The Ram Air Inlet option (Code 611) eliminated the standard Firebird
die-cast "400" emblems and replaced them "Ram Air" stickers. This
required hoods earmarked for Ram Air to NOT have punched holes for
the "400" emblems, so these hoods had a different tooling.
The standard Firebird 400, and the Firebird Ram Air (later called 400 H.O.) had closed hood scoops, and a pair of die-cast "400" emblems. The
engine was equipped with a single snorkel enclosed air cleaner, with a chrome lid. The Firebird 400 model was very similar to the GTO option, where
the Firebird 400 option contained special emblems, dual exhaust, Turbo 400 transmission (on automatic equipped cars), chrome rocker arm covers,
chrome air cleaner lid, and beefier suspension.
|1969 Pontiac Firebird Ram Air Setups
Pontiac's Ram Air system debuted in 1965 as an over-the-counter package on the GTO. As the term "Ram Air" became part of the
vocabulary for every high performance enthusiast, Pontiac brought the Ram Air setup out of the Parts Department and into the
production line. The 1965-1967 GTO Ram Air setup (not including engine changes) consisted of a lower "bathtub" steel pan, a foam seal,
and an open hood scoop. When the hood closed, the lower pan sealed against the underside of the hood, and only cool, fresh air was
ingested into the carb(s). The Ram Air pan was only available for the tri-power equipped GTO's from 1965-1966. When Pontiac
discontinued their multiple carburetor setup for 1967, the new 1967 Ram Air pan would sit over a 4-barrel Quadrajet carburetor, and the
1967 setup housed a large 14" x 3" air filter that sat in the bottom tub.
Because the 1965-1967 GTO's had a centrally located hood scoop, there was no need for any type of upper pan on the underside of the
hood to channel incoming air to the carb. It was as simple as getting the lower tub to seal against the underside of the hood.
The Firebird 400
1) Standard 330 hp engine, closed hood scoops, single-snorkel enclosed air cleaner with a chrome lid.
2) Optional 335 hp Ram Air engine (later known as the 400 H.O.). This option did NOT include the Ram Air setup or open
hood scoops, even though it was called the "Ram Air" engine. During the course of the 1969 model year, Pontiac changed
the name from "Ram Air" to "400 H.O.". Throughout the entire model year, a buyer had to order Option 611 (Ram Air Inlet)
to get the Ram Air setup and open hood scoops. This engine would also be called the Ram Air III.
3) Optional 345 hp Ram Air IV engine. This option included the Ram Air setup. The Firebird RAIV and Firebird Ram Air
setups were different, as we shall see later.
The Trans Am
1) Standard 335 hp Ram Air engine. The Ram Air setup was included, but differed from the Firebird 400 Ram Air system.
This engine would also be called the Ram Air III later in the model year.
2) Optional 345 hp Ram Air IV engine. The Ram Air setup was included, but differed from the Firebird 400 Ram Air system.
|Differences in the 1969 GTO and 1969 Firebird 400 hoods
The factory Pontiac photograph above is the best example I've seen comparing the 1969 GTO to the 1969 Firebird 400. As you can see,
the Firebird's hood scoops are placed much farther apart than the GTO's. Also, the trademark "ironing board" hood seen on so many
Pontiacs is much wider on the Firebird, and the hood scoop openings themselves are wider on the Bird. Also interesting to note is that
the Firebird sat 1" lower than the GTO, yet was nearly the same width.
The hood scoops do NOT interchange between these two models. They are of a different shape and contour. And the steel Ram Air
"flapper" plate that opens/closes the hood scoops (driver controlled) also does not interchange, because the Firebird scoops are
farther apart than the GTO's. In fact, there are hardly any parts that interchange between these two setups.
The base Firebird 400 (330 hp) used an enclosed, single snorkel air cleaner, and a chrome lid. All Firebird 400's came with the
dual-scooped hood, closed hood scoops, and a die-cast "400" emblem on each hood scoop nacelle. Each emblem had two studs, and
were attached with speed nuts from the backside. All the Firebird 400 hoods had holes punched for the "400" emblems, including the
Firebird 400 Ram Air (later named Firebird 400 H.O.) if the customer did not order Option 611 (Ram Air Inlet).
