Pontiac’s second-generation ponycar was a little late for the party in 1970, but it was worth the wait! The 1970 Pontiac Firebird was a completely new design from the ground up, not sharing any major suspension or body components with the previous model. The car was praised by the car magazines for its bold new styling, sports-car like handling, and excellent acceleration abilities when equipped with the right engine. It had been improved immensely over the first generation cars in almost every way.
The 1970 Firebird rode on a 108″ wheelbase, the same as the new Camaro. It was only available as a two door coupe; the convertible had been dropped from the lineup, and would not return as a factory option until 24 years later. The 70 Firebird came with bucket seats, front disc brakes, and a front stabilizer bar. There were four trim levels available: the base Firebird, the Esprit, the Formula, and the Trans Am.
The base car came with a 250 CID inline six cylinder engine and a three-speed manual transmission, but a 255 horsepower Pontiac 350 V8 and an automatic transmission were available options. The Esprit came standard with the same 350 V8 and three speed manual transmission, and an optional automatic transmission was also available. It had stiffer spring rates than the base car
The 1970 Firebird Formula can be easily identified by the dual forward-facing hood scoops, and it came with a 330 horsepower Pontiac 400 V8 (NOW we’re talking!) and a three speed manual transmission. A four speed manual or an automatic transmission were available options. The Formula came with the same springs as the base car, but with heavier duty shocks, a larger diameter front stabilizer bar, and a rear stabilizer bar. It could also be special ordered with the same suspension as the Trans Am, and you could even get a Ram Air III (also called Ram Air HO) 335 HP 400 V8 in it.
The 1970 Trans Am was all about performance. It came with the Ram Air III engine above, but an optional Ram Air IV engine was available that produced 345 (370 according to some sources) horsepower. The base transmission in the Trans Am was a wide ratio Muncie four speed with a Hurst shifter. It came with 15″ wheels, larger front and rear stabilizer bars than the Formula, the stiffer springs from the Esprit, and the heavier-duty shocks from the Formula.
The 1970 Trans Am also had a shaker hood, which means that there was a rear-facing air intake scoop mounted atop the carburetor, and that scoop protruded through an opening in the hood to draw fresh, cool air into the engine. It had front and rear spoilers, and air extractors on both front fenders to allow hot air to escape from the engine compartment. The 70 Trans Am was only available in two color schemes, either white with blue stripes or blue with white stripes.
There were a total of 48,739 Pontiac Firebirds produced in 1970, including only 7,708 Formulas and 3,196 Trans Ams. The Formulas and Trans Ams were excellent performers due to the 400 cubic inch engine, with 0-60 MPH times in the six second range. When you combine the improved handling characteristics of the new platform with the power of the Pontiac 400 engine, the 1970 Pontiac Firebird was one of the best all around musclecars of the era. It is one of my favorite cars of all time.