The 1974 Pontiac Firebird, Formula & Trans Am



Trans Am featured at the 1974 Chicago Auto Show

Owner: Bob Phillips


This entry marks the second time we have been able to offer up for display a special "protoype" or "promotional" Trans Am (the first was Bill Mitchells '72 SD455 Trans Am see here). This is the 1 of 1 special promotional Trans Am built for the 1974 Chicago Auto Show. It featured a special black and gold paint scheme that would become the foundation for the '76 50th Anniv. Limited Edition TA and the Special Edition TAs that would be offered from 1977 to 1981. The car surfaced recently when it was purchased in an estate sale in July 1994 by Bob Reason a collector out of Michigan. It has changed hands a few times (over $100K most recently) and has landed in the lap of the current owner listed above. The original owner, Clarence Sproul, was a head accountant at GM and a close personal friend of Bill Mitchell. Prototypes are normally destroyed after their usefulness had come to an end but, in this case Mr. Mitchell saved the car and allowed it to be sold to his friend. The last valid registration for the car was in 1977.

According to information provided by the current owner the car started out life as a Buccanneer Red '73 Trans Am which was re-painted with the first, now famous, black and gold paint job and was driven by Bill Mitchell for a period of time (note the first pic). The car then underwent a conversion to transform it into a 1974 Trans Am for a tour of duty on the show circuit which included the big show in Chicago. The car then went through a final transformation from a 1974 Trans Am to its final state, the 1976 Trans Am seen in the pics provided. Some site visitors have expressed doubts about the final conversion because the obvious difference with the rear window design from 74 to 76 (early rear window to the later wrap around style window). Mr. Phillips has had the opportunity to speak with John Schinella (Chief of Design for GM in 1971) and he has confirmed the history of conversions that I am presenting here. The man in the second picture is John Schinella and the girl is his daughter.

Some notes about the car: It still wears its original paint from the final conversion in '75 but it is now spider-webbing due to the age of the paint and the use of clear coat when it was painted at the GM Design Division. The black paint features a heavy dose of gold metal flake. It received Pontiac's flagship engine in '74 the Super Duty 455. The shaker scoop is functional with solenoids and a flapper  door of the same type that was used on 70-72 TAs.  The chrome running boards were plated in gold chrome and a portion of the door jamb appears to have been painted gold to match. The dash bezel is gold but the steering wheel spokes and bird are not. The shifter handle color matches the special "one-off" tan interior. The lettering on the tires are gold. The shifter bezel is the same chrome swirl as the dash bezel although not gold. This feature did not come out until 1979 or 1980. A special silk material was used for the seats and the carpet was provided by Cadillac including floor mats that featured stainless steel grates intended to protect the carpet from wear. The console and radiator support are signed by John Schinella. The car was driven by both Bill Mitchell and John Schinella.  The current mileage is approximately 28,000 and the car is still titled as a Red '73 Trans Am.

The story behind the origin of this car, its special paint scheme and most importantly the introduction of the famous screaming chicken is an interesting one. It is documented in several articles online and in more than one publication i.e. "The Fabulous Firebird" by Michael Lamm. Not surprisingly there seem to be different versions of the story depending on where you read it. One interpretation of these events was presented by Jeff Denison a writer for the National Firebird & TA Club in an article written for the Eagle which can be read here: This account and the one written by Michael Lamm are similiar but do differ on a few details. One thing that is certain is that this car gave birth to the legendary Special Edition package that would become an icon of '70s culture. The excerpt below from author Mark Cranswick is a summary of the version of the story told in "The Fabulous Firebird".

"I think I can clear up the query concerning the T/A shown at the 1974 Chicago Car Show. Planning for the limited edition 1976 T/A, started as early as 1973 when GM's Bill Mitchell wanted a special T/A for Pontiac's 50th birthday, Mitchell gave the job to Pontiac's John Schinella. Mitchell liked the colors of the John Player Special racing cars so those colors were used. The prototype was shown at the Chicago Car Show in 1974."

The new owner has started his own website for the car: He also plans to show the car at a few shows this year so if you'd like to see the car in person he plans to have it at the POCI convention being held in Spearfish, South Dakota and the Trans Am Nationals in Dayton, Ohio.
John Schinella and daughter New Owner Bob Phillips



74ta11.jpg (25142 bytes) This white Pro Street Trans Am is owned by Bill Gunzberg. Bill's bird has no problems getting around town. Here's the setup that makes sure of that: a 1970 455 H.O. bored 0.30, #64 high compression heads, 1962 SD connecting rods, a RAIV cam & 1.65 rockers, a Doug Nash Tunnel Ram topped with 2 Carter AFB 600 carbs, and an Accel HEI distributor & MSD box. Power is applied through a 4-speed Muncie to a 12 bolt rear end turning a 4.10 ratio (ouch!!). Hopefully Bill will send us some time slips in the future.



Rare Maroon Formula with the shaker scoop option A rare Formula with the shaker scoop option. The car is also equipped with the optional SD455. 74' would be the last year this monster motor was available. 1974 marked the first time the Firebird received a front and rear makeover since the introduction of the 1970 model. The new front end with its slanted grills was known as the soft nose. The rear bumper received bigger tailights and a thin, black, warparound black strip, that served as a bumper. This was the most distinguishing feature of these cars. 