All Firebird OHC-6, Firebird 350, and Firebird 350 H.O. cars used a flat hood, without any hood scoops.
|1969 Firebird 400 - Option 611 (Ram Air Inlet)
As discussed above, if you ordered a Ram Air Firebird, you received the Ram Air engine (a.k.a. 400 H.O.), but you didn't get the Ram Air
setup. In order to get the Ram Air System, you had to order Option 611 (Ram Air Inlet) priced at $84.26. The Ram Air Inlet was not available
on the standard Firebird 400, only the Ram Air (400 H.O.). The Ram Air setup was included in the price of the Ram Air IV package and on
the Trans Am.
On invoices, Pontiac used the term "F/B 400 R/A" to signify the Ram Air engine. But the customer still had to order Option 611 (Ram Air
Inlet) to get Ram Air. Understandably confusing, I'm sure more than one customer back in 1969 assumed that ordering a Ram Air engine
meant you would get Ram Air. And I'm sure more than one customer was a little upset when they took delivery of their new Firebird and
discovered closed hood scoops, and an enclosed single snorkel air cleaner under the hood. And some customers were probably very
suspicious of a Pontiac salesman insisting they had to buy an $84.26 option (which would be a few hundred dollars in today's money) to
order a Ram Air Inlet on top of an expensive Ram Air engine option. Perhaps because of the confusion, a bulletin was issued on April
29th, 1969 that notified dealers the term "Ram Air" would be used when the 400 H.O. and Option 611 were combined on the order.
Now for that $84.26 charged for the Ram Air Inlet, the customer received quite a few unique parts. First off, a different hood was used.
The Ram Air Inlet option (and Ram Air IV option) did not use die-cast "400" emblems, but rather a set of Ram Air (or Ram Air IV) stickers on
the hood scoops, the same stickers that graced the hoods of Ram Air GTO's and Judges. That meant the holes would not be punched for
the "400" emblems. Secondly, in order for the upper Ram Air pan foam to seal, a piece of underhood bracing needed to be cut away. This
was apparently done in the assembly plant's shop area, as original Ram Air hood show a rough cut where the bracing was removed,
probably done with a reciprocating saw.
Pontiac decided to use a different approach to the 1969 Firebird Ram Air setup than on the 1969 GTO. The Firebird Ram Air would use the
same type of setup used on the L-88 Corvette, another car with limited hood clearance. Pontiac housed the air filter in the upper pan, held
in place by a round plate with 4 screws. And to prevent debris from entering the carb while the hood was up, Pontiac developed a stiff
screen basket that sat over the carb throat (see photo). The paper filter mounted up in the hood was rather small, measuring 9" x 2". By
comparison, the GTO Ram Air setup, and in fact the 1967-1968 Firebird Ram Air setup, used a much larger 14" x 3" filter. It's no wonder that
over the years, hot rodders discarded the cumbersome and restrictive 1969 Firebird Ram Air setup in favor of an open element air
cleaner. Original Firebird Ram Air pans are now reproduced, but originals are very scarce indeed.
The Ram Air hoods had a section
of bracing cut away for the upper
pan foam to seal properly
When viewed from above, it's easy to
see why this section of bracing on the
400 hood had to be cut away (arrow)
to allow the foam to make a good seal.
The Ram Air system on the 1969 Firebird and Trans Am had a nearly flat pan
for a baseplate, as opposed to the tub style used for the 1967-1968 Firebirds.
A screen basket, looking like an upside-down kitchen strainer, sat over the
carb. This was an elaborate, one-year only setup on the 1969 Firebird Ram
Air cars. Pontiac changed the entire system for their all-new 1970 Firebirds.
Also note the black vacuum hose running from the lower pan to the upper
pan, and a second silver line. The silver line is the pull cable for the hood
scoops. Only 1969 Firebird 400's with Option 611 (Ram Air Inlet) had this
cable, Trans Ams did not.
