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1976 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 50th Anniversary Limited Edition

In this edition of Muscle Car Milestones, we’ll take a look at the 1976 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 50th Anniversary Limited Edition. In 1976, Pontiac turned 50 years old and to commemorate its golden anniversary, Pontiac created the Firebird Trans Am 50th Anniversary Limited Edition. This special edition Trans Am was produced in limited numbers and was one of the high points of the Firebird’s second generation. Let’s see what makes the 1976 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 50th Anniversary Limited Edition one of the few shining stars during the muscle car’s Malaise Era.

The 1976 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 50th Anniversary Limited Edition was announced to dealers via Sales Information Bulletin 76-22 in February 1976. The package, with an option code of Y82,  comprised of Starlight Black paint with gold accent pinstriping, gold Honeycomb wheels, gold grille accents, gold Firebird emblems, Hurst T-tops, and unique 50th Anniversary fender badging. Inside, the package added gold headlamp liners, gold anodized instrument panel, and gold steering wheel spokes, The cost of the package was listed at $1,100.

The Firebird Trans Am 50th Anniversary Limited Edition was available with two engines. The standard engine was a 6.6-liter 400 cubic-inch V8. It was rated at a paltry 185 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque. Drivers wanting a bit more power could opt for the 7.5-liter 455 cubic-inch V8. This engine was rated at 200 horsepower and 330 lb.-ft. of torque. Transmissions included a four-speed manual or Turbo HydraMatic automatic for the 400 cubic-inch engine. The automatic transmission was mandatory for Californians. The 455 cubic-inch engine was available exclusively with a four-speed manual and, alas, this combo was not available in California. 1976 was also the last year the 455 cubic-inch engine would be available in a Firebird Trans Am.

Road and Track tested a 455-equipped Trans Am for their June 1976 issue. The Trans Am sprinted from 0 to 60 in 8.4 seconds and ran the quarter mile in 15.9 seconds at 87 miles per hour. While these stats aren’t that impressive by today’s standards, you have to remember this was the Malaise Era. Even the Chevrolet Corvette with the L82-equipped 350 cubic-inch V8 was only rated at 210 horsepower and could just muster a 6.8 second quarter mile time.

Hurst Performance pitched removable roof panels to Pontiac for the 50th Anniversary Limited Edition. These roof panels, also known as T-tops, were installed offsite at Hurst Performance’s Brighton, Michigan facility. When Pontiac brass went to view the installation process, they were appalled at what they saw. Hurst’s process to install the T-tops involved cutting the roof with a saw and adding a structural plate for support. The downside to this process was the T-tops didn’t seal properly and leaked and the bodies squeaked due to body flex. The problem was so pervasive that after T-top installation, Pontiac would not release the car to the dealer until structural integrity and sealing tests were performed. Needless to say, the T-tops were soon discontinued.

Low production made the 1976 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 50th Anniversary Edition an instant collectable. In fact, only 2,590 were produced in total with a mere 643 getting Hurst T-tops. The 1976 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 50th Anniversary Edition started a Pontiac tradition that would last until the end of second generation production. The popular black and gold paint job even made it to the big screen in the movie Smokey and the Bandit. Today, the 1976 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 50th Anniversary Edition still excites drivers who love these Mailaise Era pony cars.

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