What Fast Looks Like: 1993-1997 Pontiac Firebird Formula

At the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, I found this fourth-gen Pontiac Firebird in the staff parking lot. 


Driving across the country, I’ve been a little obsessed with the Pontiacs I’d see in the heartland, especially 1990s Firebirds. They’re not cars that get a lot of praise among some of my more usual enthusiast circles, and it was nice to see such a protaletarian hot rod on the nation’s highways and byways.

Troll your local craigslist and you won’t have trouble finding one for a few grand, and for your money you get a 5.7l engine and some 275 horsepower, which can often be too much for its rear tires. Your wallet won’t be mightily pleased by your new Firebird, as you won’t be going far on a five dollar fill up with such a big engine.

But then a 1990s Firebird is a fairly uncouth car in nearly every respect, with over the top styling, a passé badge, and an heavy thirst in this period of high gas prices. The plastic nature of the car, the outdated details, and the overdrawn propostions lead many to turn a blind eye to the 1990s Firebird and consider it a bit of an embarrassment. no such feelings are necessary. It was wonderful to see ten-grand Geo Metros driving around a few years back, just as you could so easily trace the effects of the economic downturn on automotive preferences. By the same token, it was a pleasure to see this huge Pontiac on the roads as something of a big horsepowerbarometer of social preference. Perhaps it shows so clearly that the American belief that the open road equals freedom remains in place, or perhaps it represents a small, resolute minority that sees its swooping lines and huge engine as unabashedly attractive. Either way, I adore this car and I will remember strongly the Pontiacs I saw in flyover country but not in New York.

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