Hot Wheels Classics: Thefts of Pontiac Firebirds

When General Motors introduced the Pontiac Firebird in 1967, it joined the growing field of “muscle cars” populated with nameplates such as the Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger both of which were scoring commercial success in the marketplace.  

But as today’s new report shows, the Firebird was also a popular target for auto thieves with more than 250,000 of them reported stolen since they were introduced.

1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Indeed, in the late 1960s, General Motors seized the opportunity by delivering models from four of its divisions-the Buick Skylark GS (Gran Sport), Chevrolet Camaro, Oldsmobile 4-4-2 and Pontiac Firebird, to name a few. They entered a market segment that provided new and powerful cars to satisfy the need of more youthful buyers looking to drive a “personal statement” not just a car.

It didn’t take long for the Firebird to develop a strong following and over the course of its production a Firebird variant–the Trans Am-further defined the brand and its owners. The Trans Am became an instant automotive icon when it “co-starred” with Burt Reynolds in 1977’s “Smokey and the Bandit.”

KITT-Car-Knightrider

“KITT” from the TV series Knight Rider

The Trans Am’s big-screen debut was followed in 1982 when a futuristic, talking, 1982 Trans Am known as “KITT” partnered with David Hasselhoff in television’s “Knight Rider” series.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reviewed Firebird theft data from 1981-2014 and identified 249,670 theft records. Although theft data from 1967 is available, confidence in pre-1981 theft records is low due to the inconsistency in reporting protocols and vehicle identification number (VIN) systems in use prior to 1981. When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mandated standardized VINs beginning with the 1981 model year, that year became the benchmark for reliable data used in all Hot Wheels Classics reports.      

The top five calendar years for Firebird thefts were 1989 (19,792 thefts), 1988 (19,332), 1990 (17,785), 1987 (17,410) and 1991 (16,430). The five calendar years with the fewest thefts were 2014 (445), 2013 (585), 2012 (676), 2011 (701) and 2010 (731).

As for thieves’ most preferred model year Firebird? That distinction belongs to 1986’s model with 26,881 reported thefts. Next comes 1984 with 25,533 thefts. In third place is 1987 with 22,257 thefts. 1982 (21,213 thefts) and 1985 (20,929) round out the top five model years.

See the complete report here.

As always, readers should note that inconsistency and inaccuracy with vehicle theft reporting may impact the accuracy and reliability of this data.