1986 Pontiac Firebird SE hatchback coupe

“Comfort and function define every Firebird interior.”

For 1986, Pontiac offered three versions of its sporty Firebird—the base car, the SE, and the Trans Am. The SE was intended to be the most comfortable of the three versions (Pontiac stated that it possessed “a subtle sophistication”), and its $11,995 base price (about $30,500 in today’s dollars) slotted between the $9,279 base coupe and the $12,395 Trans Am.

The SE‘s standard engine was the 135 bhp LB8 2.8 liter V6 with fuel injection, while it’s only optional engine was the $400 155 bhp LG4 5.0 liter/305 ci v8 with a four-barrel carburetor (only Trans Ams could get fancier V8s). Both engines came standard with a five-speed manual and were offered with an optional four-speed automatic ($465). The V8 with the manual was the quickest (0-60 mph in about 9 seconds) and the fastest (top speed of about 131 mph) SE. EPA gas mileage ratings were 17 city/26 highway with the standard powertrain (15/24 by today’s standards). Interestingly, the V8 wasn’t significantly worse at 16 city/26 highway with the manual or at 17 city/25 highway with the automatic. With a relatively small 15.5-gallon gas tank, SE owners could expect a range of between 265 and 320 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

1986 base and SE Firebird versions from the Pontiac full-line brochure

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on all Firebirds included concealed rectangular quartz halogen headlamps, Sport mirrors, power steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and P215/65R15 tires on 15-inch wheels. Inside, a full-length console, reclining front bucket seats, cut pile carpeting, and a Delco-GM AM radio were standard.

Additional standard equipment on the SE included hood air louvers, black body side moldings, and 15-inch diamond spoke aluminum wheels. Inside, the Formula steering wheel, shift knob, and parking brake were all leather-wrapped. Luxury Trim Group included Custom front bucket seats, a Deluxe split folding rear seat, and Deluxe door trim. An interior roof console included sub-woofer controls if the subwoofer six-speaker system was ordered.

Optional exterior and mechanical equipment included a body color rear deck spoiler ($70), a hatch roof with removable glass panels, and power four wheel disc brakes ($179 and requiring the limited slip differential). Inside, Custom air conditioning (which required Soft Ray glass), power door locks, power windows, a six-way power driver’s seat, a tilt steering wheel, and five different radios were available. A loaded SE moved from comfortable to relatively luxurious by mid-1980s standards.

Like its Camaro Berlinetta cousin, the SE did not sell well—it was only 2% of overall Firebird sales in 1986. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1986 Firebird SE with the V8 and the manual in #1/Concours condition is $13,200, with a far more normal #3/Good condition version going for $4,600.

Mid-1980s Trans Ams are always available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but SEs rarely make an appearance—as I write this post, there are no third-generation Firebird SEs for sale on either site. I have not seen an SE in almost 20 years.

Other Firebird versions I have written about include the 1981 Trans Am coupe, the 1982 Trans Am hatchback coupe, the 1984 Trans Am 15th Anniversary Edition hatchback coupe, the 1985 Trans Am hatchback coupe, and the 1989 20th Anniversary Turbo Trans Am hatchback coupe. I should probably cover a Formula and a GTA at some point.

Make mine Midnight Blue over Silver, please.


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