In the wonderful world of modern muscle cars, the big rivals are the Mustang and Camaro, and that’s the way it’s pretty much always been. For most of its history, however, the Camaro had a cousin of sorts in the Pontiac Firebird. They came up together in 1967, they weathered the fuel crisis and the Malaise era together in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and in 2002 they died together. Then, the Camaro was revived in 2009 and has enjoyed the kind of popularity that makes us wonder why it ever left in the first place. The Firebird, sadly, stayed dead.
As the oldest of those fourth generation F-bodies start turning 25 years old (and as the market focuses increasingly on more modern performance cars in general), both the Camaro and Firebird have started to attract attention. But while both cars are becoming increasingly collectible, the Pontiac is trading at consistently higher prices. Sorry, Bowtie boys.
Average #3-condition (Good) Firebirds are valued at $13,500, versus $11,500 for the Camaro. This includes V-6 cars, and for the special-edition Firebirds, expect to pay even more.
The Firebird has experienced more value growth, more Firebirds are being added by insurance clients, buyers are expressing more interest in Firebirds, and Firebirds are performing better on both the auction and private markets. While both cars are outperforming the market as a whole, buyer interest for Firebirds is up 27 percent, but just 5 percent for Camaros. The average sale price at auction for Firebirds is up 24 percent, and only 9 percent for Camaros.
There are several reasons why the market for these two cars is so different, despite them being essentially the same under the skin. Looks, obviously, play a major role. Neither one is going to win a beauty contest. In fact, they’re both a bit piggish. But the Firebird is the more distinctive looker of the pair, wearing more scoops and vents, which at least makes it look faster. Another factor to consider is that on the whole the Firebird is considerably rarer. Production of the Firebird from 1993-02 was about 320,000, while nearly 610,000 Camaros left the factory over the same period.
When it comes to the marketplace, valuation data specialist Greg Ingold feels that Camaros generally have led harder lives. “While both cars have a high likelihood of having been driven hard and driven a lot, the Pontiacs seem to be better taken care of,” Ingold says. “Another big thing to consider is that when it comes to the more limited production special performance model, Pontiac offered a bit more. Cars tweaked by SLP, like the Firehawk, were more special than the Camaro SS, and the 2002 Firebird Collector Edition is a lot more distinctive than the 35th Anniversary Camaro from the same year, and the former is worth a lot more these days.”
Don’t forget, either, that the Camaro is still in production. You can go into your local Chevrolet dealer right now and have a pretty wide selection of new or lightly used Camaros to choose from. Pontiac fans don’t have that luxury. They’re forced to live in the past (not that this is a bad thing), free from the distractions of new 1LEs or ZL1s enjoyed in the Camaro camp. The fourth-gen Firebird is the newest one they’ll ever get.
In the same vein, there is a certain cachet to owning a car from a defunct brand, especially one with as rich a history as Pontiac. They’re gone, but certainly not forgotten, and the fact that people are still turning new Camaros into Trans Am tribute cars is another sign that they’ll always be collectible. So at least in the case of the fourth-gen cars, this trend isn’t likely to shift the other way, leaving the Firebird definitively more desirable than its Chevy stablemate.