The upper pan was enormous, necessary to cover the girth of the
widely spaced Firebird hood scoops. Within the upper pan sat a
vacuum controlled diaphragm (driver's side) which opened upon
startup, allowing heat from the drivers side exhaust manifold to enter
the system, allowing quicker warm ups. In the middle of the upper pan
sits a 9" x 2" air filter, far too small to feed a 400 cube engine. The
filter was held in place with 4 small screws. The wire strainer basket
over the carb prevented the possibility of a screw (from the air filter
retaining plate) from falling down the carb throat while changing the
The standard Ram Air pan looked strange, as it was not
symmetrical. The pan was essentially flat, with some
depressions stamped for the breather (lower left) and the
vacuum control for the vacuum diaphragm (two small holes,
upper left). It was held down to the Q-Jet carb via special
bolts in the 10 o'clock and 5 o'clock positions.
These are the totals for 1969 Firebirds ordered
with the 400 H.O. option. This would include
invoices listing "F/B 400 R/A" or "400 H.O.", but
does NOT breakout which cars were ordered with
Option 611 Ram Air Inlet.
The driver controlled Ram Air cable
was mounted under the dashboard.
Trans Ams did NOT have driver
controlled scoops, only the Firebird
400 models, with Option 611 Ram
Air Inlet did.
The parts diagram for the 1969 Firebird Ram Air III system showing the dozens of parts involved in the Ram Air package. Note the subtle differences in
the 1969 Trans Am upper pan foam, and other minor variations over the Firebird 400 setup. Many of these subtleties are lost with the current
reproductions of the various parts today, which make original pieces even more valuable. Also of note is that Pontiac listed the 400 H.O. and Ram Air III
on this diagram. An invoice may show "F/B 400 R/A" early in the year, and "F/B 400 HO" later in the year. In either case, the buyer had to order Option
611 (Ram Air Inlet) to get Ram Air.
|1969 Firebird 400 - Ram Air IV
In 1969, the Ram Air IV engine was available on the Firebird 400 and Trans Am, as well
as GTO and Judge models. The Ram Air IV shared very few parts with the Ram Air III
engine, and the Ram Air IV is regarded as one of the most powerful engines of the
1969 Ram Air IV Firebirds are extremely rare, and few survive today. The Ram Air IV
option was very pricey, coming in at a whopping $905.75. But for that price, you
received the Firebird 400 option ($292.79), the Ram Air IV engine, and the Ram Air
setup. Still, a $905.75 option was expensive for a car that typically stickered at
around $3,100 to $3,400.
The Ram Air IV was not for the faint of heart. A radical camshaft, round port cylinder
heads, aluminum intake, high lift 1.65 rocker arms, and various specialized parts
made up the Ram Air IV package. Because of the aggressive camshaft, 3.90 rear end
gears were mandatory, 4.33 gears optional. Air conditioning was NOT available with
the Ram Air IV engine in the Firebird, Trans Am, GTO, or Judge.
The Ram Air setup on the Ram Air IV equipped Firebirds differed from the Ram Air III setup. Since air conditioning was not available on
the Ram Air IV engine, the lower pan could now be symmetrical. Also, dual vacuum diaphragms were placed in the upper pan to receive
heat from the exhaust manifold (driver's side) and the intake manifold (passenger side). Other than the change to a symmetrical lower
pan, with a matching foam seal in the shape of the new pan, and the necessary parts for the passenger side heat riser, the other
components of the Ram Air IV setup were the same as the Ram Air III.
Pontiac still used the small 9" x 2" air filter mounted in the upper pan, the same carb screen, etc. The same procedure was used for
hood preparation on the Ram Air IV as on the Ram Air III. A section of inner hood bracing was cut out (see photo above), holes were not
punched for the "400" emblems, and a pair of "Ram Air IV" stickers would grace the hood scoops.
The 1969 Firebird Ram Air IV lower pan appeared far more balanced, from an
aesthetic standpoint, than the Ram Air III version. Note the dimples at the front
and rear of the carb opening area in the 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock positions.
Pontiac originally intended this pan to be used on the Ram Air IV and the Ram
Air V Firebirds. However, Pontiac killed the Ram Air V program before a single
Firebird or GTO had been produced. The Ram Air V would have used a Holley
780 cfm carb instead of a Quadrajet, and the dimples in this RAV pan are for
clearance of the Holley float bowl adjustment screws.
