Offered to attract women into showrooms, it was accompanied by the Red Bird and Yellow Bird
For those fans of American performance cars, the world came to an end (at least temporarily) after the 1974 model year. The GTO, once the king of muscle cars, had been relegated to a 350 V-8 on a chassis shared with Pontiac’s compact Ventura, and it was conspicuously absent from the model lineup the following year. Furthermore, the special Super Duty 455 V-8, available in Firebirds, was never to return.
Beginning in 1975, catalytic converters were the new norm and necessitated the use of unleaded fuel; five-mph bumpers were now de rigueur; and computer-controlled engines were in their infancy. The last vestiges of performance were struggling to survive. For Pontiac, whose sales success of the late Fifties to the early Seventies relied on performance, things looked bleak.
Sure, you could still order a big 455 in your new Grand Ville, Bonneville, Catalina, Grand Prix, Le Mans, or Grand Am, but it was a detuned version of what once ruled the streets. Firebird, Pontiac’s sporty pony car, shared its engine lineup with other Pontiacs, so it too was subject to the downgraded performance of its siblings. Ironically, in this era of weakened performance, the Firebird had its best sales years, thanks to the meteoric rise in Trans Am sales.
When did Pontiac introduce the Sky Bird?
The second-generation F-body Firebird and Camaro were introduced in 1970. Pontiac offered four flavors—base, Esprit, Formula, and Trans Am. While the Formula and Trans Am were geared to those looking for all-out performance, the base model appealed to folks on a budget, and the Esprit to a buyer who wanted a little luxury with their sportiness. Esprits typically included such standard upgrades as body-colored sport mirrors with lefthand remote, color-keyed seat belts, center console, bright exterior moldings, and concealed windshield wipers.
As the Seventies progressed, Pontiac recognized that 30 percent of Firebird buyers were women. Not everyone wanted the macho image of the Trans Am and GM marketers smartly realized it was necessary to offer alternatives to the bad boy image of Pontiac’s performance flagship. The Esprit was the perfect choice and Pontiac, looking to expand market share, used the Firebird as the basis for three special editions.
The first of three special Esprits debuted at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1976 as a show car. Called Blue Bird, it was for all intents and purposes a “tape and paint job” that became known officially as the “Esprit Luxury Appearance Package.” The car proved a hit with consumers and Pontiac announced in May 1976 that a production version was to be introduced for the 1977 model year. There was only one problem: Reportedly, the Blue Bird Body Company of Georgia, a builder of school busses, had trademarked the name for automotive use and objected to the use of Blue Bird on another company’s vehicle. Pontiac thus changed the name to Sky Bird