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1969 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am


©2007 Publications International, Ltd. The Trans Am started with a Firebird and added a functional twin-scoop hood, rear spoiler, open fender vents, and a unique white and blue paint scheme. See

The 1969 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am marked an inauspicious beginning for a muscle car that would soon become Pontiac's performance flagship.

Officially titled the Trans Am Performance and Appearance Package, the $725 option was launched in March 1969 with little fanfare and no advertising. It was ordered on just 697 Firebird coupes and eight convertibles. Its name came from the popular Trans American racing series, though the car never actually competed in Trans Am racing.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. The standard engine was the 335-bhp Ram Air 400; this is one of 63 Trans Ams fitted with the 345-bhp Ram Air IV upgrade.

Its base engine was the Firebird 400 HO's 335-bhp 400-cid V-8, but with standard Ram Air induction. It came to be called the Ram Air III. The only alternative was the Ram Air IV version. Ordered on a mere 55 Trans Am coupes, Ram Air IV had a longer-duration cam and 345 bhp. The base mill came with a three-speed and 3.55:1 gears, the Ram Air VI with a four-speed and 3.90:1 cogs, and both were available with automatic. A heavy-duty suspension with one-inch front stabilizer bar, Polyglas F70xl4s on seven-inch rims, and special high-effort variable ratio power steering were standard.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Bucket seats, console, and specially tuned steering and suspension were included.

All Trans Ams were Polar White with blue racing stripes, tail panel, and decals. The hood, a Trans Am exclusive, had functional air inlets that could be closed by the driver. Rear-facing fiberglass fender scoops covered fist-sized holes designed to vent the engine bay. A 60-inch air foil spanned the rear deck. The interior was basic Firebird, though an optional rally cluster added a 160-mph speedometer and 8000-rpm tach. Buyers also could order an $85 hood-mounted rev counter.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. This is one of the rarest muscle cars ever. Of the 697 Firebird Trans Ams built for 1969, just eight were convertibles.

Acceleration was similar to Firebird's with comparable powertrains, but the Trans Am did handle. "We were safely passing chains of cars, eight, nine, ten at a whack... and not having to brake for the corner, but carving the turns at high speed," said Sports Car Graphic after a mountain-road sortie. It took Trans Am just three years to dethrone the GTO as Pontiac's most-popular performance offering. Its beginnings may have been humble, but the car would never be.

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