There are two ways to see 429 Trans Ams in a row. You can watch Smokey and the Bandit 429 times, or you can do it the easy way and coordinate your summer vacation around the Trans Am Nationals. Although most Trans Am fans would have no problem with the marathon dose of Burt's '77 Bandit, the subject of this story is the 23rd Annual Trans Am Nationals, the nation's oldest-running showing of Trans Ams and Firebirds that comes to host city Dayton, Ohio, for one weekend every August.
Since 1999, the Trans Am Nationals has been dedicated to the late Jim Emmel. Jim, along with his wife, Sue, chairperson since 1993, helped the event grow into the largest single gathering of Trans Ams and Firebirds in the country.
Held August 24-26, 2007, at the Dayton Airport Hotel, in Vandalia, Ohio, and sponsored by the Trans Am Club of America, Dayton Ohio Chapter, the Nats enjoyed genuinely agreeable weather except for a brief rain shower on Saturday afternoon. According to Sue, "Thousands of spectators attended the show with visitors from Australia, England, and Canada. It was a fantastic turnout. Spectator crowds were much larger than last year due to the gorgeous weather we had."
All four generations of Firebirds and Trans Ams were represented in quantity. "We had at least one car registered from years 1967 to 2002, except for 1990," Sue says.
Many activities were coordinated over the three-day event including silent and live auctions benefiting A Special Wish Foundation, and the 12th Annual Trans Am Nationals Cruise-in held in Tipp City, Ohio, featuring over 300 Trans Ams and Firebirds. On Saturday and Sunday, there was a Mini-Nationals showcasing a collection of Trans Am diecasts, "The State of the Hobby" seminar hosted by PHS President Jim Mattison, Scott Scheel's, "The History of the Trans Am" seminar, and an all-weekend swap meet.
A hand-picked selection of Trans Ams from the General Motors Heritage Collection was put on display for the entire event. It included Pontiac's only in-house '69 Trans Am, a '77/'79 Trans Am Kammback experimental wagon, one of the three '89 Trans Am Turbo Indy Pace Cars built for the actual race, and several prototype and experimental Fourth-Gen Trans Ams.
General Motors' Heritage Collection...
General Motors' Heritage Collection display included these three Fourth-Gens. The "Gold Rush T/A" was featured in HPP's Feb. '01 issue. It has a Comp Cam, Lingenfelter cylinder heads, Jesel rocker arms, a Borla after-cat system, Eibach Pro suspension and Koni shocks. The flamed Fourth-Gen was a loaner to the Boy Scouts of America who tricked out the paint and used it for promotional purposes before returning it to GM. This Candy Orange convertible was a SEMA show car for GM.
This pair of late Second-Gen...
This pair of late Second-Gen T/As feature W72 Pontiac 400 powerplants.
The '77/'79 Trans Am Kammback...
The '77/'79 Trans Am Kammback experimental wagon, a T/A Nats mainstay, was also part of the Heritage Collection display, as was the '69 Trans Am. Bought back by the General in the '90s, this First-Gen is the only '69 T/A in Pontiac's permanent collection.
The show field was full of...
The show field was full of interesting Birds. Note the three Second-Gen Fire Ams in a row. The black and orange models graced the cover of the March '07 issue of HPP. The red one was recently completed by National Parts Depot and is part of its collection.
As featured in the Feb. '08...
As featured in the Feb. '08 issue of HPP, 21-year-old Wade Flannery took Best of Show with his modified '84 Trans Am.
Noted hobbyist Steve Hamilton...
Noted hobbyist Steve Hamilton was on hand with his collection of pristine Firebirds, including a '69 Trans Am and two '73 Super-Dutys-a Trans Am and a Formula.
On Friday, Firebirds began filling in any and all show spaces for a weekend of fun. One of the first collectors on site was hobbyist Steve Hamilton, who brought a '69 Trans Am and examples of a Super-Duty Trans Am and a Formula from his collection. A separate area was reserved just for Bandit T/As; dozens of them lined up row after row. Another fine contingent was the Firehawk crowd who staked out their own part of the show field, proudly displaying their SLP-modified Formula and T/A Firehawks.
Sue tells us the Trans Am Nationals was a huge success. It allowed T/A and Firebird fans to recognize and applaud the merits of some of the finest correctly restored examples in the hobby, as well as low-mile originals, factory show cars, and custom and modified cars.
The event was a winner for charity, too. It raised more than $5,000 for A Special Wish Foundation, which has fulfilled special wishes for 1,206 children since its inception in 1983. Next year is the 24th Annual Trans Am Nationals and the dates will be August 22-24, 2008. For further information, visit www.tanationals.com.
Sponsors Dayton Airport Hotel Dayton International Airport Dayton Airport Police Ames Performance Engineering Restore-A-Muscle-Car YearOne Highland Daytona 78TA.com Phoenix Graphix National Parts Depot The Bandit Run TCA Graphics/Tee Creations