One thing I am unhappy about in the Firebird is the somewhat clumsy manual gear-changer. It tends to make difficult what should—in a car of this type—be a smooth, easy run through the gears. But I have this complaint with both the Camaro and Mustang, so perhaps, it's me.
Also, I found the manual brake pedal too far away from the accelerator and much too high to reach quickly with my foot. Pontiac engineers tell me the new dual-braking system makes this necessary in that if one pair of brakes fails, quite a bit of additional pedal travel is needed to actuate the other pair of brakes. Still, I should think this could be remedied by raising the accelerator assembly to bring it closer to the height of the brake pedal. The pedal for the dual power brakes, by the way, doesn't have this objection.
The Firebird is based on the Chevrolet Camaro body shell, yet it features distinctive Pontiac paneling and trim, mainly up front. The car also offers a number of nice touches designed for comfort, safety and convenience.
Both cars I drove had steering wheels that could be adjusted for rake, locking into any of seven different positions, a feature I find desirable for comfort.
Plenty of safety features
Safety considerations are present in abundance. In addition to seat belts all 'round, an energy-absorbing steering column and a dual-braking system, plus many other items included in the typical "safety package," Firebird interiors feature recessed door handles in the armrestsout-of-the-way "in case," yet easy to get at if one wishes to open the doors. Another feature is that the front seats lock into place, thus helping prevent a person being thrown forward during abrupt deceleration.
Speaking of the seats, they don't seem to hold either driver or passenger in to any great extenta weakness of almost all cars, I think. Personally, I'd prefer more lateral support than I find in any U. S.-built automobile. Yet all this may be nothing more than mild eccentricity on my part.
One optional feature that appealed to me the moment I climbed behind the wheel is the location of the tachometer. It's directly in the driver's line of vision. Obviously, if it is going to be used to its fullest extent, this is where a rev counter belongs.
Another innovation I liked is the Firebird's "fold-away" spare tire. The tire quite literally folds around the rim of the spare wheel, reducing by half the normal spare-tire size. This is important because luggage space in most cars of this type is at best somewhat cramped. A pressurized can of compressed gas is provided for emergency inflation of the "fold-away" spare. Installed, the tire is said to be good for 1000 miles.
If yet more luggage space is needed, the back of the rear seat can be folded forward, providing a flat, carpeted deck upon which several small suitcases can be carried.
But regardless of its design innovations, the Firebird as a whole comes off as a fast and sporty means of travel, and without the discomforts of a true sports car. I found the car roomy and comfortable, with excellent driver visibility and a "big car" feel despite its 108-in. wheelbase. Overall, the Firebird fulfills admirably one of my personal requirements for any motor car—it must be relaxing to drive.
Pontiac calls the Firebird a sports car. Thankfully, it isn't. A true sports car is almost a racing machine, with ultra-quick steering and harsh suspension. But the Firebird, like its fellow personal cars, is really more of a GT (Gran Tourismo) setup designed to eat up the road at relatively high speeds over long distances. And this it does very well. * * *