Pontiac Firebird Trans AM 1. Generation Ram Air V Coupe 1969

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Firebird Trans AM 1. Generation Ram Air V Coupe 1969





The Trans Am was a specialty package for the Firebird, typically upgrading handling, suspension, and horsepower, as well as minor appearance modifications such as exclusive hoods, spoilers, fog lights and wheels. In using the name Trans Am, a registered trademark, GM agreed to pay $5 per car sold to the SCCA. Four distinct generations were produced between 1969 and 2002. These cars were built on the F-body platform, which was also shared by the Chevrolet Camaro.

Despite its name, the Trans Am was not initially used in the Trans Am Series, as its smallest engine exceeded the SCCA's five liter displacement limit.

Outfitted with special paint, spoilers and handling pieces, the 1969 model year was the first for the Trans-Am equipment package and the only year it was available on the first-generation Firebird. At 335 HP, the new 1969 Ram Air III made use of the High Output engine components that had been part of the new performance-oriented 400 CI packages of 1967-68. Standard in the Trans Am model, it came equipped from the factory with the Ram Air-type air cleaner and fresh-air induction components. In the case of Shaffer’s car, this particular vehicle was found in a Detroit-area garage after 25 years of storage. With its numbers-matching engine package and 4-speed combination, this car has been recognized by a Zenith Preservation Award at the 2012 Bloomington Gold Survivor Show. Indeed, unrestored Trans Ams from this era are very scarce.

Of the mere 697 Ram Air III Firebird Trans Ams built that year, only 14 came with the Parchment White interior found in this Trans Am.

Pontiac’s 1969 Firebird Trans Am established the template for the most enduring entry in the first muscle car era. The Trans Am was introduced in virtual obscurity, and Pontiac sold only 697 in that first year, but that number included one of the most potent engines ever dropped into a production Pontiac. Dubbed the Ram Air IV, it was essentially a marginally detuned racing engine using 4-bolt mains, high compression pistons, round port heads with redesigned combustion chambers and large valves, a radical cam and an aluminum intake manifold. The Ram Air IV was conservatively rated at 345 HP and 430 lb-ft of torque, but lighting one up could take the Trans Am to 14-second quarter mile times at over 100 MPH on contemporary bias-ply tires – no small feat. At $558.20, the Ram Air IV found its way into only 55 1969 Trans Ams. Only nine coupes were produced with the optional 3-speed automatic transmission; of those, two were actually produced with column-mounted shifters, a counter-intuitive measure if ever there was one.

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