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Pontiac Trans Am Anniversary Editions - 5 Very Special Birthdays

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When Pontiac debuted the 1969 Trans Am, its only intention at the time was to offer a limited edition high-end version of its Firebird model. It never intended or expected this model to explode in popularity a few short years after its introduction. And it's safe to bet, they didn't intend on the Trans Am remaining in production for 33 continuous model years. No siree, that was not the original intention. After-all Pontiac released a special limited edition GTO for 1969 called the "Judge", and it sold it much higher numbers than the Trans Am for the 1969 model year - 10 times more to be exact (6,833 versus 697). Even so the GTO Judge only lasted 3 model years.

Even more surprising is how the Trans Am which grew from such lowly beginnings of ultra low production would in just 10 short years see a pinacle of 116,535 Trans Ams produced for the 1979 model year. Even during lean years Pontiac could always count on strong Trans Am sales. It was Pontiac's bread and butter flagship performance car. The Trans Am always provided the best Pontiac could offer in terms of performance, comfort, and styling for any given year. Since the Trans Am was Pontiac's flagship, Pontiac never missed an opportunity to offer special limited edition Trans Am models. These special edition Trans Ams were always in high demand - many of which sold for well over sticker price. However the special edition Trans Ams that were the most sought after over the years are the special anniversary editions that commemorated the special birthdays of the Trans Am. Here's a list of those special cars. 


1979 Trans Am 10th Anniversary Edition

The 1979 Trans Am 10th Anniversary Edition was only ten years newer than the 1969 Trans Am but as may as well been 50 years, the two cars were so much different in terms of exterior and interior styling. Where the 1969 Trans Am was boxy and possessed a more formal sporty styling - the same pony car styling cues that the 1964 1/2 Mustang first showcased to the world. The 1969 Trans Am was an attractive car but shared too many other taanniv-2common themes with other muscle cars of its day. Whereas the second generation Trans Am which made its debut in 1970, was an entirely different story. There wasn't anything that looked like it on the road, it had some European inspired traits such as a low and wide stance and sleek slippery styling. However on the flip side of the coin with its meaty tires, wild spoilers/flares, bold shaker hood scoop, and wild graphics - it was the alpha male of muscle cars. In other words this new second generation Trans Am was not for the faint of heart, when you drove a Trans Am you were making a very bold statement. By 1973 there was an optional wild big hood bird decal that became a Trans Am icon. Performance tumbled and engine displacement dropped on all the other muscle cars but Pontiac still managed to offer at least a 455 or 400 CID V8 option on the Trans Am during the entire 1970s.

For 1979 the overall bold design continued however Pontiac added an attractive aero nose and blacked-out full length rear taillight design. Buyers responded by snapping up 116,535 Trans Ams for the 1979 model year making it the single best year in Trans Am sales. Pontiac saw this as a great opportunity to offer a 10th Anniversary edition Trans Am. The 10th Anniversary edition included a silver and charcoal exterior paint job and the largest hood bird ever to be affixed to a Trans Am hood. All 10th anniversary Trans Ams were equipped with just about every 1979 Trans Am factory option and some that were not available to any other Trans Am models, including silver leather seats, silver tinted T-tops, red lit dash gauge display, and a AM/FM/8-track radio with digital tuner. The WS6 handling package which included 4-wheel disc brakes was standard with the 10th Anniversary package. Ordering the 10th anniversary was simple, on the order sheet checking off the (RPO) Y89 package gave a buyer a pizza with the works. 

