1969 Pontiac Trans-Am Ram Air III
In March of 1969, Pontiac quietly announced a new performance/trim option for its popular Firebird model, but it did not stay quiet for long. Dubbed the Trans Am (after the Trans American Racing Series), it quickly became a pony car icon and one of the best-known American muscle cars ever, ultimately dethroning the mighty GTO as Pontiac’s most popular performance model.
Trans Ams were easy to spot because each one was finished in Polar White with medium blue racing stripes and a trunk-mounted airfoil. Twin fiberglass, rear-facing scoops helped vent heat from the engine compartment. The hood, unique to the model, had functional air inlets to aid engine breathing. And what an engine it was! Dubbed the Ram Air III, it made 345 hp from 400 cubic inches and would push the Trans Am from a dead stop to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. At the drag strip, it could clear the quarter mile at 101 mph in just 14.3 seconds.
Similarly-equipped Firebirds could post comparable numbers, but the Trans Am’s heavy-duty, specially-tuned suspension and wide oval tires on seven inch rims gave it an edge over most of its competition.
Offered by RM Auctions at the 2010 Amelia Island Sale and fetched a top bid of $80,000 with an estimate of $110,000-$150,000 USD. Subsequently offered at their Ft Lauderdale sale. Described as:
The Trans Am we have the pleasure of offering here is one of only 697 cars built for the first year of production. Of those, only eight were convertibles and the rest were coupes, of which the vast majority had manual transmissions. All told, only 118 Ram Air III coupes came with automatic transmission. Until very recently, this three-owner car spent its entire life in the Houston, Texas area.
It was treated to a no-expense-spared, nut and bolt restoration and has accumulated very limited mileage since. In fact, this superb restoration was given numerous honors, including Best in Show at the Pontiac Nationals, “Editor’s Choice” from Muscle Car Magazine and Junior and Senior status from the Pontiac Oakland Club International. The car itself was even trailed to Michigan, where its headrest and deck lid were signed by Herb Adams, Special Project Manager for the Trans Am. Jim Wangers, the famous Pontiac advertising guru, also signed the car.
The L74 335-horsepower, 400 H.O. Ram Air engine is mated to a Turbo-Hydramatic transmission with a 10-bolt 3:55 Safe-T-Track rear end. Factory features include a remote mirror, decor group, console, push-button radio, belts, Rally II wheels, tinted glass, dealer installed hood tachometer and, of course, the Trans Am package. In addition to Pontiac Historical Society documentation, this car also comes with a window sticker replica.
In many ways the Trans Am is regarded as the performance icon of the pony car market. Although the moniker lasted for generations to come, the original design is a legend in its own right. Most importantly, it was more than capable of giving a ’Cuda, Challenger or Z-28 a run for its money! Now, four decades after the Trans Am was introduced, the Pontiac brand is being phased out by GM, rendering these 1960s performance icons relics from a bygone muscle car era and likely all the more desirable.
Story by RM Auctions
|type||Series Production Car|
|engine||L74 400 H.O. V8|
|displacement||6555 cc / 400 in³|
|power||257.3 kw / 345 bhp|
|specific output||52.63 bhp per litre|
|body / frame||Unitary Steel Monocoque|