This 1969 Firebird Ram Air IV is an extremely rare sight. Only 102
examples were ever built, and this one is a convertible 4-speed, of
which only 12 were built. As on the RAIII Ram Air setup, notice the
vacuum hose running from the baseplate to the upper pan, and the
silver pull cable for the driver controlled hood scoops. This particular
example is missing the wire mesh carb screen, which would lay freely
(no hold downs) on the carb air horn.
This 1969 Trans Am Ram Air IV is a rare sight indeed. There were only 55
Trans Ams equipped with the Ram Air IV engine in 1969.
This is the Pontiac parts diagram for the 1969 Firebird 400 RAIV lower pan setup. On the driver's side, Pontiac used a shield over the exhaust manifold,
along with a corrugated tube, to route hot air into the upper pan. On the passenger side, Pontiac used a hard plastic elbow to grab heat off the intake
manifold heat crossover, which on the Ram Air IV, was a separate piece from the intake manifold. Pontiac used two vacuum diaphragms mounted in the
upper pan that metered the heat coming up from the heat riser sources. When the car was warmed up, a thermostatically controlled switch would divert
vacuum away from the diaphragms, and the valves would close, thereby allowing only cool air from the scoops to be ingested to the carb. A somewhat
complex setup, but it worked. The downside was that there were dozens and dozens of parts, and over the years, many of those parts were discarded by
garage mechanics because of the complexity of the system.
As complex as the bottom part of the Ram Air setup was, it paled in comparison to the upper pan. This factory diagram is for the 1969 Firebird Ram Air
and Ram Air IV cars only, not the Trans Am. The detail drawings around the center drawing show the various parts of the hood scoop operation and
cable mechanism. There was actually another diagram showing how the cable was routed into through the firewall, and then the pull cable bracket that
was mounted under the dash. The more you look at these diagrams, that $84.26 charge for Code 611 (Ram Air Inlet), or the entire Ram Air IV engine,
began to look like a bargain.
The 1969 Trans Am was the pinnacle of the 1967-1969 Firebird development. With functional front and rear spoilers, special hood with
scoops mounted at the leading edge of the hood to get the most air, side air extractors to remove pressure and underhood heat, a thicker
front sway car, and a special paint scheme, the Trans Am was a very serious machine.
The 1969 Trans Am used an entirely new hood, with larger hood scoops positioned at the leading edge of the hood. This position was vastly superior to
the 1967-1969 dual scoops found on the Firebird 400's or the 1968-1970 GTO's. The dual hood scoops on those cars were positioned about halfway
back on the hood, and were out of the air stream, where the Trans Ams were positioned at the leading edge, directly in the air stream. The 1969 Trans
Am hood was made of steel (the prototype 1969 Trans Am hood was fiberglass, as the steel hood had not been stamped up for production yet). Since
all Trans Ams were equipped with either the Ram Air III or Ram Air IV, all the of the Trans Am hoods had the inner structure bracing cut to seal the Ram
Air foam (see photo earlier in this article).
The steel Trans Am hood had a pair of plastic tubes
that funneled the cold air from the leading edge of
the hood to the upper Ram Air pan. Because these
tubes were wider than the regular Firebird 400
scoops, a different piece of foam was used for the
upper pan. The 1969 Trans Am hood design, with the
scoops at the leading edge of the hood, would also
be used on the 1971-1972 GTO, 1970 Olds 442
W-30, and the 1970-1975 Firebird Formula hoods.
|In this factory Pontiac Parts Illustration diagram, the detail of the upper pans has been
enlarged to show the differences between the Firebird 400 and Trans Am Ram Air setups. At
the top of this diagram, you can see the shape of the foam is quite different between the
Firebird and Trans Am. Also of note is that the Ram Air III and Ram Air IV upper pans had two
vacuum diaphragms, but on the Ram Air III model (and this goes for the GTO as well), the
passenger side vacuum diaphragm was redundant. On RAIII models, there wasn't a passenger
side heat riser tube, so Pontiac installed a block off plate between the diaphragm and the pan
to prevent underhood air from entering the upper pan. The diagram above shows the Firebird
Ram Air pan without a passenger side hole at all, but I believe this illustration was done this
way to prevent the Parts Departments (and customers) from ordering a passenger side
diaphragm that served no purpose on a Ram Air III car (thanks to Dave Armstrong for this
When placed side-by-side, it's very easy to tell the RAIII setup (left) verses the Ram Air IV setup (right), simply by the shape of the lower pan. Also note
that there is only one vacuum line from the baseplate to the upper pan, and there is no hood scoop cable to operate the hood scoop flaps on a 1969
Trans Am. On the Ram Air IV setup (right), there's an aluminum 2-piece intake manifold lurking underneath that baseplate. As a side note, the silver
tube mounted in front of the radiator is the power steering cooling line (a feature also used on the Grand Prix). All 1969 Trans Ams should have this
power steering cooling line as power steering was standard on the Trans Am. The power steering cooling line also came on all a/c equipped Firebirds
(regardless of gear ratio or engine), and all non-a/c Firebirds with 3.36 or steeper (numerically higher) rear gear ratios.
