When the announcement came of Pontiac’s demise on April 27, 2009, any hopes of a new-generation Trans Am exited alongside the marque. It was an especially bitter pill for Pontiac fans already used to playing second fiddle to Chevrolet. It was common knowledge that a new Camaro was being readied for market, and with the loss of Pontiac, there was no chance that a new Trans Am would ever arrive.
The LS3 can be left stock or upgraded right up to a Magnuson supercharged version that boo
The Trans Am, however, is a car that just won’t stay dead, and soon the void in the market was being filled—not by Pontiac, but the aftermarket. Many companies have jumped at the opportunity to bring to life their vision of what a Fifth-Generation Trans Am should be and we have covered several in HPP over the last two years.
Strangely though, except for the Kevin Morgan/Trans Am Depot 6T9 T/A, none of the other Camaro-to-Trans Am conversions took what could be seen as an obvious cue—to do a modern interpretation of a ’69 Trans Am. After all, the new-generation Camaro was obviously inspired by the ’69 model year. Why wasn’t it happening more often?
It has to do with the popularity of the later models. The best-selling Trans Ams of all time were the late-’70s versions, and most companies believed that a rebirth of those model years would be the most popular. While they all looked good, the combination of Second-Gen design cues below the beltline combined with a First-Gen inspired roofline didn’t quite sit well with some, particularly Gordon Heidacker.
Gordon, the president of Heide Performance Products (coincidentally also known as HPP), saw this rather obvious gap in the market and was able to fill it with what is undoubtedly one of the most visually integrated conversions to come to market, Camaro or otherwise. The HPP T/A is a beautifully executed reboot of the ’69 Trans Am, and if you didn’t know better, you’d swear it came from Pontiac itself.
Gordon’s passion for Pontiac can be traced directly to his dad, Walter Heidacker, who worked at Pontiac under John Z. DeLorean from 1958 to 1962 and was Pontiac’s engine development engineer for valvetrain and power generation in the late ’60s. As such, the elder Heidacker was instrumental in the design and development of the OHC-6 engine.
This project was an ambitious one and was implemented in the same fashion as a Detroit manufacturer would do. “We changed over 58 components from the Camaro to make it a Trans Am, including every body panel on the car (except the roof) and the glass,” Gordon says. “We created all the panels off of math data, as any OEM would, and all parts are hard-tooled for conversions. Also of note, the front and rear chrome bumpers are stamped-steel and triple-chrome-plated.”
The front of the Heide Performance T/A uses a chrome-plated stamped steel bumper, and so d
The design is an innovative blend of old and new, a nod to the past while retaining a firm foothold on the present. Up front a slanted, twin-nostril chrome integral grille/bumper is flanked by round quad blue halo headlamps housed in squared-off chrome bezels. A Pontiac arrowhead is placed at the “beak” between the grilles and below them, ’69-era turn signals are employed.
A twin-scoop was designed with contours that not only call to mind the ’69 Trans Am but also shades of the last Ram Air WS6 Trans Ams of ’98-’02. Moving along the body sides, the Camaro contours were traded in for more authentic ’69 Firebird front fender and rear quarter character lines. Front fender extractors are also used, inspired by the ’69 originals and formed out of urethane.
Trans Am lettering and the ’69-style Bird are embroidered into the headrests. These seats
The large panels themselves—hood, fenders, quarters, decklid, and rear wing—were all fabricated from a special blend composite of alternately layered, hand-laid fibers with an epoxy substrate that resists warpage and is more durable than polyester-based composites. The front-end components were all designed to attach to factory locations, while the quarter-panels and door spears were bonded on to the Camaro sheetmetal to retain the factory structural rigidity.
The convertible features a bright red interior with ’69 Bird emblems on the dash and door
“We wanted to make sure that the conversion did not compromise the structure of the factory design, so the quarter-panels are overlays bonded on with an epoxy adhesive,” Gordon explained. “As a benefit, we gained half-inch width and were able to replicate the ‘flat-on-top’ contour of the wheelwells.”
Like the front end, the tail section features retro design cues: Firebird-style slotted tail lamps, a composite rear-deck overlay, a ’69 Trans Am-inspired rear wing, and a chromed, stamped-steel rear bumper. It’s finished off with “Pontiac” lettering and a ’69 Firebird gas-cap badge.
Wheel and tire options are available, including 20-inch, five-spoke wheels shod with Pirelli rubber as shown on the coupe and convertible. The wheels feature a hand-painted red stripe along the rim edge and a Pontiac center cap. With those upgrades, the exterior theme is successfully completed.
This striking, retro-style blue Madrid vinyl interior option features a red loop-pile carp
Inside, the buyer is treated to a host of upgrade options, including genuine Comfortweave upholstery, custom leather-wrapped steering wheel, engine-turned dash appliqué, and color-keyed accents. The overall effect of the interior is very striking—the blending of old and new is seamless and does not at all come off as being “forced.”
When it comes to keeping up the legacy of the original, it is a necessity to have the performance to back up the look. While the GM LS3 is a very competent powerplant with an impressive 426 hp on tap, the HPP T/A has some upgrades available. A Magnaflow after-cat, mandrel-bent, stainless exhaust system is optional. Power ratings are not given by HPP, but Magnaflow’s testing claims 11 hp and 15 lb-ft of torque.
Also, HPP claims the Magnuson supercharger will produce a real-world 492 rwhp and 455 lb-ft of torque at 8 psi of boost. That equates to about 625 at the crank, a very respectable number for any street-driven machine. Suspension enhancements are also available and center on the available KW adjustable coilover shocks. They give near-infinite adjustment of ride height, and pitch-and-roll behavior to the owner’s personal preference.
So far, HPP has built both coupe and convertible versions of the T/A, and at press time, three total have been built and two more are currently under construction. The base price for a T/A conversion is $27,700 and optional equipment can push the cost to $50,000. That is above the price of the Camaro SS it’s based on.
Admittedly, that is a serious chunk of change, but for the look, the legacy, and the exclusivity, it’s a car that will start a panic wherever it goes. As of now, they are rarer than a ’69 Trans Am convertible and are less than 10 percent of the price. From that perspective, it’s a lot of bang for the buck!
Authentic Pontiac lettering, Trans Am decals, and Firebird badges add to the authentic loo
Optional five-spoke 20x8 front and 20x10-inch rear wheels mount Pirelli 245/45ZR20 and 275