The 1974 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SD455 (SD standing for Super Duty) was another entry in the long line of the line American muscle cars produced in the fifties, sixties and seventies. Few at the time knew it would be the beginning of the end for the large block, gas guzzling engines favored by American automakers of the day. At least until Ford and Chevy refocused their efforts on the Mustang and Corvette, respectively.
Tensions in the Arab world, soaring gas prices and labor strife the states would soon have mild mannered executives pounding the conference room tables for more fuel efficient, politically correct choices for the American consumer. However, for a few shining months the 1974 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SD455 was the king of the American road.
In addition to an eye popping horsepower number (details to follow), the 1974 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SD-455 had something no other car could claim. It had the bold, distinctive Pontiac styling. From the rear spoiler to the honeycomb wheels this car oozed ‘cool’.
With a listed 310 horses at 4000 RPM, the 1974 Firebird Trans with its SD-455 engine certainly had people talking. Even though the horsepower rating was questioned, it far outdistanced the 245 horsepower entry of the Z28 Camaro that year.
With a top speed of 155 mph with a 5.1 second 0 – 60 time and a 13.5 second quarter, the 1974 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SD-455 was more than capable despite the 3700 pound curb weight. The ride and handling on this beast were less than ideal but the ride and handling isn’t what young American men were prone to discussing in the mid 1970’s. When the biggest complaint is how poorly the air conditioner worked, that’s a pretty good indication you have hit the muscle car target
The SD-455 was a product of Herb Dean and further improved by Gregg Peterson. The engine was first available in 1973 as an option on the Firebird models. Following the 1973 model year some minor tweaks were made and the SD-455 engine was available for its last production run.
The demand for American muscle cars continued its rapid decline and the Trans Am with the SD-455 engine ended a commercially disappointing two year run following the ’74 model year. While available, the car sold less than 1400 units.
The SD-455 Tans Am team managed to succeed and fail at the same time. The 1974 model with its SD-455 engine is unquestionably a legendary muscle car. However, just as in love, business and life – timing is everything. The 1974 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SD455 was the right car at the wrong time. This model would have certainly thrived 10 years earlier in the era of the big block V-8 and it would have been a viable contender 10 years later, with the technological advances incorporated.
As it stands, this legendary muscle car was never really appreciated in its time. With only 250 (approximately) 1974 Firebird Trans Ams still registered today any true enthusiast would jump at the chance to revisit late 1973 and snap one of these beauties up from their local Pontiac dealership.