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70-73 GM F-bodies

blh7068blh7068 Posts: 375
edited March 2014 in Chevrolet
70-73 GM F-bodies


  • blh7068blh7068 Posts: 375
    These cars are hard to find. As an owner of one, I have had trouble finding others who share an interest in these early 2nd generation vehicles. Even in regional shows, my 71 firebird esprit is often the only 70-73 gm f body in the show.
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    I don't think it's necessarily lack of interest that's hurt these cars, blh7068. It's probably that in the late '70s-early '80s, so many kids got a hold of these cars and either 'over-modified' them, wrecked them, or otherwise drove them into the ground. These cars are still relatively plentiful, but finding one in anything like factory condition is unusual.

    I remember in about 1976, my uncle had a burgandy '73 Z-28 with a white vinyl interior and those very cool graphite alloy wheels. That car was *stunning*. This is definitely one of my favorite GM cars ever. I don't like them nearly as much after '73 when they got new front and rear treatments, or in '75 when they got the 'aquarium' rear window.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,464
    ...that cars in general cars built in the early-mid '70's rusted worse than cars built in the '60's. So in addition to kids ragging these things out, Mother Nature and the DOT took their fair share of them off the road, as well!
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    GM cars made after about '71 did tend to rust badly here (we use lots of road salt). Definitely some cars fared worse than others (Novas and Camaros more, full-sizers less).
  • blh7068blh7068 Posts: 375
    were all about poor body integrity. I can't speak for the other GM lines, however. I agree 100% ghulet, It's not a lack of interest that's hurt these cars. I know they built/sold more camaros in the 70-73 period than the pontiac counterpart, probably because it was less expensive than the firebird. 70-73 firebirds are hard to find for all of the reasons you and Andre mentioned. Also, 70-73 firebird production was quite low compared to say, 75-81.
    74 was kinda an oddball year, to me IMO.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    My dad's '77 Camaro Z28 was stolen in Feb. of 1979 after two years of owning it. Even though I was not around at that time, he still likes to tell me stories about that car. Here are some of his comments about his Camaro: It loved to drink gas, the poor 350 V-8 was smog-strangled, the ride was extremely harsh, and it shook, rattled and vibrated all over the highway. And, yes, I have ridden in some 2nd-generation Camaros and the body integrity is not very good. These cars are not Acuras or Lexuses, believe me.
  • blh7068blh7068 Posts: 375
    My 71 bird is not too harsh, but your what your dad said is fairly common. Did he like the car at all ? And you are right they are not Lexuses or Acuras. Completely different animals from different eras.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,464
    ...I think the 350 they used in the Z-28 was down to something like 170-185 hp. And by that time, they were almost as heavy as a Caprice, so I wouldn't expect them to be screamers.

    By the late '70's, wasn't the Firebird/Trans Am outsellling the Camaro? Seems like once "the Rockford Files", "Smokey and the Bandit", and "CHiPs" came out (I remember Ponch had an early '70's Firebird), that sales took off.
  • blh7068blh7068 Posts: 375
    Yes you are correct on both counts, HP was down to that if not lower, and those cars picked up extra baggage as the 2nd gen years rolled on.

    As for sales, yes by that time the firebird was outselling the camaro. Rockford's first bird in that series was a '74 fact all of the 'birds used on that show were esprits. It was Smokey and the Bandit that boosted sales in the 77-81 time frame though.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    In a way, my dad was glad that the Z28 was stolen because he was tiring of it. He said that it was a real chore to drive.
  • Found memories of the 1st of the 2nd gens. Had a 73 (regular) 455 TA. So much mod potential even with the low compression "smog" motor.

    You hardly ever see them anymore as daily drivers. They seem to fall into two classes anymore. Parts car/basket case or show ready.

    As mentioned, the production numbers were quite low the the early years. Especialy for the Firebird. 72 was the strike year, and only a handful made it to the showrooms. All the cars left on the line when the strike was settled were destroyed because they would not meet the new 1973 5mph bumper impact/safty standards.
  • blh7068blh7068 Posts: 375
    Only 1286 T/A's were built in 72. I have a 71 esprit, mostly original that I would never use as a daily driver...the body integrity on those cars are really bad. Plus as previously mentioned kids get(got) a hold of em and tore them up. I had also mentioned production on early 2nd gens was low compared with the camaro..
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I'd thought the flexiflyers started with the '82-up(?) Camaro/Firebird but it sounds like this is an old and proud tradition. My '95 Firebird rattled like a tin can by 10k.
  • As an owner of many camaros, and 1 firebird, I can say I LOVE the handling of the 2nd gen F-body. I prefer the 70-73 models.

    The later 2nd gen cars were definitely run into the ground by people who frankly just didn't care about the cars. Some people just think of cars as transportation . . . camaros were never ment to be cadillacs. (rattles and rough ride?? Its all part of the fun of a performance car!)

    I can also say that any car is going to have good and bad qualities.

    I would and will never own an acura or a lexus because frankly I think the cars are VERY ugly. (ok the nsx is ok and sporty looking, but the regular cars are just like boxes to me . . . generic and no personality.)

    So to the guy whos dad didn't like the z28, that is too bad but to each his own.
    One of my best friends had a brand new 78 Z28 in high school and the car ran really well even for the supposidly low hp engines, and the chicks loved it!!
  • dgraves1dgraves1 Posts: 414
    The 1977 Z/28 was actually the return of the Z/28 after a 2 year hiatus. There was a '74 model but none in '75 or '76. I remember thinking the '77 was a disgrace to the name because it really wasn't much other than some stiffer suspension pieces and a bunch of stickers. It is probaly the absolute least desirable Z/28 ever.

