a whole lot more salty than a prosaic LT1 (or, later, LS1),
GM, in a rare exception to the norm, actually made V8-powered, 4G F-bodies quite affordable. Yeah, there were quirks like the passenger floor hump for the catalytic converter, outward vision wasn’t nearly as good as an SN95, and access to the engine jammed up underneath the steeply raked windshield was a nightmare, but those V8 Camaros/Firebirds were plenty speedy. And, you got a six-speed manual, to boot, whereas the SN95 still made do with five cogs. The 6-speed might have had that goofy skip-shift contraption from first to fourth under light throttle, but the aftermarket soon offered up cheap ways to get around it.
Even today, the performance, driving dynamics, and quirks of the Mustang and Camaro don’t seem to have changed all that much from those times in the past when they were the closest.
V6 Mustang vs. V6 Camaro/Firebird weren’t quite worlds apart, both have long been cars kids with Mom’s Civic brag about beating. And the DOHC Cobra debuted at the same time the SOHC did, 1996, there was no gap. As I keep saying, those Mustangs offered a more appealing package for most, only slightly less practical than the Foxbody, not just being the one trick pony fast car like the F body became back then. Bringing aftermarket into the topic, the Mustang’s was HUGE, that’s always been the go-to solution for Mustangs in need of power, going all the way back to the FE 390 days. And where the SN95 really shines in that department is incredible ease of modification, whereas even a dual exhaust is difficult to do on a 4th gen F-Body.
Also the 6-speed was just a double overdrive, 5th and 6th are pretty much highway mileage gears, which is very necessary with 5.7 liters. The 4.6 got good highway mileage with only 5, so that’s all you needed. You race to 4th(direct) to the traps with either transmission. When Ford supercharged the Cobras years later they used the same 6 speed for the same reasons – to keep the revs low on an engine that now behaves more like a larger displacement engine
…and I was a teenager in the 80’s when the 3rd gen Mustang was beating the Camaro in most comparisons. The 5th gen did the same.
Here’s a fun look back at C&D:
Icon: A person or thing regarded as a representative symbol of something.
The Firebird, in particular the Trans-Am version, is certainly symbolic of a brash style of car that sold quite well in the US for several years. You may not personally like the car, but I agree with the author – it is iconic in American car culture.
I had little interest in the Firebird – in particular the Trans Am in its heyday. To the degree that I liked the F-Body, I preferred well equipped base models – there is a lot of basic goodness in the second generation F-Body that doesn’t need a lot of adornment.
Despite my lack of interest in those cars back then, I’m strangely drawn to the Trans Am conversions being done by Trans Am Depot. Considering what passes for brash cultural trash in 2016, the retro Firebird Trans Am looks like good clean fun……………..
Man, a lot of you guys are going to hate my Firebird update next week!
Not me! Compare the clean nose of that Firebird to the one pic below and tell me which one looks like the also ran execution…
Actually, I really like your Firebird. It’s equipped and trimmed about perfectly for me. It’s literally the F-body I was thinking of when expressing what I like in an F-Body. Looking forward to the update!
Nothing a screaming chicken decal couldn’t fix.
I think those who are saying that the Firebird just don’t like Firebirds. You don’t have to like something for it to be Iconic. I personally think that the Type 1 VW (beetle) was an overrated POS, but It IS iconic. The Firebirds used in the movies and TV of the era definitely made the model an American Icon of the 1970s and 80s
Outstanding find and write-up, Eric! I agree that the lines of the 3rd-generation Firebirds lent themselves nicely to the convertible body style – curiously, much more nicely than that notchback-looking hatch optional on the GTA for a couple model years.
On looks alone, the Firebird is my favorite pony car through the years. I love so many of the ones pictured above. But that ’91 nose and rockers…ick.
Nice treatment of a car I have very mixed feelings about. I a really not a fan of F bodies of this generation. They were attractive, but suffered from so many compromises. More like a 90s AMC Javelin than a something that GM was capable of building.
But the convertible conversion makes for a great story and an interesting car. I am not sure I could deal with the floppy structure, but the world is a more interesting place with these in it.
I love this car! So many memories.
I never knew there was such a convoluted arrangement with ASC for these, oddly it seems like I’ve seen an equal amount of ASC Camaros as I do Firebirds, which isn’t many(but this isn’t much of a convertible climate). I never particularly liked them, the bodies are so slab sided and straight that chopping the roof off just makes these cars, and most 80s cars ASC did as a whole(minus the Riv), look boring and unsubstantial. Convertibles need coke bottle hips.
And count me in as a literal lifelong hater of the Banshee inspired restyle. This generation were never paragons of car design, but they looked good for their era, but when they gave it that goofy batmobile bumper and those awful rocker panels they just made it look like a contrived half assed attempt to look “90s”
Great find, and greater write-up. My memory banks on this car have suffered from serious structural deficiencies, which have now been fixed. Thanks!
