By its very nature, the term “ponycar” was a reference to the originator of the vehicle segment, the Ford Mustang. By the time that GM’s fraternal twins, the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird hit the streets in late 1966 and early 1967, respectively, it was clear that the pair would have to catch up a lot of ground. With Mustang production numbers of 121,538 for ’64½, 559,451 for ’65, and 607,568 for ’66, it would be a tough game, indeed.
The new GM F-body was available in just two body styles, a semi-fastback coupe and a convertible. The Mustang, on the other hand, was available in a notchback coupe, a fastback 2+2 coupe, and a convertible. In an effort to cut development costs and avoid cannibalizing sales between two closed body styles, GM designed a roofline that was halfway between the Mustang coupe and 2+2 in terms of slope. However, there were some clay models that suggested Pontiac designers were toying with the idea of a production Firebird 2+2 fastback body style early on in the development of the F-car, an apparent adaptation of the XP-798 Banshee’s general roofline shape.
Now with the help of artist Ted Alexander, we can bring you a glimpse of what a fastback roof treatment might have looked like on a ’69 Trans Am. The roofline in this exercise is not really reminiscent of the Mustang, but is a bit closer to that of an early AMC Javelin, especially from the side view. The rear quarter windows are quite similar in shape to the AMC, with this Firebird version using a flatter backlight, which significantly raises the leading edge of the decklid to carry the contour of the roofline.
The revised roofline would necessitate a slight re-angling of the Trans Am rear wing’s base, though the general shape could easily be retained. A C-pillar air scoop, fashioned to resemble the hood-tach housing, could aid with brake cooling, if made functional with the proper ducting.
As long we are in “what if” mode, let’s move on to the powerplant. The SCCA Trans Am series that the top Firebird took its name from had classes for cars under 2.5 liters and cars under 5.0 liters. The production Trans Am was forced to use 400ci Ram Air III and Ram Air IV V-8s, but Pontiac had developed a 4.9-liter (303ci) version of the legendary Ram Air V tunnel port V-8. Only 25 of these engines were ever built, none were offered factory-installed in a car for retail sale, and only a few running engines survive. Let’s stick one of those under the hood, along with a Muncie close-ratio four-speed and 3.90 gears. The gears will allow for spirited acceleration and a top speed over 140 mph.
How would a ’69 Trans Am fastback fared in the marketplace? It’s hard to say, but it is unlikely that the racy body style would have generated more sales than the original. The Trans Am wasn’t introduced until March of 1969, and it is unlikely that Pontiac could have readied this variation any speedier than that.
While it is likely that this sort of body alteration would be beyond the capability of the average enthusiast, we suspect that there is someone out there who has the skills and patience to craft such a unique phantom machine. It would have people wondering if it was a prototype that escaped the crusher. That should be plenty of inspiration for an experienced metal fabricator/Pontiac nut.
Interestingly, Ted mentioned working up the general shape of this car back in art school many moons ago. It looks like we were on the same page all along!