1969 Trans Am Fact & Fiction Page
(Updated 12/09/06) Once being the owner of a 1969 Trans Am, and hearing lots of un- truths about the car, I thought on my last page I would add a FACTS & FICTION column about these rare cars. If you have any questions concerning these cars, feel free to e-mail me and I will try to help you out. (I will add more as I have time and more items come to mind).
FACT: : The Trans Am option included the following as standard equipment:
RA III engine (includes upper and lower RA pans, cast iron long branch exhaust manifolds)
3 speed HD manual transmission
3.55:1 Saft-T-Track 10 bolt differential
1.0" front sway bar
Chrome valve covers and oil filler cap
Power front disc brakes
Special, functional, dual scooped hood (steel) with removable scoop inserts (fiberglass)
Front fender mounted functional air extractors (fiberglass)
Rear wing pedestals mount spoiler (fiberglass)
Front Spoiler (plastic)
Special Tyrol Blue striped Cameo White paint (over hood, roof & deck lid, including tail lamp panel)
Power steering (with HD coolant line)
Quick ratio steering box (2.5 turns lock to lock)
"TRANS AM" identification decals on front fenders and rear spoiler
Blacked out grills (egg crate section only)
Simulated wood steering wheel (some later cars built after 9/69came with the padded Formula wheel with the one year only "wings down" Firebird cap.
FACT: The ’69 Trans Am was introduced to the press on December 8th, 1968 at Riverside Raceway in Riverside, CA. One of the cars given to the press to test was the pre production T/A that was painted Pallidium Silver (no stripes). Look closely at the pictures of the silver T/A and you will notice the hood and air extractors have very sharp, hard lines, more in line with the original design sketches. The March 1969 issue of Hot Rod Magazine stated the hood on this silver car was fiberglass. Note: The silver T/A was also a RA IV car. (source for the above date was Jim Wangers‘ book Glory Days)
FACT: Pontiac made a total of 697 '69 Trans Ams (coupes and convertibles)
FACT: 8 of those were convertibles, 689 were coupes. (As a side note that really has nothing to do with this, there was also a '69 Firebird convertible used on the television program "I Dream Of Genie" that had what appeared to be a variation of the '69 T/A hood, side air extractors mounted on the quarter panels and a T/A style rear spoiler. The car was bright green. I don’t believe this to be a real T/A but found it interesting that PMD would send out a Firebird mocked up similar to a T/A for a TV show. Maybe they didn't. Maybe it was customized elsewhere.).
FACT: All 8 convertibles were RA III cars.
FACT: Of the 8 convertibles, 4 were automatics, and 4 were manuals transmission cars. (Side Note: It has been documented that of the 8 convertible Trans Ams made, 7 are known to exist, most of those in good condition. The 8th is still a mystery. While I have read that the 8th has been located many different times, that seems to just be a rumor at this point. There was a blurb in Pontiac Enthusiast Magazine several years ago that they believed they had found this 8th convertible T/A in Western Canada and that they’d have more info at a later date. However, I have never heard any more about that. So until the 8th shows up in pictures somewhere and is proved documented to be the 8th, I would assume the location of the 8th is still unknown.)
FICTION: The 8 convertible T/As were built only for GM executives and not sold to the general public. (This statement is completely untrue. There is no reason that anyone could not order a convertible T/A. From listening to discussions with people such as John Sawruck (A Pontiac Engineer), "Higher Ups" at GM received no special treatments when it came to having special cars built for them).
FACT: Trans Ams were built at two different assembly plants: Norwood, Ohio (N) and Van Nuys, California (L) (coded L for Los Angeles). The number of Trans Ams built by each assembly plant and block code are as follows:
WQ: 506 (14 3-speeds, 492 4-speeds, including 4 convertibles)
YW: 117 ( including 4 convertibles)
WQ: 14 (1 3-speed, 13 4-speeds)
(information from the book "Pontiac Muscle Car Performance, 1955-1979, by Pete McCarthy)
FACT: The original design for the Trans Am was actually proposed by the famous auto customizer, Gene Winfield. Working with artist Harry B. Bradley, they approached Pontiac in the fall of 1967 with sketches (I hope to have these sketches posted here soon). Since he consulted for the model company AMT, Winnfield knew 18 months ahead of time what the 1969 Firebirds would look like. He and Bradley proposed the hood, scoops, air extractors and deck lid spoiler that pretty much ended up on the Trans Am (other than a few minor alterations). Winfield called his car the "Can Am" (is this where Pontiac later got the name Can Am from?) and his proposed color scheme was chartreuse and gold instead of white and blue. All of the items Winfield and Bradley proposed were bolt-on and functional. (Info from the book The Fabulous Firebird by Michael Lamm)
FACT: Like the '64 - '65 & '72 - '74 GTOs, The Trans Am was just a option for 1969 on the Firebird line. So, even though a car may check out to be a real '69 Trans Am, there will be nothing in the VIN number to separate it from a basic Firebird, nor will the title say Trans Am, it will simply be listed as Firebird. This is correct.
