For decades General Motors was one of the biggest corporations in the world - at one point selling one out of every two cars in the U.S. Just between the 1940s and the 1970s alone GM made so many cars that some of its divisions were big enough by themselves to be among the world's largest car companies. There was plenty of room for competition between the divisions, and the sports car segment was the real showcase. It was during these golden years that Pontiac created the Trans Am, its designers and engineers as much at war with Chevrolet as they were with AMC, Ford or Dodge., etc. It was to be the definitive Pontiac sports car, and the wizard behind it was John Z. DeLorean, Pontiac's division head. Driven, charismatic - the proverbial force of nature - DeLorean was inspired greatly by European sports cars; many of the model names he chose for his cars paid homage (GTO/Grand Prix/Le Mans). He had ideas for a sleek, light, shorter wheelbase GT with Detroit iron under the hood, and he had developed a fiberglass-bodied prototype he called the Banshee. Unfortunately, GM brass told him the Banshee concept would remain just that forever, but that he could build a Pontiac version of the Chevy Camaro. Instead, DeLorean created a car that nearly beat the Camaro at its own game. The Trans-Am started as an $1,083 “Trans Am” option package on the Firebird 400 (as with early and later GTOs, 1969 Trans Ams were optioned Firebirds and not yet their own separate model range).
Pontiac engineers had managed to coax 325 high-strung, high-RPM horsepower out of their 250 cubic-inch OHC six, DeLorean's preferred engine for the Trans Am, but early designs of the all-new, second-generation 1970 F-body clearly ruled out using the tall and long OHC engine for the future. GM management weren't satisfied with the costly 6-cylinder engine anyway, so they simply turned back to good old-fashioned V-8 power, choosing the 400 cubic-inch Ram Air III as the powerplant of choice in 1969. The 335hp V-8 featured the same 10.75:1 compression ratio and four-barrel Quadrajet carburetor as the standard 400, but with a different camshaft, operational ram air and exhaust manifold setup. An optional 345hp Ram Air IV 400 engine option was ordered for only 55 examples. Officially, Pontiac offered a three-speed manual as the standard transmission for the Trans Am, but very few three-speeds were ordered; the vast majority of Ram Air III Trans Ams came equipped with the Muncie “M-20” wide-ratio four-speed transmission (the Ram Air IV engine exclusively featured the close-ratio M-21). A variable-ratio power steering unit greatly enhanced the handling and road feel of the car; in addition the Trans Am featured a unique one-inch anti-roll bar.
This car has an astounding and lengthy history within the Pontiac division of GM – having started out as a company car - and is the only triple-white convertible version in existence. It received a concours-level restoration that was completed in 1994. It was auctioned by Mecum Auctions at their Kissimmee Florida event in January 2016.
|---- Specifications ----|
|Engine||6.6 liter V8||Weight||--|
|HP/Liter||51.1 hp per liter||1/4 mile||--|
|0-62 mph||--||Top Speed||--|
The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am was introduced to the world in 1969 without benefit of promotion and with scant advertising, but it would go on to outlast every other offering of the muscle-car era and leave some very rare gems behind, among them this 1969 Trans Am convertible, one of only eight built before the convertible body style was eliminated from the 1970 F-body platform, one of four with a 4-speed manual transmission, and the only one fitted with a code-217 Parchment Custom interior. While most of its history has long been a matter of record and includes Pontiac Historical Society documentation, until recently it was thought that the original dealer invoice, bill of sale and warranty transfer paperwork were lost forever. But in a strange turn of events, in late October 2015 that documentation was discovered in the files of the selling dealer, Arnold Motor Company, a former Pontiac franchise and Yenko Chevrolet rival located just a mile down the road from Yenko on the corner of North Main and East Pike in Houston, Pennsylvania.
This one-of-a-kind 1969 Trans Am convertible generated three separate Pontiac invoices before its first owner purchased it. Its story begins when longtime Chevrolet and Pontiac engineer Tom Goad ordered it as a company car. Equipped with a code-217 Parchment Custom interior, Soft Ray-tinted windshield, Deluxe seatbelts with front and rear shoulder harnesses, console, Walnut shift knob, pushbutton AM radio, and Rally II wheels, it arrived at the Pontiac Division Central Office for company use in June 1969. On December 22, 1969 it was invoiced to the Pontiac Zone office in Pittsburgh, and finally it was invoiced to Arnold Pontiac in Houston, Pennsylvania, on April 24, 1970. Arnold Pontiac sold the car on April 30, 1970, just one week after taking delivery, to Robert Lauze of Houston, who traded his 1967 Firebird and went home with the Trans Am for $3,295. In addition to the original dealer invoice and bill of sale, one of the documents just discovered by Robert Arnold Sr. is the warranty transfer application, which reveals the mileage at the time of sale as 9,725 miles. This newly discovered paperwork also exposed another unknown fact, the identity of this special car’s original owner. The late Mr. Lauze, a Vietnam War veteran, served in the United States Air Force. A motorcycle and sports car enthusiast, Lauze returned from Vietnam and purchased the Trans Am Convertible as a new car after it had spent 10 months as a company demonstrator.
