In 1976, to commemorate Pontiac’s 50th year, a special black with gold highlights anniversary edition of the Trans Am was on showroom floors. The 1977 model had a more slanted nosed than the ’76. From 1977 until 1981, all models came with four square headlights. A 1977 Firebird option was the T/A 6.6-liter engine with 200hp, the RPO W72 with chrome valve covers, while the basic 6.6-liter rated at 180hp has painted valve covers. The 1977 was the model used in the movie Smokey and the Bandit, and the 1980 Turbo model was in the sequel. From GM’s Olds division, a slightly higher-compression 403 engine with a more usable torque band became available in 1977 for California sales and for high-altitude driving.
The Pontiac engineers managed to reverse the declining horsepower in 1978. They raised the compression ratio of the 400 engine by bolting 350 heads with smaller combustion chambers (the 6×4 heads) to a 400 block, which increased the horsepower rating to 220, a 10 percent increase. This engine is on the 1978-79 models of the Trans-Am and formulas equipped with the 400-cubic-inch engine and a four-speed transmission.
The 1979 Firebird celebrated its 10th anniversary with a special edition Trans Am model. This car came with silver lower paint with gray accents and a special Firebird hood decal that extended down the front fenders. The anniversary model featured a silver/gray interior with silver colored leather seats; Pontiac produced only 7,500 units. The Pontiac 400-cubic-inch engine coupled to the Borg-Warner Super T10 four-speed transmissions had 1,817 of those units so equipped. The cruise control wasn’t available with the Borg–Warner T10. The Pontiac 400 came with a transmission gear ratio of 3.23, while the 403 Olds engine came with a 2.73 gear ratio. The only option on these anniversary cars was the engine size, but the 400-cubic-inch was not an available option in California.
The high-performance Firebirds could be brought up to pre-emission control specifications by removing or disabling the pollution control devices. Simply removing the plate under the hood covering the scoop would make the non-functional hood scoop function. Block the exhaust recirculation system and then remove the catalytic converter. Into 1980, the emission control regulations got even more restrictive. Pontiac stopped making the big-block, large-displacement engines available. With the 1980 models came a large change. The standard engine in all models was the 301-cubic-inch, which was available with a turbocharger option or as an additional option, the largest engine offer of a 305-cubic-inch small-block.
The last year of the second-generation Firebird was 1981 and had all the same engines as the previous model year; the only change of any consequence was the new-style electronic carburetion system. The American rapper Kesha gave the Firebird a little free advertising when she used her own gold 1978 Trans Am in a music video of her song “Tik Tok,” and her second album Warrior had a song entitled “Gold Trans Am.”