The 1969 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am was cooked up by none other than John DeLorean himself.
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.
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.
On the outside, the Trans Am was quite unique and definitely different than the base Firebird and certainly distinguished from its Chevy counterpart. All Trans Ams came with a Polar White finish and blue racing stripes down the entire length of the car with generous use of decals that unfortunately are the bane of most mid-70’s Trans Ams. Can anyone say “Flaming Checkin”?
Several factors contributed to that low initial production run. It was a midyear release, and the price tag for the WS4 option was high, about $1,100 to $1,200. Plus, word had leaked to the buying public that a redesigned F-Body would be available for 1970, so it’s likely that buyers held off for the new model.
Today the first-gen Trans Am’s popularity, combined with the low number of them produced, has made them collectibles of the highest degree.
So imagine being a dyed-in-the-wool Pontiac enthusiast who not only had the opportunity to own a TA from the first year of production but actually the first one off the assembly line! That did happen for a pair of supreme Pontiac enthusiasts, and this is how it all went down.
At A Glance
1969 Firebird Trans Am
Owned by: Kevin Beal and Don Emery
Restored by: Unrestored
Engine: 400ci/335hp L74 Ram Air III V-8
Transmission: Muncie M20 wide-ratio 4-speed manual
Rearend: GM B.O.P 10-bolt with 3.55 gears and Safe-T-Track
Interior: Gray vinyl bucket seat
Wheels: 14×7 Rally II
Tires: F70-14 Coker Firestone Wide Oval
Special parts: Formula steering wheel, dual horns, pushbutton radio, pedal trim.