The only triple-white 1969 Trans Am convertible and the first of the four 4-speeds built, the Tom Goad/Robert Lauze Trans Am might have eventually disappeared into history as just another racecar had it not been for the editors at “Hot Rod Magazine.” Instead it has arguably become the most celebrated of the eight convertibles produced. In the mid-1970s Ted Gallas and George Marble of Ohio acquired the car. After reading an article in the April 1978 issue of "Hot Rod" claiming Pontiac had built just two Trans Am convertibles, Gallas responded with a letter in which he stated that he had purchased one of them and planned to race it. A photo of the car and a follow-up letter from Gallas were published in the September 1979 issue. The editor’s advice was succinct: restore it and keep it. “Hot Rod” later reported that the car’s appearance at the Car Craft Street Machine Nationals “stole the show.”
Pontiac collector Dick Bridges of Rockville, South Carolina, purchased the car from a North Carolina collection in December 1991. Bridges, who described the car in a “Hot Rod” article as “complete, drivable, and in presentable condition," turned it over to noted Pontiac restoration specialist Scott Tiemann, who performed a concours-quality restoration that included a correct Ram Air III engine. After its completion in January 1994 the car was displayed at the Trans Am 25th anniversary celebration at Detroit’s Cobo Hall, where it once again caused a sensation. Bridges then loaned the Trans Am to Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum in Sevierville, Tennessee, where it remained on display until its purchase by a Connecticut enthusiast in early 2001. Pennsylvania collector Rick Mahoney bought it soon thereafter, and then sold it to Georgia muscle-car collector Milt Robson. In 2006, Las Vegas developer Brett Torino added the Trans Am to his famous collection, where it remained until early in 2015.
Ordered new by a Pontiac executive as a brass-hat company car, owned by noted collectors and driven just 321 miles since its professional restoration by a highly respected Pontiac expert, this one-of-one triple-white 4-speed Trans Am convertible’s unique status and history are matters of documented record, and its significance as a treasure from the muscle-car era is firmly established.
Brass Hat Company Car – Ordered New by Pontiac Engineer Tom Goad
Tom Goad was responsible for the creation and production of many special cars during his career at General Motors. Mr. Goad began his career with Chevrolet Engineering and after completing his graduate-in-training program in 1959, he was asked to join the team building the Willow Run assembly plant for the all-new Corvair. After production was underway, Goad returned to the engineering department as an engine test engineer, where he helped develop the Cam-In-Head Opel engines by 1963. Chevrolet even sent him to Germany to help Opel troubleshoot durability issues. Upon return to the United States, Goad worked with Research and Development on the Chaparral race cars; a special, secret project at the time. For the next few years, he developed tests and demonstrations to protect the Corvair in the courtroom when rollover accidents set off a public relations nightmare.
Mr. Goad was interviewed personally by John DeLorean before joining the Pontiac team as Planning and Programming Manager, a role in which he researched what the market wanted and needed, then directed engineering in design, manufacturing in production and marketing in sales for the individual projects. Throughout his decades with Pontiac, Goad worked with Milt Schornak in his racing efforts with a Royal Bobcat GTO as well as Buck Baker and his 303 CI V-8 Tunnel Port Trans Am. In addition, Goad worked with Hurst on the Grand Prix SSJ conversions in 1969 and F-Body T-Top development for 1976. Mr. Goad’s passion for the F-Body Trans Am and Firebirds was a contributing factor of the line’s success in the late 1970s, and when the third-generation F-Body was redesigned, he was designated program manager for Pontiac. For the rest of his tenure with Pontiac, Goad worked primarily on projects related to special vehicles such as the 1983 Daytona 500 Pace Car Edition, the 1986 Grand Prix 2+2 Aerocoupe and the 1989 Turbo Trans Am. Of all the special cars Goad was associated with over the years, the 1969 Trans Am Convertible that he ordered as a company car in his first year working at Pontiac is by far the most significant today.