ASC still has a facility on 13 Mile Rd. just north of the GM Tech Center.
At the time I really liked the ’91 “nose job”; now from a distance of 25 years I’m not so sure. It’s not bad, but I think the ’87 to ’90 GTA and TTA were the real lookers of the 3rd-gen Firebirds.
This convertible is a great find regardless!
CC effect! Saw an identical car to the pictured one today. I had totally forgot they existed and thought it was a hack job at first.
Friends wife drove a 75 Camaro LT rag top.looking at the photo on her phone it does not look like a DIY job. Could not have been an ASC as they did not get the saw out till 1982. Does any body now who carried out the conversion?.
I miss K.I.T.T.
I just did an overview of a fellow gear heads mint 18k mi ’91 Z28 convert. I learned about the ASC conversion. While the Z28 was priced significantly more than an equivalent Mustang GT convert of the time, the ASC conversion is superior in terms of how it stows and the fabric of the top. Very German in quality, which makes sense since ASC was founded by a kraut. The sublime lines of the 3rd gen Camaro and quality of its convert conversion just may be the most appealing of all Camaro drop tops.
I’ve had many convertibles and I prefer them over T Tops. The T Top owes it’s popularity to Smokey and the Bandit. Yes, they are very ’70’s cool and you can imagine yourself as ol’ smirking Burt. I had a ’92 300ZX with T Tops and they were a hassle, take them off, secure them in their storage bags, then secure them in the hatch area. If I parked the car for a long period, I’d re install them so that they wouldn’t get stolen. With the convertibles I was able to drop the top while waiting at a red light. For parking I could raise and secure the top without getting out of the car. I’ve also had a lot of sunroofs. I prefer a power moonroof which I’ve got in my Flex. I had one installed in my ’94 Seville and cruising around with the sunroof open and all the windows down was as close as I could get to my old four door hardtops. Nothing beats a convertible on nice Spring day.
Being a movie star adds to a car’s rep. Firebirds are iconic due to the Bandit, and maybe McQ. ( Dumbest chase scene ever, but the Firebird looks cool). Mustangs have The Last American hero, Gone in 60 seconds, and Bullitt of course. Challengers have Vanishing Point. I can’t think of a movie that starred a Camaro.
Bumble Bee from the Transformers movies was a bright yellow Camaro with black stripes. A fitting color combination, considering the character’s name.
I forgot that one, since I never watched the movie.
I had T-tops in the PyroChicken (my 1995 Firebird Formula), and it was a great arrangement for me at the time (I owned it from age 20 to 22). Being on a black car, as well as said car being a Formula as opposed to the more visually loud Trans Am, there was no lingering aura of “Breaker 1-9!” to ’em *. I don’t think T-top theft was as common by that point, so they functioned as a pseudo sunroof during the hot summer days, and slotted into special holders on the bottom of the mostly useless trunk well for cruising at night. We got really good at popping the hatch, jumping out of the car, and quickly locking them back into place when freak thunderstorms struck, which was quite often in northwestern Montana. The only issue was an occasional drip where the front corner of the glass panel met the windshield header and door glass when I went to the carwash or the t-storms were particularly delugious (it’s a new word that I just made up for the occasion).
* I’ve absolutely no hatred for the disco era Trans Ams… screaming chicken and all. They totally embody that moment in time, also representing the short period where the Firebird’s popularity eclipsed the Camaro. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, as my Mom drove a 1979 Firebird Esprit during most of my formative years.
A 1979 Z28 played a big role in “Fast Times At Ridgemont High”.
I have no recollection of either the 3G Camaro or Firebird being offered as a convertible. It does seem like it would be more difficult than converting something like a ’79-85 Riviera where you don’t have to remove a hatchback and its interior compartment.
3rd gen F-bodies had been maligned for some time but are now garnering strong i and restomod interest, and values have soared in the last 3 years as good examples have become rare and they’ve elevated to ‘real’ classic camaro/firebird status. So many were built in their long run that they became cheap performance and were abused, enhancing their reputation for being rattly and crumbly. While they were far from japanese build quality, the interior was perfectly acceptable if well maintained. The addition of inexpensive subframe connectors resolves most if the body flex and squeaks. These cars were designed by GM to be among the best handling cars available to the masses, and they succeeded in that goal, particularly with the factory upgrades (WS6 in the T/A). For a front-engine, solid axle car, they are exceptionally well balanced, exhibit almost no body roll, and are predictable to their limit. They take well to a crate motor swap, giving them the go to match the show. Well sorted upgrades can provide the charms of a 60s muscle car with the now cool 80s kitsch.
As an owner of one of the believed 17 1989 LB9 Formulas converted to a convertible by ASC, I can confirm that the 3Gen Firebird convertible does indeed draw much attention. Extra support in the rockers provide plenty of stiffness for the convertible to handle the 5.0 with 5 speed just fine. The car is just plain fun to drive!