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There were two engine options available on the 10th Anniversary - a 220 horsepower W72 400 CID V8 and a 180 horsepower Oldsmobile produced L80 403 (CID) V8. The former had "T/A 6.6" callouts on the shaker hood scoop while the later had "6.6 Litre" callouts. The W72 400 came equipped with a mandatory Borg Warner Super T-10 4-speed manual transmission with a Hurst shifter. A GM sourced THM350 3-speed automatic was mandatory with the L80. There were 5,683 L80 10th Anniversary Trans Ams produced. For the lucky 1,817 10th Anniversary buyers who opted instead of the W72, they received the slickest and fastest American production car for 1979. Off the dealership floor the W72 equipped 10th Anniversary on the average was good for low-15 second 1/4 mile times with an approximate trap speed of around 92 mph. Not even a L82 equipped 1979 Corvette could touch taanniv-3this. And when you factor in that Hod Rod magazine (February 1979) tested a W72 equipped 1979 Trans Am and obtained a 6.7 second 0-60 mph time and a super fast 1/4 mile time of 14.6 seconds at 96.67 mph, it was further proof there wasn't a faster American performance car available for 1979.

With total 10th Anniversary production topping off at 7,500 units, this would be by far the highest production number of any anniversary edition Trans Am. These were good times for the Trans Am and for Pontiac. Even with the high production volume, both the W72 and L80 10th anniversary Trans Ams have the highest overall resale value (of the anniversary editions) but expect to pay on the average 20% more for the W72 equipped 10th Anniversary. For Pontiac aficionados the W72 version is revered since it's the last year for the Pontiac D-port 400 V8 - a Pontiac legend. The 10th Anniversary was the Official 1979 Daytona 500 (race) pace car, a set of large Daytona 500 pace car decals for the side doors and NASCAR decals for the rear quarter panels were included which could be installed by the owner or by the Pontiac dealer. Most buyers back in the day chose not to affix these decals.           


1984 Trans Am 15th Anniversary Edition

If you thought the difference between the 10th Anniversary Trans Am and the 1969 Trans Am was wide. What a big difference five years made, the 1984 Trans Am 15th Anniversary Edition may as well been from another planet since externally it looked so much different than the 1969. The 15th Anniversary looked cosmetically closer to a Ferrari 308 than early model Trans Ams. After-all it had a sleek wedge design with pop-up headlights. The only taanniv-6thing externally the 15th Anniversary shared with the 1969 Trans Am was the all white paint scheme with blue decals. However the 1984 went crazy with white, even using it on normally black trim pieces. Even the 16 x 8 inch alloy wheels were painted white. It may have seemed extreme but the look was unique and could not be confused with any other 1984 Trans Am.

Unfortunately Pontiac was forced to say bye-bye to its Pontiac V8s at the end of the 1981 model year, so a Chevrolet small-block 5.0 liter (305 CID) V8 was all that was a available in the 15th Anniversary. The good news was the hottest Chevy small-block 5.0 liter V8 that year was standard with the 15th Anniversary - it was the L69 which produced 190 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. For 1984 this was some serious engine output. Motor Trend magazine (July 1984) obtained a 7.02 second 0-60 mph time and hit the 1/4 mile in 15.44 seconds at 91.5 mph with a 5-speed manual transmission equipped 15th Anniversary which certainly earned the respect of many performance car fans back in the day. Though the 15th Anniversary on paper wasn't that much slower than the W72 10th Anniversary (and was slightly quicker than the L80 10th Anniversary), the personalities of the two taanniv-4anniversary cars were so much different. The 15th had a light on its feet nimble feel like a running back. The 10th Anniversary felt more like a fast but very large defensive lineman. Nowhere was this more apparent in the turns where the 15th Anniversary Trans Am's .87 skidpad handling number was as good as you were going to find in the 1980s.  

Inside the 15th Anniversary, the overall dash design and gauge had the look of a high dollar learjet. And body contoured Recaro seats were standard along with a whole host of other options. And the interior just like the exterior only came in one color combination - for the interior it was white and gray with a black dash and console. And just like with the 10th Anniversary, the 15th Anniversary came standard with T-tops.
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The 15th Anniversary was very sought after back in 1984, but ironically it is a very reasonably priced collector car today even though only 1,500 were produced (a total number a lot less than the 7,500 10th Anniversary Trans Ams produced). However in today's collector market the 15th Anniversary yields higher prices than any other 1984 model year American performance car. For anyone wanting to buy an anniversary Trans Am for a reasonable price, no need to look any further than the 15th Anniversary. Don't expect prices to remain low, they have started to climb in recent years and will continue to do so, as the years progress.  