    I can personally account for taking two of the 70 1/2 (they used half model years back then) -73 models out of existance. First, I drove my '70 1/2 Z/28 into a tree. Then I bought a basic '71 and stripped the body parts off of it to try and salvage the Z. It sorta worked but I'm sure that car didn't survive for long.

    I believe there was a massive strike in '72 that resulted in very low production number for all GM (if not US) cars.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I've owned some fairly rough performance cars and you don't have to put up with that many rattles to go fast. The four GTOs I had were as solid as a vault compared to the '95 Firebird. Even my '69 Firebird 400, not the most solid car I ever owned, didn't rattle as much as that '95.

    The '82-up F-body was the low point in build quality for a company not known for its build quality. Someday when you're sitting down I'll tell you about the '89 Camaro convertible I drove.
  • dgraves1dgraves1 Posts: 414
    Yeah, I had an '82 and an '84 Z/28 and after the '84 and having owned nothing but Camaros since I got my drivers license in '75, I was done. I am sometimes tempted to buy a fourth generation Camaro just so I can say that I have owned at least one of each generation but I don't think it would be worth it.
  • leadfoot4leadfoot4 Posts: 593
    I've owned 3 F-bodies, a 1977 Firebird T/A, a 1985 Firebird SE, and a 1996 Camaro Z-28. In terms of squeeks and rattles, the 1977 was the worst.
    In it's defense, however, I installed every polyurethane part that Energy Suspension makes for that car. On one hand, that tightened up the handling, but that also took out a lot of compliance, hence the rattles over bumps. I sold the car last year, and it was in excellent shape, with just over 44,000 miles.
    The 1985 was much quieter, and the 1996, which I still have, is the quietest yet. I did, however, install subframe connectors in the '96, and that helped tighten everything up.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    I've noticed in the past few years that the Caprice was built a tad better than the Camaro. Not by much, though, since Caprices still had lousy GM assembly.
  • And he got it 3 years old with only 28k on it.
    Still looks and runs well. New long block, car still going strong, though problems with rot around rear window, common with these. He took care of the car, and the 350 auto trans is a real good drivetrain. They CAN last you, his car is proof of that.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    Yes, and does that 279k mile Camaro still have the original transmission in it?
  • gshumway1gshumway1 Posts: 18
    The THM 400 was/is one tough bugger. It was a GM "over-built" unit and it could take abuse.
  • blh7068blh7068 Posts: 375
    Oddly enough is what came with my 71 firebird. It has the optional L-65 400 2bbl motor, available only on the Esprit. Had it been equipped with the standard 350...the THM 350 would have come with it. Only 15-20 hp difference between the 350 and 400.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    Yeah, but the F-bodies from the '70s had pretty awful body construction.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,464
    I'm sure the 400 had a lot more torque than the 350 though, and that's what is going to put the strain on a transmission. Could be worse the late '70's, GM was sending some V-8's out the door with TH200's, which I think was originally designed for light-duty applications like the Chevette!

    I've heard that the TH400 is a popular tranny choice for people who race old Chryslers. It's lighter and saps less hp than the Torqueflite 727, but is still strong enough to put up with all that strain.
  • gshumway1gshumway1 Posts: 18
    The THM 400 Gave way to the THM 350. By then the engines were gelded by smog heads and the HP was down, so there was no need for the 400. Also that monster Pellet cat became standard on the F-cars. The THM 350 was smaller and it made more room to shoehorn the converter next to the tranny.

    Just a side note, old racers tell me the THM 400 robbed about 25-30%(in driveline loss) of the ponies getting HP to the rear wheels.
  • lmihoklmihok Posts: 7
    I have many fond memories of these cars! My first car was a 701/2 camaro 307 engine and 350 trans. It was very peppy and returned 21 MPG on the highway. I also owned a 73 type LT with a 350-350. Very solid with good buld quality for a 70,s car. The Camaro was probably above average in quality compared to it's american competition. The claim that the Firebirds outsold the Camaro during the Smokey and the Bandit area did not seem correct to me. I remember that both these cars were quite plentiful back then but definitly more Camaros on the road. So I checked the Encyclopedia Of American Cars and here are production numbers for 1970-1980:

    Camaro Firebird
    1970 124,889 48,739
    1971 114,640 53,124
    1972 68,656 29,951
    1973 96,751 46,313
    1974 151,008 73,729
    1975 145,770 84,063
    1976 182,959 110,775
    1977 218,853 155,736
    1978 272,631 187,305
    1979 282,571 211,455
    1980 152,005 107,340

    I bet GM would like to have these numbers for the current models! Maybe if they concentrated on these models a little more like during the above era they could still have decent sales. By the way, 1979 is the all time sales record year for both these models, and the Firebird has never outsold the Camaro
  • dgraves1dgraves1 Posts: 414
    Wow, almost half a million f-bodies in 1979! Maybe it is time to bring back the Bandit.

    I remember a consumer guide, back in the mid-70s when I was buying my first car (a Camaro), called the Camaro "The best of a bad breed of cars", refering to pony cars in general. That just reinforced my commitment to buy one, despite my Dad's pleas to get something else.
  • blh7068blh7068 Posts: 375
    The 2nd gen birds were more $$$ than the sister camaro.My 71 firebird esprit stickered for $ small change in 71.
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