First Year Ram Air III: 1970 Pontiac Trans AM

1970-pontiac-trans-am-ram-air-iii

The Pontiac Trans AM is know by most simply as the last muscle car, but long before the demise of the muscle car era, these were stop light heroes that took the already impressive Firebird and made them faster. The Trans AM package debuted in 1970, making this a first year car. It’s a bit rough, but I kind of like the way it currently looks. The worn out paint and surface rust give it an intimidating look that I would want to keep around. If it pulled up next to me at an intersection, I know I’d be scared and impressed all at the same time! If you’d love to give this Ram Air III car a new home, find it here on eBay in Alameda, California with a BIN of $20k and a current bid of $16k.

1970-pontiac-trans-am-interior

I’m not so sure about the seller’s asking price, that’s awfully close to what I’ve seen some very nice examples go for. If it were a Ram Air IV or the almost none existent Ram Air V, then it would be a whole different story, but being the 345 horse Ram Air III with an auto just makes that price seem a bit too high for me. I guess if you are buying it for the originality and interesting looks, it might be worth it.

1970-trans-am-ram-air-iii-engine

The 400 is said to be original, but looks pretty rough. The seller states that it runs and drives, they recently took it for a drive and found it to drive great. The 400 is a very versatile engine and was offered in a number of performance levels. The Ram Air IV was putting down 370 horse and the V was good for about 500! Of course, they never officially built Ram Air V cars so finding one is just about impossible. For a street car, I think I could live with just 345 horsepower.

1970-pontiac-trans-am

I’m a bit torn with this car. Yes the “patina” is cool, but it needs a lot of work and would look just as good with some new paint. I’d be alright with it needing work if the price were lower, but for this kind of money I’d want it to already be in top shape. These cars sure have grown on me though and I really wouldn’t mind having this one. So what do you think of the price of this one? Is it overpriced or a deal?

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Comments

  1. nessy

    Well, this is a pretty serious machine and to find one like this is almost impossible. If the current bid is at 16k and the buy it now is 20k with 4 days left in the auction, I think someone is going to hit the buy it now, otherwise, I expect the bidding to go over 20k. Again, it’s a mess but a rare mess. Clean it up and enjoy watching the heads turn….

  2. Bob S

    I think that is a pretty good price. I think this body style Trans Am in White is the ultimate muscle car. Since numbers matching means nothing to me, I’d swap out the parts till I got what I wanted. (Manual tranny )

    Like 1
  3. grant

    Expensive but just awesome.

  4. RollerD

    At 20K this car should have sold already. Great find.

  5. 68custom

    T/A was actually introduced in 69. Would love this one. :-)

    Like 3
    • Josh Staff

      Yeah that was my bad, they only built 689 that year so there really isn’t a lot of info about them. The source I was using listed 1970 as the first year, so I should have cross referenced. Sorry guys!

      Like 1
      • Vincent

        They actually came out in 1968 and they rushed production and in the end they actually took the nova body style and pretty much copied it to make the dead line.

    • Tom Member

      Thank you for that correction on first year car, yep 1969 was the first Trans Am production year with 697, 8 of which were convertibles.

      1970 only had 3196 Trans Ams out of 48,739 “Firebirds” built including Firebirds, Esprits, Formulas and TA’s.

      BUT there are rare 68 Trans Am GM prototypes out there which are the most awesome. This is a fairly rare machine for sure. make sure it is not a really old clone. It is probably real. 20K is a great deal. Wish the car were nicer.

      • SoCal Car Guy

        The Ram Air III was the base engine in the 1969 Trans Ams. Ram Air IV was an option that was ordered on 55 T/A coupes (46 with four-speeds, 9 with automatics). All eight of the 1969 Trans Am convertibles were Ram AIr IIIs.

        (This data is from Thomas A. DeMauro’s book “Firebird Decoding Guide 1967-1981. Fact checkers included Jim Mattison of Pontiac Historical Services and Fred Simmonds of Pontiac Motor Division).

        For an unmolested, original and numbers-matching 1970 Trans Am (albeit in need of a careful and correct restoration) I don’t think the $20,000 BIN is at all out of line. And while it’s not exactly rare (one of 1,339 Ram Air IIIs with an automatic transmission, out of a total of 3,196 Trans Ams in 1970), this is probably one of the best unrestored ones still out there.