1989 Trans Am 20th Anniversary Edition

The 20th Anniversary Trans Am was an interesting fellow, it was the only Trans Am to have a V6 engine instead of a V8 yet is one of the fastest Trans Ams ever produced. The 20th was more refined and less flashy compared to the 10th and 15th both of which could be easily identified a couple of blocks away. The 20th Anniversary only came in one color scheme which was white however unlike the 15th there were no blue accents. To contrast the taanniv-9white exterior, gold was used in the form of small gold 20th Anniversary and turbo badges and a set of gold 16 x 8 inch Trans Am GTA wheels. Essentially the 20th Anniversary was a fully loaded white Trans Am GTA with 20th Anniversary and turbo badges. Most onlookers would think this special Trans Am was just a 1989 Trans Am GTA until viewing the car from up close and seeing the previously mentioned badges and the quad exhaust tips under the rear bumper which was a 20th Anniversary exclusive for 1989. However an owner did have the option to make this car stand out. Pontiac included in the cargo area (for the owner to affix) a set of full door decals which had 1989 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Edition callouts since the 20th Anniversary was selected as the race's official pace car for that year. Some owners opted to keep their doors bare.

Pontiac let the 20th Anniversary's engine do the talking instead of the exterior. A Buick sourced SFI turbo 3.8 liter V6 with intercooler was chosen to power the 20th Anniversary. On the surface for those unfamiliar with the American performance engines of the 1980s, this move would make no sense. However to those who are familiar with this era, will know the best high performance V8 of the 1980s was Buick's SFI turbo 3.8 liter V6 with the intercooler. The Buick turbo 3.8 liter V6 started off as a V8 substitute in the late-1970s, it was Buick's attempt to taanniv-7have V6 fuel economy with V8 power. At the time it was a practical experiment that was implemented to keep fuel efficiency numbers high. However the elves at Buick toiled away year after year gradually increasing horsepower until the 1986 Buick Grand National shocked the world with breaking into the mid-13 second range 1/4 mile territory - a Buick turbo V6 Regal based Grand National and Buick T-Type Regal could both accelerate faster than the other 1986 American performance cars: the Chevrolet Corvette, Ford Mustang GT, Chevrolet Camaro Iroc-Z, and Pontiac Trans Am. The dominance continued for 1987 with the Grand National, T-Type Regal, and a new low production GNX. However the rear-wheel drive Regal was retired at the end of 1987 ending Buick's short hegemony. With the turbo 3.8 liter being cut short due to Buick not having a rear-wheel drive car that could make use of this engine, Pontiac worked out a deal with Buick to drop this engine into its 20th Anniversary Trans Am. The end result was a encore presentation of the turbo 3.8 liter V6 with a horsepower rating of 250 and 340 lb-ft of torque, Car and Driver magazine (June 1989) was able to obtain a 1/4 mile of 13.4 seconds at 101 mph and a 0-60 mph time of 4.6 seconds with a 20th Anniversary. This was by far the fastest time recorded up to that time of any Trans Am tested by a magazine. Unfortunately the engine never made its way into any other Trans Ams, and only a beefed up GM 200-4R 4-speed automatic transmission was available. The good news was where the Buick GN with this engine was computer chip limited to 124 mph top speed, the 20th Anniversary had no artificial limit - Motor Trend magazine obtained a little over 160 mph top speed with the 20th Anniversary on an oval test track. One thing was certainly apparent, the 20th Anniversary Trans Am's horsepower rating was underrated.
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Inside the cabin, a Trans Am GTA tan interior was mandatory. Most Trans Am options were standard with the 20th Anniversary, the larger dollar optional items were leather seats and T-tops. Even so, many buyers opted to pony up the extra cash for these two options.

