Autopolis

The cars we loved.

1977-1980 Pontiac Firebird Esprit Special Editions: Birds of a Different Color


1977 Pontiac Firebird Sky Bird

1977 Pontiac Firebird Sky Bird

1970’s era Firebirds often evoke images of big V8’s and tire smoking. Pontiac recognized that for every V8 powered Trans-Am that it sold, four or five V6 powered cars would leave dealerships, often to women. Women had become 30% of the Firebird market by 1977 and as much as 40% of the specialty Firebird market. Potential Firebird buyers regardless of sex may have appreciated the gruff image of the Trans-Am, but practical measures made it necessary to offer more low-key (and insurable) models.

1980 Yellow Bird

1980 Yellow Bird

While these grand touring “Color birds” were being released, Pontiac did not forget the Trans-Am buyer as it released special color editions of the Trans-Am like the 1978 Gold Edition and the Black and Gold Editions in 1980-1981 of the Turbo Trans-Am. The notion of color coding wheels to a car was not new for Pontiac, who had been doing it as early as 1973 with early Firebirds, Grand Ams and  GTO’s.

Sky Bird Logo

Sky Bird Logo

To that end, Pontiac figured out that it could make the bread and butter Esprit models more appealing (and profitable) by  simply adding color coordinated flair and a few choice decals that might appeal to the fairer sex (or less macho men). Starting around 1977 Pontiac would start offering “Color birds”. These designer Firebird Esprits with a themed color and options had their own versions of delicate looking bird graphics with plenty of curves and flowing scripts. The first was the 1977 Sky Bird, called Sky instead of Blue due to a Georgia company owning the rights to the name. Sky Bird was a wonderful excuse to make a pretty bird logo just for this car. Finished with a light blue exterior and interior; it marked a juncture where automakers got serious about marketing to women. 1978 was a great sales year for the Firebird and Pontiac could not resist releasing more special editions, sometimes overlapping in availability. 1978-79 would be the years of the Red Bird, while in 1980-81 saw the release of the Yellow Bird.

1979 Red Bird Interior

1979 Red Bird Interior

These cars were always Esprits, usually with 3.8 or 4.1L V6/I6 engines. Some may have been ordered with one of the smaller optional V8s (265/302 cu). With just over 100 hp the 1977 Sky Bird was not the fastest car around when saddled with the smaller V6. Most Esprit buyers were more interested in looks and comfort than raw performance anyway. The light weight of the Esprit with performance was usually sought after in the form of the Formula. Being pretty was the “Color bird” car’s reason for being. Pontiac would color code nearly everything from the tail light lenses and wheels down to the door handles. The famous machined instrument panel from the Trans-Am was even color coded, often to match the exteriors of the Color bird edition cars.

1979 Red Bird

1979 Red Bird

Total sales numbers for the Color bird cars are hard to come by. Pontiac records were sketchy and the cars seemed to be released on a haphazard schedule that responded to previous quarter sales numbers. The “ColorCar” craze seemed to die out with the release of the next-gen Firebird in 1982, but similar special editions would be released with much less frequency. If you just so happen to own a blue, red or yellow 1977-1981 Firebird and want to add your car among the flock of Color birds or stand out at the next Firebird show, a GM approved decal kit is available from 78ta.com. The company sells kits for each of the color series for just over $100 giving base or Esprit the look of one of these beautiful and rare birds.

1977-78 Firebird Esprit Sky Bird

1977-78 Firebird Esprit Sky Bird

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12 comments on “1977-1980 Pontiac Firebird Esprit Special Editions: Birds of a Different Color

  1. stan
    January 15, 2014

    looking at a 80 yellow bird–30,000 original miles. sits in a garage–second oner drives it once in a while. has the original dealer sticker still. only the headliner has been replaced.

  2. Victoria
    June 6, 2014

    own a 1980 Yellowbird, had it featured in High Performance Pontiac magazine December of 2011

    • autopolis
      June 6, 2014

      That has to be really rare. I have always loved the simple elegance of non Trans-Am Firebirds.

  3. stan
    September 13, 2014

    Bought the yellow bird. It was sold by Jim Causley Pontiac, in Detroit Mi., October 1979. Needed a new exhaust system. Love the way it drives. It has a 301 V-8 Pontiac engine non- turbo, 4 BBL, cloth seats, am/fm radio, PB, PS, A/C, rear defroster, power locks and windows, tilt wheel,spoiler on the trunk lid. Currently has 34,000 miles.
    Dealer invoice shows a price of $9,144.05
    Would like to find original owner–ADDRESSING MACHINE CO. of Madison Hgts Mi.
    Think the wife’s name was SANDY LUCAS.

  4. Judi Pierandozzi
    December 2, 2015

    I had a 1979 Sky Bird which I absolutely loved. I drove it for about 10 years. Only problem was a module in the engine which blew several times while I was on the highway (of course). It cost about $100 to replace. Anybody know what that was about.

    • Walt
      February 2, 2016

      You’re off a bit in the model year. They only made the Sky Bird for ’77 and ’78. In ’78, it was replaced with the Red Bird, and the Red Bird continued thru ’79.

      • autopolis
        February 3, 2016

        Yeah, it’s easy to get the birds mixed up. The blue Sky Bird was for ’77 and ’78. Don’t forget there was a Yellow Bird for the 1980 model year.

  5. christy wolfe
    April 9, 2016

    I had a 1979 red bird loved it sold it to a guy who said he would fix outside and send me pictures still waiting

  6. Jessi
    July 25, 2016

    How many 1977 Sky birds came out with the Chevy 350 engine?

    • autopolis
      July 25, 2016

      Sorry I have no ideal how many were built with that specific engine. I think from ’77 to ’78 there were at least three V8 engines offered (not counting the Oldsmobile 403 for high altitudes and California).

      • Jessi
        July 25, 2016

        According to my Dad the Sky Birds that came out with the Chevy 350 were manufactured in Canada. However, he doesn’t know how many were manufactured.

  7. Stanley Smith
    August 18, 2016

    I own a 1979/1980 base Pontiac Firebird (2nd.owner) V6 coupe, automatic. NO computers on board..Summer driving only. Fast and requires both feet at the ready.
    Someone asked me if I would purchase another Firebird and the answer was NO.
    I do not intend to dispose of this model.

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This entry was posted on March 30, 2013 by in 70's Cars, 80's Cars, General Motors, Pontiac and tagged , , , , , .
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