FICTION: There is no way to be sure if car is really a factory T/A or just a clone. (While the best way to tell if a T/A is a real T/A or not is to send the VIN # to Pontiac Historical Services for verification, there is a few quick things to look at if you're in a hurry to make a verification. The easiest is to check the firewall data plate for a rear spoiler code, usually "D80" or a variation of that code (D80 is a spoiler code for many GM cars, not just the T/A). Since the '69 T/A was the only first generation Firebird to leave the factory with a rear spoiler, it will also be the only Firebird to receive a rear spoiler code. You will never see a "D80" code on a non ‘69 T/A. You should also look for the paint code to be 50-50 (in most cases; see note below). If the plate has a paint code for say red paint, this is a good tip-off that the car is not a real T/A).
NOTE: Keep in mind though 50-50 is upper and lower paint codes and there were a few T/As built with vinyl tops so you might get a code that is not 50-50. A convertible Trans Am would also not be coded 50-50 because the upper code would be the top color. If you need help to determine if a car is a real T/A or not, please email me and I'll be happy to help you out. you can email me at email@example.com
FICTION: You could order a '69 T/A in blue with white stripes ('69 T/As were ALL white with blue stripes). (SIDE NOTE: ‘69 Trans Ams were painted Cameo White. In many places I have seen the ‘69 T/A as being referred to as Polar While. Polar White is only correct for the 1970 Trans Am. Cameo White is more of an antique white as opposed to the much brighter shade that Polar White is. Cameo white is code 50 and will interchange with PPG code 2058).
FACT: The upper section of the rear tail lamp panel was painted the same color blue as the stripes were on all '69 Trans Ams (sometimes the stripes will look a different color, this is due to how the light hits the metallic in the blue paint. A perfect example of this can be seen on the picture I have posted at the bottom of the next page, page 5). (SIDE NOTE: I have been provided with information from a factory Service Bulletin # 546321 sheet 2, page 35w-2.2 dated 2/24/69 that the correct color for the stripes on 1969 Trans Ams is Tyrol Blue, code. 867-98755 or Fisher wa-3680 code (NOTE: this is not a 1969 color but rather a 1967 color). This information was provided by Classical Pontiac Member 59, Tboy in Q&A post #274473. In the past I have stated that 1970 Lucern Blue was a decent match for the stripes (though maybe a shade too dark). I still believe this to be true (there was even a caption in an old issue of Muscle Car Cassics magazine on documenting a '69 T/A that stated the correct color for the stripes was Lucern Blue), however it appears that there is now documented proof as to what the ‘69 color was really called.
FICTION: Some ‘69 TAs came with red T/A decals (not so, only the PRE-PRODUCTION car used in the magazine ads has red decals. This is a myth supported by the Book "Pontiac Trans-Am 1969-1973 photofacts, in the captioned photo at the bottom of page 22).
FICTION: All '69 T/As came standard with Rally II wheels (Rally II wheels were an option on the T/A as they were on all '69 Firebirds. However, almost every '69 T/A was ordered with them. They were an option and not part of the T/A package).
FACT: A column shift automatic could be ordered on a '69 T/A (as odd as this seems to me, and why any one would want one I don't know, it was possible as I almost bought a ‘69 Trans Am optioned this way. The car looks funny with no console I think).
FICTION: '69 T/As came from the factory with rear sway bars (another one of those rumors you read that are not true).
FACT: The '69 T/A did come with a larger than normal front sway bar, measuring 1 inch.
FACT: Even though the T/A is a 400 engine car, '69 T/As did not receive the 400 grill trim.
FACT: Nor did they receive the "400" deck lid emblem or the "FIREBIRD" front fender emblems.
FICTION: The wood steering wheel was the only steering wheel for the '69 T/A. (In September of '69, very late in production, the formula wheel became available as an option. The wheel carried the one year only horn cap with the first generation style 'wings down' bird in the center. Had production not ran late that year, creating so called 1969 1/2 cars, the Formula wheel would have debuted on the second generation Trans Am. I have added a picture of the very rare one year only "wings down" cap that came on the late '69 Trans Ams. You can find a link to this picture on page 6. If you have any problem viewing the picture, email me and I can email the picture to you.
