1969 Trans Am Ram Air V - Engineering Car
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Fisher Body had problems producing the all-new 1970
Firebird bodies, so a decision was made to introduce the new
1970 Firebirds mid-model year 1970. Because of the delay,
1969 Firebird production, scheduled for shut down in July
1969, continued up through November 1969. The Ram Air V
program was on shaky ground ever since John DeLorean's
departure to Chevrolet in February 1969. When DeLorean
left, new management reviewed all current projects and the
Ram Air V became a casualty of budget cuts.
No Ram Air V
powered cars would be produced by Pontiac
, however the
engineering department did equip a 1969 Trans Am with a
Ram Air V 303 and presented it to the media at the 1970 Fall
Preview Press Party.
Two versions of the Ram Air V were being prepared
for production; a 400 cid standard deck version and
a 303 short deck model. The 303-cid variant was
scheduled for the 1969 Trans Am in order to qualify
for the SCCA Trans Am Series, the 400-cid version
would be marketed as street/dragstrip powerplant.
Issues with the RAV's forged connecting rods placed
the entire program on hold, finally being cancelled
when incoming management at Pontiac saw no need
for a solid lifter, high rpm race engine in 1970. The
RAV exhaust manifolds for the F-Body Firebird
(shown here) were a sight to behold. RAV exhaust
manifolds were also tooled up for the A-Body GTO,
but due to the A-Body chassis configuration the
manifolds were more restrictive having sharp bends
close to the exhaust ports.
The interior of the 1969 Trans Am RAV presented to
the press was factory stock, with the exception of a an
extra pull cable under the dash (obscured in this photo
by the steering column) for the manual choke on the
Holley carb. The Formula Steering Wheel (shown here)
ran into production problems and was actually not
available when the Trans Am went on sale in June
1969. On September 15th, 1969, Pontiac announced
that the Formula Wheel was finally available. This
Trans Am also has a 4-speed trans, no console, and
optional in-dash tach with stacked gauges.
Here's a clear shot of the Ram Air V 303
installed in the 1969 Trans Am. This is the
way the setup would have appeared had it
made production, with the exception of the
missing power steering cap!
A 1969 Trans Am Ram Air V 303 was reviewed by Motor
Trend for their October 1969 issue. Motor Trend drove the
car, but never performed an actual road test. Performance
figures were provided by Pontiac engineering. With a 3.90
rear gear they estimated a 135 mph top speed, but Motor
Trend stated that according to the 7000 rpm redline, a
simple switch to a numerically lower gear ratio would
translate to 150 mph. Wishful thinking, but it made for
great press for Pontiac. The actual performance graph and
handwritten test results were recently uncovered at the
Pontiac-Oakland Museum, with a note to send the results to
Motor Trend. The photo shown here is the only picture
used in the Motor Trend article.
The 1969 Trans Am was the best handling car Pontiac had produced up to that point, and when equipped with the optional Ram Air
IV engine, it was one of those rare muscle cars that could impress on a road course as well as knock out its rivals at a dragstrip. The
Trans Am featured many aerodynamic styling cues designed for race tracks; 1) functional air extractors that would release air
pressure from under the hood at high speeds 2) a pedestal rear spoiler applied down force to the back of the car 3) a front spoiler
kept the nose from lifting at high speeds. 4) large hood scoops mounted close to the leading edge of the hood.
The 1969 Trans Am was the first Pontiac to use raised
white lettered tires. The tail panel and twin racing
stripes were painted a 1967 Pontiac color called Tyrol
Blue. The application of the stripes was labor intensive
on the assembly line, and that added cost was factored
into the Trans Am option price. The blue stripes were
applied over the hood, cowl, roof, rear filler, and trunk
lid (the stripes did not go over the rear spoiler, but the
spoiler pedestals were painted blue).
A different view of the Ram Air V 303,
without the Ram Air pan. This photo came
from Rocky Rotella's book "The Definitive
Firebird & Trans Am Guide 1967-1969".
1969 Trans Am Ram Air V