The Trans AM has firmly established itself as an American icon.

By the mid-1970s it was the sole survivor of the muscle car era as US federal regulations and successive oil embargos bit into the American economy.

Pontiac commenced production of the Firebird as a pony car to compete with the Ford Mustang and Mercury Cougar in 1967. The Trans AM Firebird was first released in 1969 to campaign in the SCCA’s road racing series. It was the flashiest, best handling and most sophisticated Firebird model.

Available only as coupes or T tops, the models were revised every year through the 70s.

Trans AM’s enduring appeal was cemented in 1977 when Burt Reynolds drove a black-and-gold special edition version in Smokey and the Bandit – the second highest grossing film of 1977 – second only to Star Wars.

In 1979 Pontiac re-designed the nose and tail sections and there were a range of engines, the pinnacle being the W72 6.6 litre Pontiac V8 which put out 220 (net) HP. The National Hot Rod Association dyno tested this engine at 260-280 (net) HP which was higher than quoted by Pontiac. Four speed manual transmissions were always paired with this power plant.

For every W72 engine, Pontiac improved the car’s performance by combing improved camshaft timing and exhaust revisions. The optional WS6 suspension package included 4-wheel disc brakes, specific springs, shock absorbers, a constant ratio steering box, a larger rear sway bar and 15x 8-inch aluminium Snowflake wheels.

With the push towards increased fuel economy, GM decided that its Pontiac Division no longer needed the 400ci engine and planned to phase it out in 1978. Pontiac managed to stockpile several thousand 400ci blocks to use as T/A 6.6 engines in the 1979 Trans AM.

A buying frenzy ensued when news of the end of the 400ci became public and 117,108 Trans Ams were built in that year with only 8,326 of them receiving the T/A 6.6 engine.

1979 marked the 10th year anniversary of the Trans AM. Two 10th anniversary Trans AMs were the pace cars or the 1979 Daytona 500. Car and Driver magazine named the Trans AM with the WS6 performance package the best handling car of 1979.