A 50th anniversary is a celebratory milestone no matter the venue, and 1976 marked 50 years of vehicle production for Pontiac. What better way to commemorate the golden feat than with a special version of the Division's marquee performance model-the Trans Am? Finished in Starlight Black and beautifully accented in gold pinstriping, many consider the Second-Gen Special Edition Trans Am (S/E T/A) to be among the most elegant-appearing Pontiacs ever produced.
Often overshadowed by the '77 S/E T/A, which gained iconic notoriety from the large-screen hit Smokey and the Bandit, the black-and-gold livery reached production during the '76 model year. Its heritage, however, traces back to 1973 when Pontiac presented a similarly decorated Trans Am to a General Motors executive. It also doubled as a Division show car at new-auto expos.
Little is known about the Special Edition package's trek through development and into production during the '76 model year. Determined to change that, HPP had once asked its readership to supply detailed information about their '76 Trans Ams, and many replied. After compiling that information, doing years of research, poring over factory documentation, and having a conversation with a Pontiac insider closely related to the S/E program, HPP can now present some previously unknown facts about the '76 Special Edition Trans Am.
This may look like an ordinary '76 Special Edition Trans Am, but it's the actual black-and
The headlight bezels and front grilles of the S/E T/A are finished in code-55 Anniversary
The concept for the Special Edition package originated from the black-and-gold Trans Am former Pontiac Design Chief John Schinella created for Vice President of GM Design Bill Mitchell. "Bill Porter pitched the idea of a large hood bird to Mitchell during development of the '70 model, and he immediately rejected it," Schinella says. "A few years had passed, and I made a second attempt at it and got it approved for production."
"Knowing of Mitchell's love for black-and-gold cars, we took a standard-production '73 Trans Am and painted it black metalflake with large gold flecks. We added a large gold-foil hood bird and accented it with gold-foil striping and German Gothic lettering. Many other areas, including the wheels, grilles, and headlight bezels were also accented gold. The appearance was very appealing, and Mitchell really liked it."
He used the one-off black-and-gold T/A as his personal transportation, but it was campaigned by the Division as a show car, too. "We updated the body to reflect the changes for the '74 model year and again in 1976," Schinella says. "Public response while on the show circuit was very positive, and we knew we had something with that paint scheme. We just had to get it into production."
Many hobbyists consider the black-and-gold '76 Special Edition Trans Am the most beautiful
The hood bird and corresponding lettering on Bill Mitchell's one-off black-and-gold Trans
When the exterior treatment debuted as the S/E package in 1976, durability concerns led to
The '76 model year signified Pontiac's 50th year of vehicle production, and the Division commemorated it with two limited-production offerings. The Golden Anniversary Grand Prix featured an exterior finished in Code 55 Anniversary Gold with white accents. The details of that model are outlined in "Pontiac's Golden Opportunity" (HPP, Sept. '05). "We saw this as the perfect opportunity to incorporate the black-and-gold appearance package into a limited-production Firebird," Schinella says. And the Special Edition Trans Am was born.
A Division's show vehicles typically include unique features that are oftentimes too costly to replicate in production, and Mitchell's black-and-gold T/A was no exception. "The metalflake black finish was very expensive, and the gold-foil decals wouldn't likely hold up in the elements. We opted for a Starlight Black exterior and worked with the 3M Corporation to produce gold-colored vinyl decals for the production model," Schinella says.
In addition to gold accent striping, the Starlight Black finish features gold lettering in
Though Hurst Hatches with dark glass were planned for all '76 S/E T/As, structural concern
The roof is an integral component of the unibody Firebird, and cutting it to install remov