There’s something compelling about the idea of a small, sporty, high-performance station wagon. Here’s Pontiac’s stab at the concept from 1977-79, the Firebird Type K.
The original Camaro/Firebird F-Body platform was barely off the drawing board when General Motors stylists began toying with sporty station wagon versions of the pony car package. The idea just seems natural, intuitive somehow. While this example, the 1977-1979 Firebird Type K, wasn’t GM’s first F-Body experiment in station wagons, it is by far the best known.
Based on the clean second-generation Firebird body shell sculpted by famed GM designer Bill Porter, the wagon variant was styled by another accomplished GM studio man, Gerry Brochstein. The K stands for Kamm tail, a reference to the abrupt chop at the rear of the body, which reduces aerodynamic drag. While the rear glass was fixed in place, a pair of glass side hatches hinged in gullwing fashion allowed full access to the rear cargo compartment, which was nicely trimmed in carpeting with bright metal rub strips (below).
In 1977, GM commissioned Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina to build two working prototype vehicles with steel bodywork, one silver and one gold, though the silver Type K seems to have gotten all the glory. Both cars, born as 1978 production Firebirds, were reportedly equipped with the 403 CID, 185 hp V8 (an Olds division engine, actually) with shaker hood scoop and screaming-chicken hood decal. As the Type K was displayed around the country, car fans at the Chicago Auto Show and elsewhere elbowed each other and asked, “Is this cool or what?”
The silver K Type took a bow before the television cameras in March of 1979, appearing in a two-part episode of The Rockford Files, “Never Send a Boy to Do a Man’s Job.” Rockford star James Garner, a certified car guy and a Firebird fan in real life, didn’t much care for the wagon, it’s said. Instead, the car was driven in the episode by the character Odette Lependieu, played by Trisha Noble. In The Rockford Files role, the Type K has been updated with a 1979 Trans Am nose, as shown in the GM publicity photo below with Garner and journalist and PR guru Eric Dahlquist.
As we know, the K Type never made it to the showrooms. Production studies showed the Pininfarina wagon would need to be priced in the $25,000 range—far too expensive to sell in any useful number. A few years later, a California outfit called Deco International, not aligned with GM, produced a handful of replicas. Could GM ever revisit the pony car wagon concept on its current sixth-gen Camaro platform? With station wagons in general at a historic low in popularity, that seems unlikely. But it’s fun to imagine.