        Like 2
    • Melvin Burwell

      Old Muscle. Thank you 68 custom .Trans Am came out in 69 not 70.

  6. Racer417

    Last year of the high-compression engines. Pretty much all there, and a California car to boot.

    • Tom Member

      1971 was not too shabby on compression and horsepower. Not as good as 70 thought. 72 was the first year to get a big wack on the performance, 73 was terrible and 74 – on not worth talking about.

      • al8apex

        72 was IDENTICAL to 71 save for the net vs gross hp ratings, SAME compression, same “real” hp and torque

        72’s are very few because of the strike

      • John B

        A 1974 SD 455 would put a spanking on many earlier muscle cars. Look it up!!

        Like 1
      • mat

        don’t forget they went from “gross horsepower” ratings to
        “net horsepower” ratings in 71 I believe it was. That distorts
        things a good deal if you don’t take that into consideration.

      • Steven

        74 and 75 Super Duty !!!

        Like 2
  7. Van

    The RA 5 never made it into a standard car. This would have required a COPO order. The RA-5 is almost mythical as it didn’t work in the 303 cubic inch race engine. The heads had massive ports that moved lots of air. Like a Chrysler Hemi or Ford Boss 429, you need a big cam and high revs for it to work. I believe John DeLorean drove a 69 GTO RA-5.

    Like 1
  8. Jay Calk

    Great car but at 20k you are going to sink another 10-20 K in it. Don’t know what their bringing at Auction but for me it’s to much.

  9. Van

    I had a RA-3 formula. The exhaust manifolds were bigger and it had 4 bolt mains. Otherwise it was little different from the standard 400. The RA-4 had big round exhaust ports, an aluminum intake, exhaust manifolds like headers, and a huge cam. It was rated only 4 hp more than the RA-3, LOL. I think with the different rocker arm ratio the RA-4 was the biggest cam ever offered by Pontiac.

    • SoCal Car Guy

      According to DeMauro’s book (referenced above 1970 RA IIS were rated at 345 (gross) horsepower, RA IVs at 370 (gross) hp.

    • Julles

      What I remember about your formula is that it jumped when you barely touched the accelerator. The rear end broke loose at the least provocation and it didn’t like going around corners. Quite frankly the car scared the hell out of me and I thought it was a very dangerous car. When you sold it to a teenage boy, I made you warn the parents but they ignored the warning and when the boy took it out for the first time he didn’t even make it out of the driveway before he nailed the mailman delivering the mail. When we found out a month later that the kid died in a muscle car accident, we were scared that it was in that car. We were relieved when we found out it was his friend’s muscle car that he died in but it could just as easily have been that car. The 70 Firebirds/Formulas/Trans Ams are beautiful and powerful cars but I would not want to own one unless there were serious updates done on the brakes, suspension, tires and rear end. Sometimes I think we forget the realities of driving a vintage muscle car as we remember them with rosy retrospective.

  10. 68custom

    Love the 70 only low back seats.

  11. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    nice – rare – demand for early not kid screwed up = $$$

  12. jeff6599

    There were no RA II motors in 1970 in any Pontiac. RA IIIs began in 1969 and were rated at 330 HP in the Firebird line and 366 in the Tempest line. The RA IVs also began in 1969 and were rated at 345 HP in the Firebird line and 370 HP in the Tempest line. You may recall that the only difference between the III and IV was the carburetor. The quadrajet on the Firebirds were assembled such that the rear barrels opened only part way due to the secondary butterfly linkage. The lack of so called WOT (wide open throttle) limited the horsepower on the Firebirds so equipped with these engines, as required by GM’s head office at the time. The good news is that the secondary linkage could be tweaked (bent slightly) to attain true WOT. (and GTO like HP). But if you were to look at an original car, that is what you will find.

    The RA IV cam was a good one but no one will doubt that the McKellar Super Duty solid lifter series was the way to go for a factory made cam.

    • John

      Wrong. Ram Air III and Ram Air IV very different. Heads, intake, ect. ect. Solid lifter cams did not work well on Pontiac street engines. This car is way overpriced. You can find a nice one for $35K-$40K

  13. Prowler

    To say the 1973 trans am performance was terrible and the 1974 not worth talking about
    I think the super duty from either year would eat the lunch of just about any trans am from any previous year

    • 68 custom

      definitely after it was tuned and uncorked.the SDs were basically detuned race motors.

