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A Top-of-the-Line Firebird

The Pontiac Trans Am first appeared in 1969 as a performance package on the Pontiac Firebird vehicle line. Though it never participated in the Trans American racing series, the name derives from the competition. Painted Polar White with two blue stripes, the Trans Am was beautiful and powerful. It had a 400ci V8 engine rated at 335 horsepower with a Ram Air intake design. It came as a coupe or convertible with a scooped hood, and was lauded for its performance and, most notably, its handling. Its large antisway bar and low suspension was a huge factor when it came to control. Being able to rip through corners at high speeds, and sporting a 160-mph speedometer, the Trans Am was a fast muscle car that would eventually become the most desired Firebird.

Fame and Fortune

1970 brought a 400ci V8 with 335 or 345 hp and a front spoiler and shaker hood scoop.  There was a single blue strip lined down the middle of the hood which carried into the next model in ’71 where the most noticeable improvement was the 455ci 335 hp V8 as a standard engine. Though the restyling for ’72 was attractive to the eye, the horsepower dropped down to 300. This would continue throughout the ‘70s, but the following year the iconic bird decal was planted on top of the hood with a 455 Super Duty underneath. In 1977, this “screaming chicken” iteration of the Trans Am was featured in the movie Smokey and the Bandit.  Pontiac engineers stated that it only output 290 hp, but in truth the SD-455 produced over 370 hp. Slight modifications to a Trans Am with an SD-455 could bring over 500+ hp easily. It lasted for a year, and in ’75 could sport a 400ci V8 with 185 hp.

A major redesign took place in 1977. Dual headlights with an inset grille, a curved front spoiler, and T-top style were all new. It came with a 403ci 185 hp V8 or a 400ci V8 with 200 hp. 1980 brought a turbocharged 4.9L V8 engine. Horsepower and performance were once again on the rise, and it could once again kick 210 hp.  During the ‘80s, a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic was offered, along with hidden headlights and a cross-fire injection with the automatic. A 1982 Trans Am was used as the basis for the intelligent car KITT in the TV series Knight Rider.  By ’89, a 3.8L V6 that could sport 250 horsepower became the standard. It needed only slight modification to become an Indy pace car, having an advertised top speed of 150 mph. The V8 was brought back in ’93, with horsepower increased by 25 and a six-speed manual.  The Trans Am continued to peak into the late ‘90s, reaching up to a 305hp V8 in ’98. For nearly four decades the Pontiac Trans Am has been a part of American Culture. Discontinued in 2002, the powerful and celebrated muscle car left a lasting legacy.

Pontiac is a registered trademark of General Motors Company. 1A Auto is not affiliated with or sponsored by Pontiac or General Motors Company. See all trademarks.
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