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Turning 50 in Style: 5 Best Pontiac Trans Ams of All Time

This year not only marks the 10th anniversary of GM shutting down the storied Pontiac brand in 2009, but it also marks the 50th anniversary of one of Pontiac’s most popular and iconic cars: the Firebird Trans Am. So in honor of this milestone, we’ve put together a list of what we consider the five greatest examples of the Pontiac Trans Am.

During its 30+ years of production the Trans Am sat at the heart of the American performance car scene. There were some truly great versions produced through out its run, but we consider these ones to be at the top of the pyramid.

Take a look and see if you agree with our choices.

5. 1969 Trans Am

Starting off, we have the first Trans Am ever, which was introduced for the 1969 model year. It wasn’t even a separate model but an option package for the standard Firebird that took its name from the popular SCCA racing series. All 697 examples  of the '69 Trans Am that were sold were painted white with blue stripes and featured unique body styling.

1969 Pontiac Trans Am

Mechanically, the ‘69 Trans Am was the same as a highly optioned Firebird 400, but both its overall rarity and the fact that it started off the the journey make it more than worthy of a spot on this list.

1969 Pontiac Trans Am Rear View

4. 2002 Trans Am WS6

Next we go from the very first Trans Am to the very last. 2002 marked the end of the road for the fourth generation Camaro and Firebird, and the WS6-badged Trans Ams in particular may have the been the best all around performing Trans Am ever made with its modern LS1 engine and dialed-in suspension.

2002 Firedbird Trans Am WS6

Unlike the Camaro, which would be revived in 2010, the demise of the Pontiac brand meant the 2002 would be the last Trans Am ever made, and that’s one of the big reasons why the late model cars have continued to hold their value and will likely appreciate in the coming years.

2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6 Rear View

3. 1971 Trans Am 455 H.O.

In 1970 with the move to the second generation F-Body platform, the Trans Am had begun to build an identity for itself, and the following year Pontiac decided to counteract corporate rules on engine compression ratios by fitting the Trans Am with a massive 455 ci V8.

1971 Pontiac Trans H/O 455

This was unprecedented for the pony car class, and while the 455 H.O. didn’t quite match the peak horsepower ratings of the earlier 400 motors, it had an abundance of torque on tap and quickly earned a spot among the greatest pony cars of all time.

1971 Pontiac Trans Am H.O. 455 Shaker Hood

2. 1989 Turbo Trans Am

From Knight Rider to the GTA, the third generation Trans Am continued to be a big success for Pontiac, but it was a limited edition model from 1989 that represented the peak of third-gen car. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the model, Pontiac decided to fit a limited number of Trans Ams with a 3.8L turbocharged V6 from the Buick GNX and the result was a spectacular performer.

1989 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am

Conservatively rated at 250hp, the turbocharged Trans Am wasn’t just faster than its V8 counterpart, it was one of the fastest cars you could buy in 1989, capable of running a mid 13 second quarter mile right off the showroom floor. That, combined with the distinctive styling of the third-gen Trans Am has kept its desirability very high.

1989 Pontiac Trans Am Turbo V6 Engine

1. 1977 "Bandit" Trans Am

Finally we get to number one, and despite the fact that it’s easily the slowest of these five picks, there should be no surprise that the 1977 Trans Am takes top honors here. Immortalized by Burt Reynolds in the first Smokey & The Bandit film, this is the car that elevated the Trans Am from a pony car to a cultural icon.

1977 Pontiac Trans Am Smokey and the Bandit

It didn’t matter that emissions regulations had drained the Trans Am of most of its horsepower and that a modern minivan would leave it in the dust. Thanks to the T-tops, hood scoop, screaming chicken and the power of the silver screen, the late '70s Trans Ams were made undeniably cool, and it’s in this form that most people will remember the car.

1977 Pontiac Trans Am

Happy 50th, Pontiac Trans Am!

Looking for more Pontiac history? Take a look back the story of the GTO.

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