  14. Fiete T

    Just found a very, very nice ’76 “Black Bird” Trans Am in a customer’s garage. Original owner, has the original paperwork & tags, never wrecked or rusted. 400, auto, honeycomb wheels, CB, window louvres and 118K miles. Interior is perfect as well as the exterior. Wants $12K for it…

    Like 1
    • Tony Castle

      What’s your home town, would love to get more information, I have a 76 TA,455 auto, firethorn red exterior /interior , 56000 original miles, I’m the 2nd owner,purchased in 1988.

  15. John B

    Like I said…the SD cars in ’73 and ’74 were at the top of the American Muscle class, just like the Buick GS 455 models a couple of years earlier. Gentlemen’s cars that could whoop your butt right off the showroom floor.

  16. Richie C

    Great car for the money. I have had many Firebirds over the years with actually having 11 at one time in a warehouse known as the bird house. In that mix were a run of Trans Ams including 1969, 1970, 1971 and a 1973. Awesome cars for many reasons but the fact that they are not Camaros was enough for me. (Love the Camaros but boring).

    Many one year only parts on the 1970 cars. I would definitely have to look closer to see what this car has and doesn’t have. 1 year only fenders and as usual people selling the cars never get the one year only parts in the pics. Looks to have the correct open face alternator and possibly even the rare rear alternator bracket. White with blue interior is a great combo. Mine was the rarer lucerne blue exterior with black interior. Only 2 colors available on the 1970 Trans Ams.

    I love the patina and would drive it as is. The car is only about 25 minutes from me and I think I will check it out.

    Quick pic of my old 1969 Trans Am. One owner with mostly original paint.

    Like 4
  17. Rolf

    I have a 73 Formula 455 in South Africa 400th trans
    and there is almost no other v8 that can catch
    me out the line to the next robot

    Like 1
  18. jeff6599

    John, you were very correct that I was wrong. A bad mistake. I meant that the difference between the RA IIIs in each line was the carb. Similarly, the difference between the RA IVs in each line was the carb.

    Like 1
  19. VR LIVES

    FLASHBACK: It was 1979 and I was 16, there was still a lot of muscle cars around but the Michigan winters were taking their toll on Detroit iron. Driving around, I spotted a T/A that was this one’s brother. FOR SALE sign was begging me to inquire, so I did. A young woman, hair in curlers, baby in one hand and a cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth, answered the door. “You here about the car?, I.said yes please and she gave me the keys. “Let her get warm, and don’t be afraid to get on it.” Music to my ears, I had to resist running to the car. It was cold out, and this old girl didn’t want to dance. Finally getting started, it must of had a huge cam in it, and I was ear to ear. Once warm, she was close to the freeway and I let ‘er rip. Now I had never driven an 850 double pumper before, the engine let out a roar and I was over 100 mph in no time.Went home with the VIN and a promise to hold the car for a couple of hours. Well, you know what happened, insurance put an end to my .dreams and the car was only 700.00.

  20. Pontiactivist

    Here is a twin to this car. Almost thought it was the same car. Even claimed to be a California survivor. This picture was taken at Norwalk Ohio at the Pontiac Nationals last month. Car seemed to run good and was being driven around all weekend.
    I know of a blue on blue r.a.-IV car sitting in a barn in NW PA. I would much rather prefer the blue on blue car myself.

    Like 1
    • Rich

      It’s a been a couple years. Is the RA IV blue on blue still sitting in a barn? Tell us more…

  21. Matt Member

    i couldn’t find how to email yal,so here i am, i found this on south dakota craigslist-

    https://sd.craigslist.org/cto/5769686780.html

  22. perry

    the guy who sold the that trans am his name was tom Stanley are that’s what he said hes name was well he lied the had a blown head gasket

    • Jesse Mortensen Staff

      We didn’t publish your first comment because of all the profanities. We feel for you though and hope you can work something out with the seller.

    • Julles

      I’m very sorry for the loss. A young man at the beginning of his life is a loss to the whole world.

  23. Bob

    Ram Air V was over the counter engine, was (an engine that did not have a cradle it could call home) Quote by Pontiac 1969.

    Like 1

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