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. One of those is offered here, ordered through the Central Office Company Car program and placed into use on June 23, 1969 through Dealer Number 35-997, denoting its status as a Pontiac Motor Division Factory Company Car.
Although its specific use - magazine tests, demonstrator, or other - is unknown, it remained in service until its delivery to Michael Pontiac in Oakmont, Pennsylvania in March 1970 when it was sold into private ownership. In the early 1990s Robert O’Neill of San Bruno, California began a comprehensive restoration on the car. He also contacted General Motors Assistant Zone Service Manager Fred Simmons, who sent O’Neill a letter confirming the Trans Am’s original use as a Central Office Company Car, confirming its activation date and the dealer number. That letter became part of the car’s documentation.
O’Neill completed the car as it left the factory in Cameo White with Blue stripes and a Blue Custom Trim bucket seat interior with console delete. It was professionally freshened as needed in 2010 by Level One Restorations of Arvada, Colorado. Presented as original with power front disc brakes power steering with external cooler and push button radio, the car’s Ram Air IV engine is sealed to the steel-braced fiberglass Ram Air hood, and the full width rear spoiler, front fender vents and Rally II wheels with Goodyear Polyglas tires are present and accounted for.
The only departure from original was the padded Formula-style steering wheel, which was replaced with the correct wood grain unit just after these photos were taken for publication. As GM’s Fred Simmons was quick to point out to restorer O’Neill, this 1969 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Ram Air IV is a rare and desirable car, one made all the more interesting by its unique origin and drivetrain, the rarest combination available in 1969.