review of Pontiac 1978 Firebird -and- 1978 Trans-Am

Have owned:
- a 1978 Pontiac Firebird -and-
- a 1978 Pontiac Trans-Am

The two cars were very different.

Difference was in driving them.
The 1978 Trans-Am drove like a race car.
The 1978 Firebird drove like an old lady's Buick.

The Firebird was a Firebird Esprit with rare two-tone blue/white paint. Had a weak Chevrolet 305 (5.0L) V8, either was made weak or became weak. Interior was blue, had false-wood trim, standard mundane Pontiac steering wheel, basic gages.

The Trans-Am was a black/gold Bandit edition. Had WS-6 option: performance suspension, stronger sway-bars, faster steering, a Pontiac 400 (6.6L) at 220HP with slightly hotter cylinder heads and camshaft. Its original Pontiac 400 was replaced by a Pontiac 455 (7.5L), Offenhauser intake manifold, exhaust headers, glass-pack mufflers, intake scoop was made functional.

Full-throttle on Trans-Am would shake its intake scoop, rock its front up, fish-tail its rear as engine torque was shifted from one spinning rear wheel to the other. Trans-Am turned very quickly, without leaning, G-force caused shoulders of its human occupants to slam against its doors. Passengers would cringe seeing a RR sign. Its super-stiff springs permitted the shattering of spines driving over train-tracks.

The Firebird was frustratingly slow. It had some handling characteristics of Trans/Am, but it also had some of an old lady's Buick. Firebird had a comfortable bouncy ride, but it could turn without floundering like a Buick or hippo. Turning Firebird too sharp could cause a front wheel to dive, whereas Trans/Am's wheels would stay more level. Firebird was a compromise between a comfy vs sporty car.

Smokey & the Bandit

"Smokey & the Bandit" was written and directed by Hal Needham, filmed in Georgia.

True star of the movie.....was the black Trans-Am.

Do remember seeing the movie in 1977, vividly remember jumping-over-creek and hiding-in-convoy scenes, audience laughing at Reynolds smiling at camera, Buford yelling "Gonna BBQ your _ss in molasses!".

Pontiac donated 3 Trans-Ams for the movie. The Trans-Am that jumped over creek was totally destroyed. The Trans-Am that hit mail-boxes, its fender was torn off. Hal Needham said only one Trans-Am was operating, barely, at end of movie.

Burt Reynolds seems to have genuinely liked Trans-Ams. He mentioned in an interview (paraphrasing) "car was light, with a big powerful engine, it would go quick". Pontiac gave Reynolds a Trans-Am every year until management changed.

"Sheriff Buford T. Justice" was a real sheriff Reynolds had heard about. "som-b_tch" originated from Reynolds which Gleason adopted. Film crew said Jackie Gleason was hilarious on-and-off camera.

Buford said a lot of funny lines, all over the Net now, which barely stayed within PG rating. Less famous lines are Frog/Field's variation of the f-word "chased around in this feckuckteh car", "Kojak with a Kodak" which has no meaning to newer generations.

Possibly, engines of the Trans-Ams were hot-rodded (?), as stock 1977 Trans-Ams, despite having a 400CI V8, had merely 200HP. Some police cars also had similar rear-facing hood scoops (possibly movie props?). Hood scoops indicated cars were special and faster.

Scenes in which Reynolds and Fields appear to be driving, in some they really were driving, in others they were filmed on stage in a stationary Trans-Am. In a few of these stationary scenes, front wind-shield was removed as it would cause glare, if one looks at rear-view mirror, one can see it isn't attached to wind-shield since its attachment plate is at a wrong angle. Nevertheless, filming was excellent, since was fooled for decades until finally noticed that (haha).