The title will have Pontiac ultra-fundamentalists manning their battle stations and arming the keyboards with historically accurate facts about their beloved primordial Trans Am. And we couldn’t agree more, but one Pontiac fan didn’t like this history. Or, at least, he wasn’t very fond of how GM wrote this Firebird chapter.
In 1967, Pontiac – the “performance division” of General Motors – set free a new muscle car: the Firebird. The first generation lasted for three model years, with 1969 marking the last iteration of the original Firebird. However, 1969 also marked the debut of the Trans Am special package offered for the ‘Bird.
The first version of the Trans Am lived in 1969 only (as the second generation debuted in 1970, together with the standard Firebird, and spanned eleven years). So, with such a short-lived production run – just 689 cars built – the 1969 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am stirs interest in collectors’ circles.
Out of the 689 examples, 681 had solid metal sheets over the driver and passengers. The remaining eight are some of the rarest and sought-after end-of-the-rainbow V8 treasure chests in the automotive universe. There is just one convertible ’69 Trans Am for each finger a Pontiac gearhead has, and each of those cars came with the Ram Air 400 engine.
Colloquially, the power plant is dubbed “Ram Air III,” but GM official literature never coined that name. Also, the Michigan giant never built a Ram Air IV first-gen Trans Am with a cloak roof (but it probably should have done). And hardcore brand fans will agree that it would have been worth even more than the over-one-million-dollar existing convertible trim Trans Am.
And one such dedicated enthusiast took it one step further and wrenched out what Pontiac missed out on – a Ram Air IV convertible Firebird “Trans Am” phantom. It can’t be considered a tribute since its homage namesake does not exist.
But call it what you will; the car is one striking appearance. Correct in most visual aspects – white with blue stripes – the car takes a keen connoisseur scrutiny to tell the difference between the originals and this very well-executed honorary custom.
The car is based on a ’69 Firebird Californian convertible with only 32,000 original miles and a list of authentic gear in it: “a four-speed manual transmission, power steering, power front disk brakes, power windows, power top, power trunk, power rear antenna, tilt wheel, center console, folding rear seat, factory gauges with tachometer, and factory air conditioning.“
However, the heart of the matter – the V8 piston keystone – has a different story. It is period correct – a ’68 400-CID (6.6-liter) block over-bored and stroked to a 462 displacement (7.6 liters), with Ram Air IV heads (mildly ported to feed the wild flames).
Forged rods and pistons keep the stud in check and steer them to the six-speed Tremec T-56 Magnum gearbox. The manual miles-per-hour randomizer has a .83 overdrive to keep the V8 monster cool on the highway. The 8.2-inch 3.55 differential puts the spin on the 15-inch wheels (custom-made to look like the stock 14-inch originals).
The list goes on and on, but the fiery Pontiac worshiper that built this car paid every last grain of attention to details, and nothing was left to chance. Whatever is out of place was intended so from the very beginning.
The air-conditioning was not available with the Ram Air IV, and that’s why the air cleaner pan is from a Ram Air “III.” Scroll through the gallery and see how many other out-of-place checkboxes you can tick.
This phantom Trans Am received seven awards from seven different car shows in the last three years, and that’s saying something about the car that “doesn’t exist.” Furthermore, the price tag of nearly one-quarter of a million Washingtons is tangible, material, and deep-pocketed – courtesy of Pro Market Connections sellers. Then again, this is not an original. It is better…