Skip to main content

You Can Feel the Heat Coming From this Scorching 1979 Pontiac Firebird


This month, seven years ago, General Motors (GM) killed Pontiac. The decision to scrap its quirky, enthusiast-focused brand likely wasn’t easy, and may even have been a mandate from the federal government as part of its bailout plan. Still, closing the door on an 84-year-old brand was rough.

Since the fall of Pontiac, collectors have hastened to acquire classic models, driving the value of pristine examples up considerably. Case in point, this 1979 Pontiac Firebird. RK Motors in Charlotte, North Carolina, has its mitts on a 65-mile Special Edition with a wild ownership story.

Purchased new by an 18-year old William Leland III (Bill Jr. to his friends), this stunning black and gold muscle car was the envy of any kid who’d ever seen Smokey and the Bandit. How in the world could a teenager afford such a cherry car? The short answer is family funds, but there’s a bit more to this tale.

Bill Jr. came from Detroit royalty. His father, William Leland II, was the great-great nephew of Henry Leland, the founder of Cadillac and Lincoln Motor Company. Having developed an enthusiasm for autos via his father’s car collection, Bill Jr. worked at a Pontiac dealer in Massachusetts.

After securing a loan of $10,000 from his father, Bill Jr. leveraged his dealership contacts and assembled his perfect Firebird. Bill Jr.’s finalized Trans Am SE (Firebird) was loaded with $3,454 in options, or the equivalent cost of a new compact car in 1979. Excessive? That’s just the start of it. Bill Jr. was so particular about his car that when it was finally delivered, he wouldn’t let the dealership do any of its typical prep work. No washing the car, no driving it around the block, and no drilling holes in the front bumper to install a license plate.

Bill Jr. received his Firebird with six miles on the odometer. He then drove 20 miles to his parents’ house. For the next several years, the car sat unused and unregistered. After marrying, Bill Jr. drove the car 20 miles to his new house. Once again, the car sat (with the occasional idling, oil changes, and gear articulation).

Tragically, at just 42 years of age, Bill Jr. was diagnosed with terminal melanoma cancer. Before passing, he signed over his prized possession to his father. With just 65 miles on the odometer, the Firebird was installed among William II’s collection. For the next decade, William II serviced the car and valued it highest among his assembled vehicles.

Finally, in 2013, the Firebird was sold to a new owner. The next year, this symbol of Pontiac’s golden age it made its public debut at the Pontiac-Oakland Club International All GM Car Show where it earned a Survivor Award.

If you ever wondered what a brand new muscle car looked like in the late 1970s, this is it. We can’t imagine a better tribute to Pontiac than this bold, beautiful ‘bird.

Editors' Recommendations

Miles Branman
Miles Branman developed a passion for cars early on thanks to a neighbor’s collection of rare and exotic vehicles. What…
Report: The car brands that cost the least (and most) to maintain
Turns out Teslas aren't just cheap on fuel
Red Tesla Model 3 Performance facing straight on parked on dark metal plates with a dark wall in the background.

Buying a car can be expensive, but the costs don’t stop when you drive one off the lot. You also need to spend a significant amount keeping that vehicle in good working order. However, some brands cost less to maintain than others, and it turns out that Tesla produces some of the cheapest vehicles on the road as far as long term expenditure is concerned.

A study by Consumer Reports discovered that Teslas only cost the average owner just over $4,000 in maintenance over a ten-year period. In the first year, maintenance costs are expected to set owners back around $580, while they can expect to have spent around $3,455 keeping their vehicle in good condition after five years. You’re also unlikely to be hit with a heavy repair bill early on as Tesla, like most other manufacturers, has a warranty covering the first few years of a vehicle’s life.

Read more
The Ineos Fusilier: What you need to know
This BEV offroader has a gas-powered safety net
Ineos Fusilier in Yellow

U.K.-based off-roader manufacturer Ineos has a third vehicle on the way in the form of the Fusilier -- which looks a lot like a Mercedes G-Wagon. The Fusilier carries on from the likes of the Grenadier, which itself was heavily inspired by classic Land Rover Defenders.

It’s unknown if British manufacturer Ineos is primarily focused on providing modern takes on classic European offroaders, or if it is setting its sights globally. However, there are few who wouldn’t welcome another take on the Toyota Land Cruiser into the world. Ineos’ other confirmed line continues with the military role naming theme. The “Quartermaster” is the company’s take on the pickup truck.

Read more
What we know about Toyota’s new MR2 so far
The new MR2 is not for you
Second generation Toyota MR2

While it may be known for its pickup trucks and hybrids, Toyota also produces world-leading sports cars like the Supra. In 2026, it’s set to revive one of its best-loved mid-engine sports coupes after nearly 20 years. The MR2 was last manufactured in 2007, but a new version will be on sale in Japan in the near future. Here’s what we know about it.

Japanese motoring website Best Car seems to be the main source of information on the upcoming MR2 as things stand. It seems to believe that the coupe will pack 316 horsepower and 304 lb-ft of torque courtesy of the same 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-three engine you’ll find in both the GR Yaris and the GR Corolla. In terms of transmission choices, purists will undoubtedly be pleased that there is a six-speed manual option available. For those uncomfortable with a stick shift, you can still opt for an eight-speed automatic.

Read more