By the late 1970s, muscle car performance was a mere shadow of what it had been years earlier. The latest emissions controls, combined with high gas prices and stratospheric insurance costs, caused most automakers to severely dial back horsepower.
But not Pontiac. The Trans-Am had been riding a new wave of popularity since its starring role in the movie Smokey and the Bandit. For the 1978 model year, Pontiac added to the excitement by actually increasing the horsepower of its top-level Trans Am from 200 to 220. The brand also developed a special handling package called the WS6 that added a sport-tuned suspension, wider 8-inch wheels, new tires, and quicker steering. The result was a Pontiac Trans-Am that was actually quicker and handled better around a track than the Chevy Corvette.
Little-Known Fact: The Pontiac’s T-top roof, which first became an option in 1976, was as close as a buyer could get to a convertible Trans Am. These lift-out roof sections were initially made by Hurst and were known as the Hurst Hatch. The problem was, they leaked. This led Pontiac to develop its own T-tops within GM’s Fisher body division and launch the option midway through the 1978 model year. So some ’78 Firebirds have Hurst T-tops and others have the Fisher units. You can spot the difference because the Fisher glass roof panels are larger than the Hurst Hatch ones.