With the introduction of the new 1967 Firebird 400, Pontiac designed a beautiful hood
with widely spaced individual hood scoop nacelles. The new Firebird Ram Air setup
consisted of a set of ; 1) open hood scoops, 2) a steel upper pan attached to the
underhood bracing, 3) a thick foam gasket between the pan and the hood, 4) a lower tub,
and 5) a circular foam seal attached to the lower tub. This allowed the widely spaced
Firebird twin hood scoops to pull in cool air into a common plenum, and in the center of
the plenum was a large circular hole. When the hood closed, the lower tub, with the large
foam seal, would seal against the upper pan. The lower tub sat directly on the carburetor
air horn, and was held down the same way as an air cleaner was, with a wingnut. In the
center of the lower tub sat a 14" x 3" air filter, allowing plenty of air for the Quadrajet
4-barrel carb. While very effective, there were a few disadvantages. The hood scoops
were always open, so in cold weather, driving (and starting) a Ram Air equipped car could
be difficult. Icing of the carb was not uncommon in cold climates, and of course rain and
snow would enter the hood scoops and accumulate in the lower tub, saturating the paper
air filter. A stop gap solution was to drill a series of holes around the bottom of the tub to
allow any rainwater to drain out. Unfortunately, this water would drip right on to select
areas of the engine, namely the hot intake manifold.
These minor drawbacks didn't matter to high-performance enthusiasts, who seldom
drove their cars in foul weather. But GM and Pontiac were in the business of selling
dependable, reliable cars. The handful of Ram Air setups and cars they sold from
1965-1968 needed a better, more foolproof way to deal with all sorts of weather, and
provide faster warm ups.
So in 1969, both the GTO and Firebird systems would be totally revamped. The 1969
setups had two main improvements over the 1968 Ram Air setup ; 1) the ability to allow
the driver to open and close the hood scoops from inside the car, and 2) a clever if not
complex series of vacuum diaphragms and flaps to get hot air to the carburetor during
cold weather starts, allowing faster warm-ups.
While the 1969 GTO Ram Air setup would be used on the 1970 GTO, the 1969 Firebird
system was a one-year only design. Overly complex, not as effective as the GTO setup,
the 1969 Trans Am and Firebird 400 Ram Air setups have become somewhat of a mystery
in Pontiac circles. It is the mysterious and complex 1969 Firebird Ram Air setups that we
will focus on in this article.
1966 GTO Ram Air
1967 GTO Ram Air
1965-1967 GTO hood scoop
- By Mike Noun
1967-1969 Firebird 400 hood scoops
1967-1968 Firebird Ram Air setup. An upper
pan gathered air from the widely spaced hood
The factory line drawing for the 1969 upper Ram Air pan shows how the upper pan was attached to the inner hood bracing using bolts and star washers.
The air filter itself used a lip on the inner portion of the filter. On the bottom of the filter, that lip located the filter in the center of the retaining plate. On
top of the filter was a separate foam ring, which had a sticky backing, that was attached to the top of the air filter. The purpose of the foam on top was
because the air filter would be in direct contact with the underside of the hood, and the 1969 Firebird hood, with either the 400 hood or the Trans Am
hood, had a crest down the middle, leaving a V-shaped channel that would prohibit the filter from lying flat (air filter photos courtesy of David Armstrong).
To begin with, we must understand the terminology Pontiac used on the 1969 Firebird engines, which differed from the GTO.
|Bottom of filter,
showing the lip
for the retaining
|Top of filter, which
would reside against
the underside of the
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