Unlike the other anniversary Trans Ams, the 20th never dropped below a $15,000 resale value for a mint conditioned example - a good number of very low mileage examples never saw below $20,000. For the 10th and 15th Anniversary models, they dropped slightly below $5,000 for even mint conditioned examples at their lowest resale points, however they didn't remain there for long bouncing back up in value. So it is entirely possible the 20th could usurp the 10th Anniversary as being the highest dollar Trans Am anniversary edition, with current high demand and only 1,555 20th Anniversary Trans Ams produced, this may be a forgone conclusion. 


1994 Trans Am 25th Anniversary Edition

For some odd reason the Trans Am 25th Anniversary edition has been forgotten. Part of the reason was the 20th Anniversary had been so much faster than the other available Trans Ams that year, it set a new performance bar. The 25th Anniversary was back to being an appearance package, however this didn't mean it didn't have excellent performance. It's just that performance wasn't any better than a stripped down low-budget 1994 Trans Am. The 25th had a color scheme like the 15th Anniversary and 1969 Trans Am - an all white exterior with blue stripes. The cost of the Anniversary package was $995 added to the price of the Trans Am GT (the GT was the upscale model of the Trans Am for 1994). The 15th anniversary had white 16 x 8 inch aluminum wheels and unique 25th Anniversary callouts on the lower exterior portion of the passenger doors. The 25th was the first offering of a Trans Am Anniversary model convertible - both a coupe and convertible were offered. Total 25th Anniversary production was 2,000 units (1750 of these were coupes and only 250 of these were convertibles).
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All 25th Anniversary Trans Ams were available with a both a 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive or a 6-speed manual transmission. Not many 25th Anniversary buyers went with the 6-speed manual, all convertible buyers opted for the automatic. A 275 horsepower LT1 5.7 liter (350 CID) V8 was standard on all Trans Ams taanniv-10including the 25th Anniversary. You could expect a 1/4 mile time in the low-14 second range and a 0-60 mph time of mid-5 second range with a 25th Anniversary which was slightly slower than the 20th Anniversary but faster than both the 10th and 15th Anniversary Trans Ams.

The interior cabin is subjectively one of the best looking of the Anniversary cars. Granted it doesn't have the beautiful aluminum turned metal dash of the 10th Anniversary, but its space-age modern look is something that you won't easily forget. The stark contrast throughout the entire interior between the white leather seats and the black plastic trim really made the interior stand out and the embroidered 25th Anniversary logos on the front seats and door panels were a nice touch of class. The dash layout was taanniv-12extremely functional, all the buttons seemed to be in installed in all the correct places and the gauges were easily readable. 

For anyone looking at a future collectable, the 25th Anniversary is just the ticket - their prices are considerably higher than other 1994 Trans Ams but still reasonable for the collector market even for  low mileage examples however their values should begin to steady increase since it is approaching the 20 year old mark, so these cars may soon skyrocket in value. The smart collectors will search for a convertible model, with only 250 produced the 25th Anniversary convertible will be worth much more than the coupe in the future. And the really smart collectors will seek out a 25th Anniversary coupe with a 6-speed manual transmission - only 128 of these were produced. However the rarest of the 25th Anniversary Trans Ams are the RPO R6V Firehawk optioned ones - only 3 (1 convertible and 2 coupes) of these special (SLP) performance cars were produced making these the rarest of the Trans Am anniversary cars.   


