Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

In March 1969, Pontiac quietly announced the new WS4 Trans Am option for its popular Firebird, based on the prior Pontiac Firebird Sport Turismo and Tunnel-Port racing projects. Chassis development was performed by Herb Adams under Chief Engineer Bill Collins, while Ben Harrison and Jim Wangers handled product planning and marketing. Named after the immensely popular Trans Am racing series, with Pontiac paying a $5 royalty per car to the SCCA, it quickly became a high-performance icon and one of the best known muscle cars of all time.

Trans Ams were instantly recognizable with their Polar White finish, medium blue racing stripes, unique blue upholstery and full width, trunk-mounted airfoil. Twin fiberglass, rear-facing fender scoops vented heat from the engine compartment, while a pair of functional air scoops rammed cold, dense air to the engine. And what an engine it was! Dubbed the Ram Air III and rated at 335 hp from 400 cubic inches, it launched the Trans Am from a dead stop to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and cleared the quarter-mile at 101 mph in just 14.3 seconds.

Although Ram Air III-powered Firebirds could post comparable numbers, the Trans Am’s heavy-duty, specially tuned suspension and wide tires on seven-inch rims gave it the edge on the open road. Contemporary tests by Hot Rod, Sports Car Graphic and other magazines praised the Trans Am for its ease of operation and remarkable handling at speed.

Only 697 Trans Ams were produced for 1969. During the 1970s, the Trans Am was carefully developed and managed to defy tightening emissions regulations, rising insurance rates and the energy crisis to become America’s fastest and best-selling high-performance car.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in March of 2010 at the The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida and in June of 2010 at the Town and Country Resort & Convention Center, San Diego, California.

335 hp, 400 cu. in. Ram Air III V8 engine, Rochester four-barrel carburetor, Turbo-Hydramatic 400 three-speed automatic transmission, independent front suspension with unequal-length A-arms, coil springs and anti-roll bar, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs. Wheelbase: 108".

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel

Gallery: Pontiac Firebird Trans Am