Fire Engine Firebird: 1981 Pontiac Firebird

No word could describe this car better than ‘red’! Red paint, red wheels, and red interior may be too much for some, but I think it’s just right. This 1981 Firebird really wears red well, and for 116,000 miles this car is  in amazing condition. The condition of this car is in stark contrast to the turbo Firebird we recently featured. Clearly, someone has been taking care of this car for as long as it has been around. Though originally a Washington car, find it here on craigslist in Minnesota with a reasonable asking price of $8,900. Many thanks to Rocco B. for sending this bright red beauty our way! 

Typically, I doubt low-mileage claims when the car just isn’t nice enough. In this case, I almost doubt the average mileage claim as this car is almost too nice! There is no mention of a restoration, and the condition of the interior plastics suggest it is original. The red seats really pop, even with the rest of the red in this almost all red interior! The dash is clean and free of cracks, the seats have no tears, and the carpet doesn’t even look worn. The armrest looks like it hasn’t ever seen an arm! For $8,900, this would be a heck of a nice car to get into for someone on a budget.

Though generally associated with muscle cars, this Firebird is equipped with a 3.8 liter Buick V6. Though the output is only 105 horsepower, this car could still easily be a fun cruiser. If you don’t plan on going fast but want to look cool, this is the car for you! This V6 could also make for a nice driver, as it would likely be easier on the wallet. The seller says this car would be a good candidate for an LS swap, and I don’t disagree, I think I would leave it alone and enjoy it as it is!

This clean, rust-free Firebird is reasonably priced and looking for a new home! LS swap or not, I have no doubt that the person who purchases this car is going to have a lot of fun. While the amount of red might deter some buyers, it just might attract a few! An American classic, the Firebird will forever be a favorite amongst classic car lovers. Would you keep the V6? Or upgrade to something a little more powerful?


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  1. JohnT

    If it ain’t broke (like me at the moment), Don’t fix it. I would keep the V6 just the way it is as the Buick 3.8 (231 CID) V6 was one of the better GM motors. When it eventually stops running, then swap in any GM engine (crate motor?) that fits.

  2. Dean maxey

    It is absolutely a beautiful car. I would stay with the 3.8 but pull one out of a grand national or better yet a GNX .

  3. Terry J

    Awww , Shoulda been a V8. On the other hand it’s hard to scoff at an engine this darn good:

    ” The 3800 was on the Ward’s 10 Best Engines of the 20th century list, made Ward’s yearly 10 Best list multiple times” .

    Suzie ( Mrs. J) has a final year Grand Prix and that 3800 is a very strong runner. :-) Terry J

    • edh

      I had and 1981 3.8L and there is no way it can oil itself well enough to make 18K miles.

      • Terry J

        Must be a typo Ed. I’m sure you meant 180,000 miles, which would be reasonable expectations. Of course it doesn’t oil itself, you have to manually put oil in it from time to time. :-) Terry J

  4. edh

    Dump that God awful 3.8L POS. Even no engine would be better than one of those.

  5. Steve R

    It looks like a blood clot.

    There isn’t much that is appealing about the car, other than it exists in this condition.

    Steve R

  6. J Paul Member

    My friend in high school had this exact same car (V6 and t-tops) but in silver. We ironically called it “The Silver Bullet” because it was so amazingly slow, and because it tended to break down every other week.

    While they are somewhat related, it’s pretty difficult to compare this 231 V6 with it’s hugely-revised 3800 sibling. In 1981, in this car, this engine was literally one step beyond a hamster wheel.

  7. Elrod

    Well, one things for sure – nobody ever abused this by doing burnouts with it!

  8. Rush Meade

    Where’s the Fire engine to go with it?? Then I’ll be highly interested lol. Overall still a nice car V8 or not.

  9. Jeff L

    I would drop a mild 462 / 455(30over) in there and quadruple the power.

    • Greg S Member

      I think my 86 Fiat/Bertone X1/9 had more horsepower! This Pontiac is in fantastic shape, and I would definitely go with a built up 455, like you suggested Jeff L. Personally, I love all the red!

  10. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    My ’81 Camaro came with a 229 V6, automatic, and it was a dog. I searched to see if these 2 engines were related and it turns out they aren’t.

    From Wikipedia: “Both the Buick V6 and the 229 cid Chevrolet V6 are 90-degree V6 engines, and both are often referred to as the 3.8L V6. These engines should not be confused as being the same, and are completely unique engine designs.”

    So, my question is: Does anyone know how different they are in feel / performance?

    • Terry J

      Well PRA4SNW, It’s all a matter of physics. In both cases ( your ’81 & the Firebird) you have a 3300 lb car being moved by a normally aspirated 105-115 h.p. engine with torque in the 185 ft lb range, give or take. Those are not very good numbers for neck snapping acceleration. This isn’t a unique situation. Example: My Ford F150 with a 240 cu in 6 drives around OK but I would not try to take on a late model Honda in a stop light drag race. :-( Terry J

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