I have also now been provided with copies of the auctual document that explain the introduction of the Formula steering wheel to the '69 Trans Am. This can be viewed on-line but you will need an Adobe Reader to view it. The document can be viewed HERE
(SIDE NOTE: While it was probably just a fluke, my '69 T/A came out of the factory with just the blue plastic wheel. And I have also had contact with two other ‘69 T/A owners who’s T/As also came this way. Has anyone else ever seen a '69 T/A with the standard wheel originally)?
FACT: 6 of the manual transmission cars built at the Norwood, Ohio plant left the factory with vinyl tops. 4 in dark blue, 2 in black.
FICTION: Some cars came with the word TRANS AM or FIREBIRD etched in the side window glass (this is 100 percent untrue, another myth read in some books)
FACT: All '69 T/As are Ram Air cars. There were no T/As with the base 400. All will have functional Ram Air. Engine/Trans production figures are as follows:
Coupe, RA III, automatic transmission: 114<
Coupe, RA III, manual transmission: 520
Coupe. RA IV, automatic transmission: 9
Coupe, RA IV, manual transmission: 46
Convertible, RA III, automatic transmission, 4
Convertible, RA III, manual transmission, 4
Convertible, RA IV, automatic transmission, 0
Convertible, RA IV, manual transmission, 0
As you see the rarest of the ‘69 Trans Ams coupes was the RA IV coupe with automatic transmission. (Note, the silver proto-type T/A was a RA IV, auto, coupe too, but being a preproduction car, it would not be one of these 4 rare cars.... If only we knew where the silver car was today.)
FICTION: The standard T/A gear box was the Muncie 4 speed. (not true. T/As came standard with the M-13 Heavy Duty 3 speed. HOWEVER, if you optioned in a RA IV engine, and wished a manual transmission, the Muncie M21 close ratio 4 speed became a mandatory option).
FICTION: Other engines such as the 350 H.O. or even the 303 CID were available in the ‘69 Trans Am. (This is yet another published myth and is completely untrue. This one can be read in the October 1990 issue of Guide To Muscle Cars on page 21). It was also reported as early as the March 1969 issue of Hot Rod magazine that the 303 would become available in the production cars, but it was never to be. While Pontiac may have had it in the works, it never became available in production cars (the 303 was available for a short time over the parts counter only).
FICTION: A 'through the grill' RA option was available (While the idea was on the design table, the T/A (nor any Firebird) was never produced with this style Ram Air. You can see this design idea on page 45 of the book The Fabulous Firebird).
FICTION: '69 T/A have a under dash bracket to 'open' the Ram Air. (While the '69 RA 400 Firebird cars have this, the '69 T/As do not. This published myth can be read on page 113 and 45 of the Fabulous Firebird).
FACT: While the hood tach was available as a dealer installed option, these were not offered from the factory, mostly I believe due to lack of room to the left of the large T/A scoops. (SIDE NOTE: A hood tach will fit to the side of the scoop but one of the mounting bolts will actually be under the hood hinge making it necessary to remove the hood from the hinge for installation.
FACT: The '69 T/A hood is steel with fiberglass scoop inserts. Factory RA 'tunnels' are made of plastic. Factory RA pans, upper and lower, along with the air cleaner retainer and carb screen were all steel.
FACT: Side air extractors are functional, with holes cut behind them in the fenders (to allow hot air to escape from the engine compartment), and they are made of fiberglass. (note: Many publications refer to the air extractors as "simulated". The do have 2 holes behind each extractor that actually let hot air escape from the engine compartment so they truthfully are functional and NOT just simulated.
FACT: The rear spoiler is fiberglass also. Original spoilers have a distinct lines where the pedestals mate to the 'wing'. (SIDE NOTE1: This is a good way to tell a reproduction spoiler from an original. But beware, some reproductions have these lines.) (SIDE NOTE 2: The pedestals run right in the middle of each stripe. Even though the stripes are not painted over the spoiler, the pedestals were painted blue up to the bottom of the spoiler.
FACT: There were only two different magazine ads for the '69 Trans Am. Both were similar, but one included pictures of some of the options that could be ordered, while the other ad did not. The ad with out the options can be found on the inside front cover of the May 1969 issue of Car and Driver (it has a red Maverick on cover) and the ad showing options can be found on pages 90 & 91 of the June 1969 issue of Road & Track. You can view these ads on-line at the 1969 Trans Am registry by clicking HERE
(SIDE NOTE: Notice that in the ad showing the Formula wheel, notice that the bottom spoke of that wheel has three holes. The following was posted by Steve Chin on the Classical Pontiac Q&A board, post # 10471 in the archive: "The Formula wheel was an option on the '69 Trans Am. The real Formula wheel was not ready at the time of the press photo shoot, so they substituted a Momo Prototipo steering wheel for the Formula wheel (looks very similar, except it's really leather and the vertical spoke has three holes in it and no leather wrap near the rim)".
