From a performance point of view, Pontiac saved its best for last with the fourth-generation Firebird — and sure lived up to its “We Build Excitement” tag. Enthusiasts hadn’t seen the sort of power on offer from the model since its glory days of the early Seventies. It was a return to form, but, it was also the last of the line. A decline in the sport coupé market in the Nineties led to buyers snapping up more refined and smaller-engined imports, and this trend eventually sealed the fate of the Firebird. But it went out on top of its game.
For 1993, it got a substantial update; the exterior styling was dramatically aerodynamic, and incorporated plastic front fenders, but much of the floorplan and rear suspension was carried over from the previous generation. The front suspension was new, and the model incorporated rack-and-pinion steering for the first time.
The line-up consisted of three models; the Base, Formula, and Trans Am, but engine choices were reduced from four to just two. Towards the end of the third generation, you could have a four-cylinder, a V6 and two V8s, but now, General Motors was only offering the pony car with a new 3.4-litre V6 with 160bhp, and for those that wanted to light up the rear tyres, there was the new LT1 version of the classic 5.7-litre small-block V8 rated at 275bhp for the Formula and Trans Am. These cars could hit 100kph from rest in 5.6 seconds. That was good news but it got better; the third-generation car with the 5.7-litre was only available with a four-speed automatic, however, the LT1 could be had with a six-speed manual.
The following year, Pontiac reached a milestone — 1994 marked 25 years of unbroken Firebird Trans Am production, and to celebrate, GM built the 25th-Anniversary Trans Am. It was painted bright white with a bright blue stripe, had a grey 25th Anniversary decal, and special 16in five-spoke white aluminium wheels.
In 1998 came the mid-cycle refresh and just four years later, the Firebird would reach the end of the road — but it wouldn’t have its wings clipped; the 2002 Trans Am made 325bhp.
Today, you can find a good fourth gen for as little as Dh30,000 (the 25th and 30th Anniversary versions cost way more) and because they had four-wheel disc brakes and traction control, they’re far more manageable than earlier generations — and make great daily drivers.