1967 Convertible - Hot Wheels
1967 - Johnny Lightning
1968 - Racing Champions
1969 - Hot Wheels Sizzler
1969 - Johnny Lightning
1970 - Hot Wheels
1970 - Johnny Lightning
1970 - Racing Champions
1970 - Johnny Lightning Sizzler
1974 - Ertl
1974 - Matchbox
1974 - Universal
1977 - Hot Wheels
1977 - Racing Champions
|When the Ford Mustang created the pony car in 1964, General Motors was caught
without products to compete in this new market segment. By 1967, GM was
ready with pony cars of their own. The Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird
had the same GM father but different mothers. They shared platforms but
each had it's own personality.
Pontiac had already established themselves as the performance division of GM with the GTO, and the Firebird provided a second youth-oriented model to provide eye-candy for the show rooms. John Z. DeLorean was in charge at Pontiac and he was happy to offer Firebirds that ranged from 6 cylinder economy models to the mighty Trans-Am.
Part one of the Firebird story covers the first two generations, from 1967-1982. Models from 1983-present will be covered in part two. The early Firebirds can be broken down into body styles for 1967-1969, 1970-1973, 1974-1976, 1977-78 and 1979-1982.
Toy Firebirds have always been plentiful and the 1:64 scale models have done a good job covering each of the four basic body styles noted above. Many feature the trademark 'flying chicken' on the hood. The following is a review of the models for these years.
1967-1969 - Original
It is a bit of a surprise that only five models of the early Firebirds have been done while far more of the first generation Camaros can be found.
Hot Wheels - The 1967 Custom Firebird was one of the original Hot Wheel models. It is the only convertible and offers engine detail. Hot Wheels also did a 1969 Firebird in their Sizzlers series.
Johnny Lightning - The new '67 Firebird from JL is one of their best while the '69 Firebird is one of their worst. The '69 was an early JL casting and it simply looks wrong. The '67 is a delight with engine detail and red-line tires.
Racing Champions - The '68 Firebird was done by RC as part of their Mint Edition series. It is a very nice casting with rubber tires and engine detail.
1970-73 - New body
Hot Wheels - The '70 Firebird is part of the HW collector series and priced at $8, it's no bargain. The detail is nice.
Johnny Lightning - Far more affordable and almost as nice as the HW model is the '70 Firebird from JL's Red Card series. JL also offered a '70 Firebird in their Sizzlers series.
Racing Champions - The RC '70 Firebird is the best of this group and has the best version of the Trans Am colors.
1974-1976 - new nose, tail and rear window
Ertl - The Ertl castings of the 1970's are quite good and the '74 Firebird offers opening doors. The wheels on these vintage Ertl models are rather delicate.
Matchbox - This '74 Firebird is presented as a mild custom. This casting was modified twice more to update styling.
Universal - The Ertl '74 Firebird was good enough for Universal to offer a copy, but the interior is omitted.
1977-78 - new nose and tail
Hot Wheels - One of the most popular HW models of the 1970's was the '77 Firebird. It features a T-top roof.
Racing Champions - The RC '77 Firebird is again an excellent casting with engine detail and realistic wheels over real rubber. RC also offered this model in their smaller Street Wheels series.
Tomica - This '77 Firebird is a quality casting with opening doors.
Yat Ming - This model is still being produced by YM. This casting is quite good, especially if it has a metal base.
Zylmex - The Zylmex casting also continues in production under Red Box.
1979-82 - new nose
Kenner Fast 111's - other than the trademark rear bumper, this is one of the more realistic models in the Fast 111's series.
Kidco - The 10th Anniversary Firebird was produced by Kidco.
Maisto - One of Maisto's earliest models, this '79 Firebird is a 'Key Racer with rubber tires.
Matchbox - The '74 model was updated to a '79 with a new nose. They did not fix the rear window but did add a rear spoiler with result a curious mix of 1970's Firebird styling.
Playart - One of the last of the Playart models, this '79 Firebird has a plastic base.
Road Champs - It's nice to see a racing version of the '79 Firebird as these were cars that saw track time. The casting is good.
Welly - The wheels would lead one to conclude that this is an early Welly as the base does not say.
Yat Ming - The '79 Firebird was also done by Yat Ming after having done the '77. Seems odd but it's true.
Zylmex - This '79 is from the Pacesetters series and no longer in production by Red Box.
Matchbox - The 'Smokey and the Bandit' featured a black Firebird and Matchbox used their revised casting, now with huge T-top cut-outs, for their Star Car series. It's a bit of a stretch.
Hot Wheels - With the look of the '79 Firebird, this funny car by HW has also been labeled as a Chevrolet.
I'm certain there are more Firebird models for these years that I have missed. Let me know what they are via e-mail. As the Firebird is now marked for a slow death by GM, it may become even more of a cult car. Next month we will review the models of the past 20 years.
1977 - Street Wheels
1977 - Tomica
1977 - Yat Ming
1977 - Zylmex
1979 - Kenner Fast 111's
1979 (10th Anniversary) - Kidco
1979 - Maisto
1979 - Matchbox
1979 - Playart
1979 - Road Champs
1979 - Welly
1979 - Yat Ming
1979 - Zylmex
1979 Smokey and the Bandit - Matchbox