1999 Trans Am 30th Anniversary Edition

By the beginning of the 1999 model year, the Trans Am was in bad straights. The Mustang was beating the Camaro and Firebird when it came to sales even though the Camaro and Firebird provided on the average better performance for the money. The mild styling update to the Trans Am for 1998 had given the Trans Am a slight bump in sales from 1997 of 13,659 to 16,192 units. By 1999 the rumors were already spreading that the Trans Am along with the Camaro and Firebird were going to get the ax after a few more model years. The ax came as GM promised when the 2002 model year completed - ironically Trans Am production that last year was 19,701 units which was the best sales year for the fourth generation 1993-2002 Trans Am. GM should have released an all-new 5th generation F-body Camaro and Firebird/Trans Am for 2003 but didn't - GM was drunk with fantastic SUV and truck sales at the time and decided to send the F-body platform to the graveyard. Finally GM saw the light and released the fifth generation F-body 2010 Camaro and it was a big sales success. Unfortunately no fifth generation Firebird or Trans Am was produced.
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With this in mind the 1999 Trans Am 30th Anniversary Edition is very special since it was the last Trans Am anniversary edition to be produced. Pontiac produced 1,600 30th Anniversary Editions (1,065 coupes and 535 convertibles). The white exterior with blue accents scheme was used again, however this Anniversary edition had a set of mandatory light blue clearcoat 17-inch alloy wheels. And the 30th anniversary had dual blue stripes (that started on the hood and went all the back to the wild rear spoiler) - dual blue stripes had not been seen on the Trans Am since the original 1969 model. Overall the car had a very classy modern look, however just like in some previous anniversary editions, the 30th also had wild pace car decals which covered most of the side doors and even the rear quarter panels. Pontiac left the application of the pace car decals up to the owner.

The really good news was all 30th Anniversary cars were equipped with Pontiac's WS6 performance package which by this time didn't just include suspension upgrades but also a fully functional Ram Air induction system on the LS1 5.7 liter (350 CID) V8. Total power output was an amazing 320 horsepower which was on par with the ultra fast 20th Anniversary Trans Am, with an average 1/4 mile time of 13.5 seconds and a 0-60 mph time of 5 seconds. Even now in 2013, almost 15 years after production of the 30th Anniversary ceased, these are very good performance figures. The LS1 could be equipped with either a 6-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission in both the coupe and convertible models. And with the WS6 package, handling was nothing short of taanniv-14phenomenal. Meaty P275/45-ZR17 tires were standard with the WS6 along with one of the best tuned handling suspensions a buyer was going to find on car with a price tag under $50,000 back in the day. 

When it came to the interior, not much had changed since the 25th Anniversary. And this was probably a good thing. The 25th Anniversary had such a modern looking interior it still was ahead of its time in 1999. Compared to the 25th Anniversary, there were slight pattern changes in the seat and small updates - but most couldn't tell the difference. Even the leather white seats with black dash and trim scheme was revived from the 25th for use in the 30th. This time Pontiac placed the "30th Anniversary" embroidering in the headrest whereas the 25th had its embroidering in the midsection of the seat. All-in-all the interior was very tastefully done, in a side-by-side comparison the 25th would probably win by a hair taanniv-15due to the more artistic nature of the "25th Anniversary" logos on the seats and doors. Most today would probably complain of the dash of having too much plastic, however back in 1999 this was the fad and one of the most tasteful dash design layouts you were going to find.

The 30th Anniversary cars are currently good buys for collectors. They will most certainly go up in value. It was the last of the Trans Am anniversary cars and one of the fastest and most certainly the best handling of these special Anniversary editions. And for those that want to drive them and not store them, the 30th Anniversary has the added benefit of being closer in manners and overall feel to the current crop of muscle cars it was very fast and fairly civilized. It's the type of car that you can can use as a commuter car during the week and burn the tires on the weekends just like many of the 2013 Ford Mustang GT, 2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS, and Dodge Challenger R/T owners do today. Of course most have wisely packed 30th Anniversary Trans Ams away in a garage protected from the elements for the last two decades, only to be driven in nice weather and under the best of conditions.


Written contents in this article - © 2013 Pete Dunton - All Rights Reserved

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