The Trans Am was a specialty package for the Firebird, typically upgrading handling, suspension, and horsepower, as well as minor appearance modifications such as exclusive hoods, spoilers, fog lights and wheels. In using the name Trans Am, a registered trademark, GM agreed to pay $5 per car sold to the SCCA. Four distinct generations were produced between 1969 and 2002. These cars were built on the F-body platform, which was also shared by the Chevrolet Camaro.
Despite its name, the Trans Am was not initially used in the Trans Am Series, as its smallest engine exceeded the SCCA's five liter displacement limit.The second generation was available from 1970 to 1981 and was featured in the 1977 movie Smokey and the Bandit, the 1978 movie Hooper, the 1979 movie Rocky II, and the 1980 movie Smokey and the Bandit II. The Firebird Trans Am was also selected as the Official Pace Car for the 1980 Indianapolis 500. The third generation, available from 1982 to 1992, was featured in the 1983 movie Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 and the 1984 movie Alphabet City. KITT, the automotive star, and its evil counterpart KARR, of the popular 1980s TV series Knight Rider, was a modified third-generation Trans Am.
The fourth-generation Trans Am, available from model years 1993 to 2002, offered between 275 and 325 bhp (205 and 242 kW).
The Trans Am GTA (Gran Turismo Americano) was an options package available on the Firebird Trans Am which added gold 16-inch diamond-spoke alloy wheels, a mono-chromatic paint scheme and special cloisonné GTA badges. The GTA (along with the Formula model that was intended to fill the gap between the base model Firebird and mid-level Trans Am) was the brainchild of former Pontiac marketing manager Lou Wassel. It was intended to be the "ultimate" Trans Am and was the most expensive Firebird available. The GTA equipment package officially went on sale in 1987 and avoided a gas-guzzler tax thanks to its lightweight PW 16-inch gold cross-lace wheels. The high-performance WS6 suspension package was also re-tuned to offer a more compliant ride while still maintaining tight handling characteristics. Engine choices consisted of a L98 5.7 liter (350 ci) TPI (Tuned Port Injection) V8 mated to GM's corporate 700R4 automatic transmission or the 5.0 liter (305 ci) TPI V8. A five-speed manual was available but was mated to the 5.0 liter only. The GTA trim level was available from 1987 through the 1992 model year.
For 1989, the 20th Anniversary Turbo Trans Am project (originally conceived by Bill Owen of Pontiac) was outsourced to PAS, Inc., an engineering firm led by Jeff Beitzel. Beitzel and his team did most of the TTA development work. The 3.8 liter turbocharged V6 engines were built by PAS at their 40,000 square foot City of Industry, CA plant. From there, they went to GM's plant in Van Nuys, CA to be installed into GTAs on the F-Body assembly line. The cars were then shipped back to PAS for final assembly, testing, and quality control. Incidentally, the GTA chassis were selected at random, thus there is no correlation between the VIN and production sequence number. The initial number of cars to be produced had ranged from 500 to 2,500 until GM finally settled on 1,500. In all, a total of 1,555 Turbo Trans Ams were manufactured. One of these served as the 1989 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car.
The 2002 model-year WS6 Trans Am produced 325 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 350 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm out of its 5.7-liter LS1 V8 engine. A completely-stock WS6 completed the ¼—mile in 13.16 seconds at 106.05 mph on Eagle F1 street tires.
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