Among its very capable performance, handling, and bang for the buck value, the Fourth-Generation Firebirds rank as one of the most successful musclecar platforms in history. Add to that the strong aftermarket support that they continue to enjoy, and their outlook is very bright for many years to come.
American 200S wheels have long been a favorite of the road-racer set and lend a classic mu
One of the other pluses the Gen IV Birds enjoy is the large number of special edition cars that were built, both by the factory and the tuner aftermarket. In addition to factory-built vehicles—like the white and blue '94 25th Anniversary and '99 30th Anniversary Trans Ams, the '96-'02 WS6 Ram Air cars, and the yellow '02 35th Anniversary Collectors Edition Trans Ams—there were several tuner versions built, such as the Hurst Trans Ams; the Mecham and Lingenfelter cars; the SLP Firehawks; and the specialty Firebirds built by GMMG and marketed through Carl Black Pontiac-Buick-GMC, a Georgia-based dealership with stores in Kennesaw and Roswell. The cars were modified by Matt Murphy at GMMG (George-Murphy Motor Group), a tuner company that also built the mechanically similar Special Edition Dick Harrell and Berger Chevrolet Camaros, as well as approximately 40 Chevrolet pickups for Home Depot that were used to promote Tony Stewart's #20 NASCAR racer and were autographed by the driver.
In addition to the '01-'02 Blackbird, there was also the '02 Collectors Edition Blackbird, the YearOne Blackbird, the YearOne Formula, and the '02 35th Anniversary Edition. Regardless of the intended package, each of the production versions of the Carl Black cars started out as a WS6 Ram Air Trans Am or Formula Firebird with six-speed manual transmissions. Automatics were not offered.
This custom door tag denotes the GMMG ID number of this 35th Anniversary Edition. This is
Interestingly, the 35th Anniversary Edition Firebird was not considered a Blackbird because there already was an '02 Blackbird. These were a little different from the other Carl Black Firebirds in that they were all T/As built to commemorate the 35th Anniversary of the Firebird, and also to provide the soon-to-be-cancelled model with the proper send-off it so richly deserved. Upgrades were similar for all the Carl Black Firebirds, though personalized for each version.
The mechanical upgrades upped the horsepower from a 320 to 380 and the torque output similarly swelled to 400 lb-ft. The modifications included a high-flow airbox; an after-cat, chambered exhaust system; Eibach 1.5-inch dropped springs; slotted brake rotors; and 17x9.5-inch American Racing 200S wheels. The shifter was modified with a shorter stick and a white Hurst shiftball.
For the '02 35th Anniversary Editions, the package included the aforementioned equipment, plus dual hood-accent stripes, a metallic- silver rear lower panel, and Anniversary Edition floormats and keyfobs. A white gauge face was also added, as were Anniversary Edition cloisonné fender emblems, and the car number on the windshield and rearview mirror.
The rearview mirror itself was a package-specific unit featuring an auto-dimmer, compass, and thermometer. This package also included a Mobil 1 oil-fill cap and decal, as well as a custom car cover with the 35th Anniversary Edition logo.
With a sticker price of $10,630 over the cost of a WS6 Trans Am, there weren't a lot of takers, as only 19 were ever built. Nevertheless, the 35th Anniversary Edition Firebird's solid performance and its rarity today ensure future desirability.
It was also the perfect package for Rex Bowman, an environmental systems manager from Rector, Pennsylvania. Rex was looking for a '67 or '68 400 four-speed Firebird like the ones he and his brother messed around with as kids.
"My dad was looking at some cars and decided that he couldn't be sure of their histories or the quality of the restorations," said his son, Josh. "With the prices usually going well over $30,000, he wanted to know that there wasn't any covered up damage, so he decided a late-model musclecar might be a better option."
It was a pretty smart move on his part, as Rex came to realize he wanted a car that wasn't going to need constant attention and could be ready at a moment's notice. Still, he wanted a unique ride—not something that would be seen at every show or cruise night.
Then, one day in the autumn of 2007 after scanning an online auction, he happened upon an '02 Carl Black Anniversary Edition. It was in a private collection in Florida and had just the right amount of performance, rarity, and overall visual impact. After all, any WS6 Trans Am makes a statement, this one even more so.
Under the hood, the most noticeable changes to the 5.7-liter LS1 are the special high-flow
The hatch area of Rex’s 35th Anniversary Edition features this custom-embroidered carpeted
Shifting operation was improved by way of a shorter shifter handle and white Hurst shiftba
The 35th Anniversary logo was embroidered into the headrests as part of the package.
The stock WS6 interior was upgraded with white-face gauges, custom floormats, and specific
The stripes on the hood and the American 200S wheels let everyone know that Rex’s 35th Ann
Rex made the trip to Florida with his father, and on November 14 of that year, sealed the deal. As it turned out, the T/A has become a family icon of sorts, and has brought a lot of camaraderie and quality time between all of the men in his family, including his father, John; son, Josh; brother, Rudy, and his son, Rex.
These days, Rex's Trans Am lives an incredibly pampered life, kept in an inflatable, ventilated, and climate-controlled bubble housed in his garage. It comes out for shows and the occasional trip to the beach. Other than that, it's preserved in the comfort of the plastic bubble.
"Perhaps the most memorable event we have participated in with the car was when it was chosen in 2011 to be displayed in the GM Nationals Invitation Building at the Carlisle Fairgrounds," Rex reported. "That was quite an honor."
The history of the GMMG/Carl Black 35th Anniversary Editions is among the most heavily documented in the Pontiac hobby, with an updated registry and a small but very loyal group of enthusiasts who understand the historical significance of this rare series and the 35-year legacy it represents.
Collectible? Yeah, we'd say so!
For more about these rare machines, check out POCI member Jim Smith's website at www.gmmgregistry.com. Special thanks to him and Jim Simon.