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 Internet 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 Pontiac LeMans police cars also had rear-facing hood scoops (movie props?).

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).