“Sunbird offers new thrills for the thrifty.”
1980 was the last year for the rear wheel drive Pontiac Sunbird, Pontiac’s version of Chevrolet’s Monza. Initially available in base coupe, sport coupe, and sport hatch (a base hatch was added mid-year, but the wagon was permanently gone), the Sunbird received few changes for 1980.
The standard engine was the LX8 Iron Duke 2.5 liter inline four with a Holley two-barrel carburetor, making all of 86 bhp. Optional was the LD5 110 bhp 3.8 liter V6, also with a two-barrel carburetor. The standard transmission was a four-speed manual, with an optional three-speed automatic available.
Mileage with the inline four and four-speed manual was a pretty impressive: 22 city/35 highway by the standards of the day (19/32 by today’s standards). Getting decadent by spending $545 for the three-speed automatic and the V6 combination took mileage down to 20 city/27 highway.
Not much came standard for the $4,623 base price (approximately $13,100 in 2014 dollars), especially to our 2014 eyes. Feature highlights for a base Sunbird included bright grill with park and signal lamps, whitewall tires, custom wheel covers, and “Sunbird external identification.” Inside, base Sunbirds included tinted windows, vinyl bucket seats, and a Delco AM radio.
Moving up to the sport coupe ($4,885) or the sport hatch ($4,996) added body color mirrors, “custom” vinyl bucket seats, and various moldings, but was still fairly austere. Luxury trim ($195) added cloth seats along with snazzier carpeting and door trim.
Available only with the sport hatch, the rare (only 1% of production) and expensive ($674, or about $1,900 in today’s dollars) Formula Package added a front air dam and rear spoiler, along with blacked-out grille, rally wheels with trim rings, and white lettered tires. It wasn’t all bark and no bite: the Rally Handling Package was included, with larger front and rear stabilizer bars. Inside, a tachometer and other rally gauges were included.
Mechanical options included variable-ratio power steering (the most popular option and required with the V6) and power front disc brakes. Inside, you could add air conditioning ($531), a tilt steering wheel, and an AM/FM stereo cassette player (two different 8-track radios were also still available). A removable sunroof was also available for $193.
The rear wheel drive Sunbird sold well even in its final year, partially because the model year was extended. Almost 188,000 were sold with over 100,000 being the base coupe, making the Sunbird the best-selling of all the 1980 H-bodies. Make mine Agate Red, please.