If we have to point to one iconic type of vehicle that screams “American”, that would be the pony car. Even though many American muscle cars came and went, ponies such as the Mustang and Camaro still remain.
Naturally, due to competition, many models fade away. Take Pontiac Firebird, for example. It managed to hold its own for decades, but it ultimately came to an end by the early 2000s. Its sister model – Chevrolet Camaro – also got discontinued around the same time. The difference? Several years later the Chevy came back with a bang. No such luck for Pontiac!
So, after long decades of sibling rivalry, the verdict came – the Camaro turned out the better car. But is it? Let us explore the history of both models and see which comes on top!
Which came first – Firebird or Camaro?
Although this question has little to do with any car’s quality, it makes for a good history lesson. We can see how the two models came to be and where they diverged.
Technically, the Camaro carries the first-born mantle, being introduced in September 1966 to rival the Mustang. Several months later came the Firebird in response to Mercury Cougar. It was built upon Camaro’s platform and the original generations of both vehicles carry a lot of similarities.
For instance, they share engine designs. GM took some of Chevy’s engines, modded them slightly, and put them in the Firebird. To be fair, those modifications provided serious output advantages in some cases. Considering their close characteristics and design, we cannot help but wonder…
What is the difference between the two models?
Most people consider both vehicles to be largely one and the same. You just pick your preferred design and roll with it. However, that misses the details.
Historically, the Firebird serves as GM’s more luxurious version of the Camaro, much like Mercury was to Ford. So, they did not cover the same market segment. Today we see a lot of companies doing the same – using different marques for their high-end vehicles.
Because of this, the Firebird was more expensive, with a spruced-up interior. Minor tweaks here and there also made it seem more premium.
GM had an entirely different philosophy behind the Camaro. It was one of those cheap muscle cars that make you feel rich. That made it extremely successful, as it turned out many folks want to drive a sports car, they just don’t want to pay the premium. This is why the entire pony car segment became such a hit.
Now you may think that the Firebird automatically gets the “better car” title by virtue of being the step-up model. Not so fast!
Chevrolet Camaro vs Pontiac Firebird – Which is better?
Now, what does “better” even mean? In my opinion, it depends on the actual driver and their needs. So, let us break down the comparison by categories!
- Price – This is easy. All things considered, the Camaro gave you more bang for your buck back in the day. No wonder it sold about 200,000 more units than the Firebird.
- Comfort – Don’t write the Camaro off this category just yet. On a dollar-by-dollar basis, it may have come slightly ahead, since it also had higher trims. Still, people who wanted ultimate luxury picked up the Firebird.
- Power – Now the difficult part… Both models actually trade blows here. The Pontiac came with a better basic engine, and it did offer a lot of powerful options. However, Camaro simply had the richer catalog. Its SS versions came with up to 375 hp, compared to Firebird’s 345 hp on its top engine. When it comes to the rarest and most powerful versions, Chevy still wins with 550 hp vs 500 hp on the Pontiac.
With all that said, we have only been taking a historical look at the two. If you are considering buying one now, things get more complicated. For one, first-gen Camaros tend to hold higher prices, especially for the top models. You can now buy a top trim Firebird for less money than some Camaros.
Do you prefer Camaro or Firebird?
Chevrolet Camaro has made our list of America’s most iconic classic cars for a good reason. Affordable, yet sporty, it won the hearts of many. But that does not necessarily mean it trumps the Firebird. If I had to pick between the two right now, I would go for a Firebird.
Firstly, you can get it for less money. Secondly, it can be considered a fairly exotic vehicle. Fewer folks have heard about it, and you would not see it that often on the street. Finally, I just prefer its interior, it looks classier to me. And honestly, when buying a classic car, very few people are concerned about it being a racing machine.
But which do you prefer? Would you rather the more iconic Camaro or is the Firebird closer to your heart?