Blue Trans Am A blue Trans Am with a white interior. This car is equipped with the optional SD455 engine, and a set of aftermarket Centerline wheels. The horsepower rating for the LS2 SD455 remained unchanged at 290hp but it would be the last year the block would see production. It would also be the last year dual exhaust was installed on Firebirds. Thats what increased emission laws and and a gas crisis will do to you.



Blue Formula (190787 bytes)

Blue Formula (182065 bytes)

Blue Formula (178378 bytes)

74fr14.4.jpg (131029 bytes)

Blue Formula (44714 bytes)
Dusty Randall owns this great looking Formula. Dusty writes:

     "This is my 1974 Pontiac Firebird Formula 400.  It has a 400 cubic inch big block, has been rebuilt with about 33,000 miles on it, 4 bbl Edlebrock carb, high performance Edlebrock intake, HEI distributer, with AC. It also has a 400 turbo 3 speed transmission with a posi rear end. I have a saganah 4 speed with a chevy 454 that I am about to drop in it.  I have lowered the front end 2 inches. This is my first Firebird and I will never get rid of it.  I have restored it myself and am currently finishing the interior. The whole interior has been redone, from the floor up to the headliner.  I have all new seats, new door panels, carpet, inner rear quarter panels, sail panels headliner trim.  The rims are 15" Cragars. 15x7 in the front and 15x8 1/2 in the back. I have driven this car everyday for 2 1/2 years, and just recently bought a new truck so I wouldn't have to drive it everyday. I love these cars and don't think that I could ever get rid of it. I have restored this Firebird from nothing and have done most if not all of the work myself. The website is awesome and I will continue to go in it as much as I can to catch up on all the new stuff."



Gold Firebird The price for a base model Firebird was $3,335. The engine options for the base model were an in-line six cylinder or a 350c.i. V8. Surprisingly 7,603 Firebirds were sold with the six cylinder which was rated exactly at 100hp. The V8, sporting a 7.6:1 compression ration came with a 2-barrel carburetor and single exhaust. This was good for 155hp and attracted 18,769 buyers.

Photo courtesy of Mark Allbaugh.



Red Trans Am Color choices changed for the Trans Am in 74' but stayed at three. Bucaneer Red (seen here), Cameo White (seen above), and Admiralty Blue which replaced Brewster Green from the previous year. Heres the paint code for each one:        
                        Bucaneer Red      75
                        Cameo White       11
                        Admiralty Blue     29

This information can be found on the data plate located on the firewall on the driver's side.

Photo courtesy of Mark Allbaugh.



Green Formula SD455 There were four engines available for the Formula. At the low end was a 350c.i. mill rated at 170hp. Next up was the 400 block which rated at 190hp. The last two engine options were the 455 and the SD455. To help these powerplants make their power a number of other performance options were offered for the Formula including dual exhausts and a heavy duty suspension. Wider than standard tires could also be had.

Photo courtesy of Mark Allbaugh.



74fr12.jpg (54327 bytes) Bob Morgan owns this fantastic Formula 350. It has been completely restored to its original appearance including new paint, a new vinyl top, a new interior and all new trim. The drive train is completely original as well down to the 2bbl carb and 3-speed automatic tranny. Bob did opt for some improvements adding a new custom exhaust with an H-pipe, a limited slip differential and a 40w four speaker stereo system that features a deck outfitted with a cassette player and a stock looking faceplate. For improved handling the suspension has been upgraded with new gas shocks, new front springs, and urethane bushings were added to the rear leaf springs and front and rear sway bars.
Continuing with the spirit of modification and aspiring to make this car operate the way Pontiac should have Bob has taken on the task of making the Ram Air hood functional. The scoops were opened up by a local body man and the twin rubber boots and retainers have been mounted. The only thing left is to either find a rare and often expensive air cleaner setup or, if he can obtain the mechanical drawings, manufacture his own. 
Incredibly Bob is the original owner of this car which sports an unbelievable 176,000 miles. You'd never guess would ya...

Bob also owns a 1997 Trans Am convertible that can be seen at '97 Firebirds Lot#2 and a 1999 Firehawk that can be seen at Road Racing Firebirds Lot#1.



Blue SD455 Trans Am

Blue SD455 Trans Am

Blue SD455 Trans Am

Blue SD455 Trans Am

Blue SD455 Trans Am
This beautiful SD455 Trans Am is owned by James Amos. James writes:

    "This is an all original 1974 Trans-Am with the Super Duty 455 option (LS2). It's an Admiralty blue with medium blue custom interior. This original owner car  came equipped with the M21 close ratio 4speed trans, radial tuned suspension, rally II wheels, AM/FM Stereo w/8 track player, tinted glass, rear defroster and hood decal options. Though it has only 35k on the odometer, and I do trailer it long distances, I give it a good workout on the drag strip and road courses... as well as stop light to stop light. It turns pretty consistent times in the 13.40's...slicks and loosened exhaust pipes brings it around the 13 flat mark with one 12.99 to it's credit (I keep that time slip framed and hanging in the garage because the bowtie guys never want to believe me!!)."

James hosts his own website called Pontiac Trans Am Super Duty Muscle



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