Junkyard Gem: 1987 Pontiac Firebird

Murilee Martin


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From 1967 through 2002, the Pontiac Division offered the Firebird, close sibling to the Chevrolet Camaro. By the third generation, which debuted for the 1982 model year, it became more difficult to tell the two F-body cars apart at a glance and the Pontiac-exclusive engines of the earlier years disappeared, but the Firebird still retained its own personality and its own position in the GM marketing hierarchy. I still find the occasional 1982-1992 Camaro as I search car graveyards for interesting stuff, but the corresponding Firebirds have become scarce in recent years. Here's a base-engine-equipped '87, its Bright Red paint (yes, that was the official name for the color) faded by the Colorado sun as it awaits the crusher.

Firebird shoppers had their choice of three engines in 1987: A 5.7-liter Chevy V8 (210 hp), a 5.0-liter Chevy V8 (205 hp) and the same 2.8-liter 60° V6 that went into the Fiero and countless front-drive GM sedans (135 hp). This car has the base engine. The third-gen F-body didn't weigh much (3,105 pounds for the '87 with six-banger, about what a 2020 Corolla weighs), so 135 horses was tolerable.

Plenty of these cars got T-5 5-speed manual transmissions, but this one got the two-pedal setup.

Camaro wheels, of course.

Our Friend the Carburetor didn't disappear from new cars until the early 1990s in the United States, though electronic fuel injection had become very commonplace by 1987. Still, GM considered this car's EFI worth a door-handle brag.

It's not worth fixing up a mashed six-cylinder third-gen Firebird, so we can see the route this car took to its final parking space.

When you're about to be beaten to a pulp by catcalling, Olds-driving thugs, run to the Firebird!

So much big hair in these late-1980s Pontiac ads!