The Pontiac Phoenix picked up where the previous Ventura left off in mid-1977. The Phoenix was phased in at the middle of the model year - why Pontiac chose to rename the car from Ventura to Phoenix is not exactly known. The Phoenix, like the Ventura, was of course basically a Pontiac version of the X-body Chevrolet Nova. The Phoenix, like the other X-bodies, would undergo a major redesign in 1980 and be switched to a front wheel drive platform and last until the end of the 1984 model year. It was replaced by the highly successful Grand Am in 1985.
Here's a quick rundown for each generation:
|Body Style:||2-Door Coupe|
|Transmissions:||4-Speed Manual, RWD|
5-Speed Manual, RWD
3-Speed Automatic, RWD
|Engines:||2.5L (151 cid) I4 (1977-1979)|
3.8L (231 cid) V6 (1977-1979)
5.0L (305 cid) V8 (1977-1979)
5.7L (350 cid) V8 (1977-1978)
1st Generation (1977-1979)[edit | edit source]
The 1st gen Phoenix would be a short-lived model. It was introduced in April of 1977 as a late-1977 model, and differed from Ventura with a new front end with dual rectangular headlights and a vertically-slatted grille. Taillight design would remain the same. Trim levels mirrored the Ventura's: base, luxury-oriented LJ and sporty SJ models. Bodystyles were still the 2-door coupe, 3-door hatchback and 4-door sedan. Drivetrains were the base 2.5L (151 cid) "Iron Duke" I4 available in the base model only (and the only X-car to offer an I4 in this generation). A 3.8L (231 cid) V6 was optional and standard in the LJ and SJ. A Chevy-built 5.0L (305 cid) and 5.7L (350 cid) V8 were options. 4- and 5-speed manual transmissions were available on the I4 and V6, the 305 could have a 4-speed manual, and the 3-speed automatic was the only transmission available on the 350, and could be had with any other engine. Since the Phoenix debuted late in the model year, naturally the 1978 models had virtually no changes. 1979 would be a shortened year as well, with production stopping in late December, 1978 - the only real change was that the 350 V8 was no longer available.
An all-new front wheel drive X-body would debut for 1980.
|Body Style:||2-Door Coupe|
|Transmissions:||4-Speed Manual, FWD|
5-Speed Manual, FWD
3-Speed Automatic, FWD
|Engines:||2.5L (151 cid) I4|
2.8L (173 cid) V6
2nd Generation (1980-1984)[edit | edit source]
The 1980 Phoenix debuted in April, 1979 as an early 1980 model, along with its other X-body clones, the Buick Skylark, Chevrolet Citation (formerly the Nova), and Oldsmobile Omega. Bodystyles were either a 2-door coupe or a 5-door hatchback. Trim levels were the same as in the previous generation: base, luxury-oriented LJ and sporty SJ models. Engine choices were the Iron Duke 2.5L I4, carried over from the last generation, as standard in the base and LJ, with the new Chevy-built 2.8L (173 cid) V6 optional and standard on the SJ models. A 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission could be had with either engine. The 1981 Phoenix had a revised grille and the SJ could have a "high-output" 130 hp version of the 2.8 V6 that was shared with the Citation X-11, but carried on otherwise unchanged. In 1982, the Iron Duke I4 got fuel injection and an optional 5-speed manual transmission. 1983 models got another new grille design, which was blacked-out and horizontally louvered. There were no changes to speak of in 1984, which was the Phoenix's last.
The Phoenix, despite a strong start, quickly fell out of favor with buyers as the reliability issues of the front wheel drive X-body platform became more well known with the buying public (see separate Citation report). The Buick Skylark and Oldsmobile Omega would be axed at the end of 1984 also, but the Chevrolet Citation (now known as the "Citation II") would hang on for one more year. The Phoenix would (more or less) be replaced by the all-new N-body Grand Am in 1985, a car that would quickly become one of Pontiac's most successful-selling cars in its history, lasting until 2005.