FACT: The car used in the ads used a pre-production hood. You can tell this by noticing that the hood does not have removable scoops (my guess is it's probably fiberglass, but that is a guess).
FACT: Pontiac referred to the car in the ads as "Pontiacs New Pony Express"
FACT: Some early articles showing the silver T/A can be seen in the March, 1969 issue of Car Craft, the April 1969 issue of Car Life and the June 1969 issue of Motor Trend. Another very early article showing what appears to be the same car used in magazine advertisements can be seen in the April 1969 issue of Sports Car Graphic (note that the car in the article appears to have the hood with non-removable scoops, has stripes over the rear spoiler, has RAM AIR decals in the middle of the scoops, has the FIREBIRD fender emblems and has the 400 trunk lid emblem.
FACT: The '69 Trans Am was never shown in any of the 1969 factory Pontiac or GM brochures that were distributed to the public. There was however a flyer type insert was made available for the dealers to insert in there showroom albums. I have recently been sent a scan of this insert page along with a short letter announcing the introduction of the T/A and where to insert the page into the dealer brochure. I have posted both of these on page 6. If you have any trouble opening the pictures, email me and I can send them to you. A HUGE THANKS goes out to Mike Noun for providing me with these.
UPDATE 6/29/05: I have recently been provided some of the neatest dcuments I have ever ran across pertaining to the '69 Trans Am by Glen S. from the Classical Pontiac website (A HUGE THANKS Glen!). These are pre-announcments to the dealers informing them of the new car Pontiac plans to release and what options it will include. You can view these documents on-line but it will require that your computer has an Adode reader. You can view the documents
FICTION: '69 Trans Ams have unique rear side marker lamps. (This is another myth as read in the book "Firebird, Pure Excitement From Pontiac" Page 24. All '69 Firebirds and T/As have the same marker lamp).
FACT: While not mentioned much, '69 Trans Ams actually did in fact come from the factory with a front spoiler (more than just the 90 degree steel lip found on the metal baffle on 400 and a/c cars). This spoiler was made from a flat piece of plastic, spanning the width of the front valance and was mounted to the lip of the lower baffle found on 400 and a/c cars. There is an excellent picture of one of these spoilers seen in the book mentioned above (Firebird, Pure Excitement...) also on page 24.
FICTION: The headlamp surrounds are made of Endura material like the GTO bumpers (not so... these are actually made just from plastic and break quite easily. They do however have rubber cushions that mount behind them to protect them and the fenders).
FACT: The following are various codes that apply to the 1969 Trans Am:
Engine block codes:
(this code will be a stamped code and located on the passenger side of the engine block directly below the head.)
NOTE: W codes denote manual transmissions, while X & Y coded denote auto transmissions.
RA III, Auto trans: YW = 335hp
RA III, Manual trans: WQ = 335hp
RA IV, Auto trans: XN = 345hp
RA IV, Manual trans: WH = 345 hp
Engine block casting codes:
(this code will be cast as part of the engine block. This code can be found on the passenger side top of the block just behind the passenger side cylinder bank.
RA III: 9790071
RA IV: 9792506
Cylinder head codes:
(This code will be cast as part of the head. RA III codes will be located on top of the center exhaust port on each cylinder head. RA IV codes will be located on top of the end exhaust ports, #1 & #8. This code is also a shortened version of the full casting number, note the full number show).
RA III, Auto trans: 16 or 62 (full number 9791216, 9791562), 2.11/1.77 valves, 72CC
RA III, Manual trans: 48 (full number 9795048) 2.11/1.77 valves, 72CC
RA IV, all transmissions: 722 (full number 9796722) 2.11/1.77 valves, 71CC
Exhaust manifold codes:
(This code will be cast as part of the manifold. The code will be found on the front side of each manifold near the center)
Intake Manifold codes:
(This code will be cast as part of the intake manifold. Generally found just to the side of the water neck)
RA III: 9794234 (cast iron)
RA IV: 9796614 (aluminum)
(This code will be stamped into the side of the carb. vertically)
RA III, Auto trans: 7028270
RA III, Manual trans: 7028273
RA IV, Auto trans: 7029270
RA IV, Manual trans: 7029273
(This code will be stamped into the wide portion of the distributor body)
RA III, Auto trans: 1111946
RA III, Manual trans: 1111952
RA IV, all transmissions: 1111941
1969 T/A Fact & Fiction Continued On Next Page
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