In 1967, Pontiac released the Firebird, a car with coke bottle styling and big performance. Two years later, it introduced a new hopped-up model into the range- the race-worthy Trans Am. Over the next 3 decades, the Trans Am would go through various makeovers, be featured in numerous TV shows, and draw a legion of fans that, almost 20 years after Pontiac blew out the candle on the line, still remain loyal to the cause. Find out more about the Trans Am’s finest moments as we count down the 10 best Pontiac Trans Am models of all-time.
10. 1969 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
In the late 1960s, Pontiac wanted to make a car that could be used for Trans-Am racing. The problem was, their hands were tied by GM’s racing ban. In an attempt to get around the ban, Pontiac decided to introduce a car that, while ostensibly compliant with the policy, could be modified easily enough for racing by anyone who decided to. And thus the first Firebird Trans Am was born. With its distinctive white paintwork, blue stripes, and punchy engine, it immediately started drawing attention… if not sales. From a sales perspective, the first year wasn’t actually that great for the Trans Am. According to drivingline.com, only 697 units were ever sold. But in hindsight, it was a great introduction to the series.
9. 1974 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SD 455
As motor-junkie.com (motor-junkie.com/the-top-20-firebirds-and-trans-ams-of-all-time/32226/9/) writes, by 1974, the age of the muscle car was almost over. Most of those that were still hanging around were pale shadows of their former selves, with sluggish performance and bloated looks. There was, however, still one muscle car that delivered as much power as style: the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SD 455. With an enhanced suspension, improved brakes, a very capable engine, and a sleek style, the 1974 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SD 455 was a good-looking car with the power to match. Its 290 HP engine may not sound like much by today’s standards, but back in the day, it was enough to make it the biggest, baddest, and fastest production car on the road. Even the famously nippy Corvette struggled to keep up.
8. 1970 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
In 1970, the second generation Trans Am debuted. With more power, more performance, and more style than ever before, it proved exactly what Pontiac could do when it was firing on all cylinders. The addition of some swanky new brakes and suspension packages didn’t go unnoticed, and neither did the new spoilers, interior trim, and selection of colorways. Unbeknown to most, the end of the muscle car was already approaching. But there, in 1970 with the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, its future had never looked so glorious.
7. 1980 Pontiac Trans Am Turbo
In the late 1970s, Pontiac decided to get into the turbocharging game. The result was the 1980 Pontiac Trans Am Turbo. The engine, a 301 V8, may not have been great shakes when it came to horsepower (drivers could expect around 200 to 210 HP) but when it came to torque, it was outstanding, delivering a massive 340 lb-ft. The third generation Trans Am was on its way, but the second generation clearly wasn’t going down without a fight.
6. 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
In 1982, Pontiac released the third generation Trans Am. Aesthetically, it was a huge improvement, with sleek, aerodynamic lines and the 1980s hottest design feature, pop-up headlights. Thanks to suspension improvements, it handled like a dream. The 305 V8 delivered only a modest amount of HP, but it gave enough torque to ensure a thrilling performance.
5. 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Special Edition
By 1978, the oil crisis and recession had turned muscle cars into outdated, unwanted relics. But Pontiac wasn’t willing to go out without a fight. In 1978, it released the latest addition to the Trans Am line, the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Special Edition. A beneficiary of the previous year’s restyling, the 1978 Special Edition had all the hallmarks of a classic Trans Am. The engine was powerful, the iconic “Screaming Chicken” logo was on proud display, the performance was brutal, the speeds were thrilling… it was everything, in fact, that muscle cars had set out to be but which very few still were.
4. 2000 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6
As motortrend.com writes, the Trans Am was typically the most souped-up model in the Firebird line and the 2000 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6 was no exception. Capable of moving from 0 to 60 mph in just 5 seconds, its performance, speed, and handling left nothing to be desired.
3. 2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6
2002 spelled the end of the Firebird line and with it, the end of the Trans Am. The market had moved on. People wanted compact, fuel-efficient, modern cars, not big, muscle-bound dinosaurs. But although the writing was on the wall, Pontiac had one last trick to play: the 2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6. It may have been big and beefy, but it was also fast, agile, and more than a little virile. Its 5.7-liter V8 engine ripped the competition to shreds: combined with a six-speed manual transmission and numerous suspension upgrades, it could blast past 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds. The Trans Am may have been no more, but what a way to go out.
2. 1989 Turbo Trans Am
Pontiac had a blast with the third generation Trans Am. It was sleek, it was stylish, and when David Hasselhoff started running around in one in “Knight Rider,” the whole world and its mother wanted one. The 1989 Turbo Trans Am represented everything that was great about the 1982-1992 era. A limited-edition model released to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the series, it featured a 3.8L turbocharged V6 (the same one used in the Buick GNX, in fact), a stylish design, and a performance that was little short of spectacular.
1. 1977 “Bandit” Trans Am
The 1977 “Bandit” Trans Am may not have been the fastest Trans Am of all time, but what it lacked in speed it made up for in style. Basically, it was the coolest car on the road, partly because of its “Screaming Chicken” graphic, partly because of its hood scoop, but mainly because of “Smokey and the Bandit.” Ultimately, who didn’t want to ride around in the same car as Burt Reynolds? The 1977 Trans Am wasn’t just a car, it was a piece of pop culture. All these years later, it still is.