The Iconic 1969 Pontiac Firebird Convertible
The 1969 Pontiac Firebird is one of the most iconic American muscle cars ever made. The first generation Firebirds were produced from 1967 to 1969 and offered in coupe and convertible models. The 1969 model year saw some key changes that make it one of the most desirable years for collectors and enthusiasts.
Overview of the 1969 Pontiac Firebird
The 1969 Firebird retained the same basic body style as the 1967-1968 models but featured some revised styling cues. Up front, the split grille design was updated with a new honeycomb pattern. The hoods were now fully open with “Ram Air” markings on Firebird 400 and Trans Am models equipped with the performance enhancing Ram Air intake system.
At the rear, the 1969 models had larger tail lights and bumpers compared to the earlier cars. The engines were mounted 20 degrees to the passenger side, allowing for a smoother drive shaft angle and more interior room. Major competitors included the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, and AMC Javelin.
The 1969 Firebird was available in three models:
- Firebird – Base model with inline-6 cylinder or V8 engine options
- Firebird Sprint – Had more standard features like hood stripes and wheel covers
- Firebird Trans Am – Highest performance version with big block V8 engines
Engine and Transmission Options
The base Firebird came with a Choice of three engines:
- 230 cu in (3.8L) Thriftpower I6 with 165 hp
- 326 cu in (5.3L) V8 with 250 hp
- 400 cu in (6.6L) V8 with 265 hp
The Firebird Sprint had a 350 cu in (5.7L) V8 as standard, putting out 285 hp.
The top of the line Trans Am came with two powerful V8 choices:
- 400 cu in (6.6L) Ram Air III with 345 hp
- 400 cu in (6.6L) Ram Air IV with 345 hp
A Muncie M-20 4-speed manual was standard on V8 cars, with GM’s Turbo Hydra-Matic 3-speed automatic optional.
New Convertible Model for 1969
While the Firebird was available as a coupe from 1967, Pontiac introduced a convertible model in 1969. This added to the appeal of the Firebird, giving it an open-top cruiser option alongside the sporty hardtop.
The 1969 Pontiac Firebird convertible featured:
- Power-operated folding roof for effortless open-air driving
- Optional rear window defogger for improved visibility
- Reinforced frame for chassis rigidity on par with the coupe
- Beautiful profile with roof down showcasing the signature Pontiac split grilles
The convertible was heavier than the coupe by about 150 pounds and cost around $200 more when new. But it was worth it for driving exhilaration on sunny days.
Unique Style and Appearance
The 1969 Firebirds stand out for their unique styling touches. The Trans Am models came with special decals on the hood, rear deck lid spoiler, and front fenders. These included blue racing stripes with white accents that instantly identify it as a 1969 Trans Am.
Other styling features include:
- Blacked out grille on the Trans Am
- Hood mounted tachometer optional on V8 cars
- “Ram Air” lettering on hood scoops signifying performance engine
- Horsecollar rear seat with built-in headrests on Trans Am
- Available “Honeycomb” alloy wheels
Convertibles could be ordered with a optional rear window slats giving it a “xenon” look when the vinyl roof cover was specified.
The 1969 Firebird interiors reflected the performance nature of these cars. Front seats were bucket style and featured built-in headrests on the Trans Am. Thicker cushioning and lumbar support provided comfort on long drives.
Some other interior highlights include:
- Wraparound cockpit style instrument panel
- Optional auxiliary console gauges
- AM radio standard, tape players and 8-track optional
- Cigarette lighter and glovebox integrated into dashboard
- Floor-mounted shifter on manual transmission cars
As a more premium convertible model, the Firebird ragtop offered more standard equipment like:
- Leather/Morrokide upholstery
- Power windows
- Reclining bucket seats
- Custom door panels
Factory Options to Customize the Car
With a long list of factory options, buyers could customize their 1969 Firebird to their liking. Some popular options included:
- Ram Air induction for high performance 400 V8
- Cowl induction hood with heat extractors
- Power disc brakes for improved stopping power
- Power steering for ease of handling
- Air conditioning for comfort in summer weather
- Stereo tape players for cruising tunes
The Trans Am in particular offered appearance packages with wheel, stripe, and decal options to give each car a unique look.
Special Models and Editions
In addition to the base, Sprint and Trans Am models, there were some special edition and promotional Firebirds offered:
- Indianapolis 500 Pace Car – Offered in print ads only and replica models were made by dealers
- Trans Am Turbo Fan – Had anti-spin rear differential and turbo turbine wheels
- Pegasus – Dealer installed graphics package with Pegagsus logo
- Firebird Formula 455 – High output 455 V8 rated at 325 hp
These special versions are extremely rare and valuable today as collector cars. Only about 35 Turbo Fan cars were made for example.
Performance and Racing Legacy
When equipped with the Ram Air engines and performance handling packages, the 1969 Firebirds were very quick for their time. Some performance figures include:
- 400 Ram Air III – 0-60 mph in 6 seconds, 1/4 mile in 14.7 sec
- 400 Ram Air IV – 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds, 1/4 mile in 14.3 sec
Pontiac promoted the Trans Am for road racing, and it saw success in the SCCA Trans Am series with drivers like Jerry Titus. This shot the second gen Firebird to fame on the track.
On the street, Hot Rod magazine test drove a 400 Ram Air III Firebird convertible and called it “The best handling car we’ve ever tested.” Strong praise for great handling balance!
Collectability and Values Today
Because of the iconic styling, performance and low production numbers, the 1969 Pontiac Firebirds are highly valued by collectors today. As an investment, they have steadily increased in value over the decades.
Some valuation figures for 1969 Firebirds in excellent restored or original condition:
- Base Firebird Convertible – $55,000
- Firebird Sprint Coupe – $65,000
- Firebird Trans Am Coupe – $90,000
The special edition and promotional Trans Ams like the Turbo Fan can easily fetch over $150,000 in the current collectible muscle car market.
While later Firebirds like the Smokey and the Bandit 1977 cars are recognized by pop culture, the 1969s remain the most collectible due to their styling and performance significance in Pontiac history.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions people have about the iconic 1969 Pontiac Firebird convertible:
Q: How many 1969 Firebird convertibles were produced?
A: Pontiac produced exactly 9,901 Firebird convertibles for the 1969 model year, making it far rarer than the coupe. Of those, only about 700 were Trans Ams.
Q: What was the base price when new?
A: The 1969 Firebird convertible had a base price around $3,255 depending on powertrain options. The Trans Am convertible was about $4,200 brand new.
Q: Did the 1969 convertible have any chassis reinforcements?
A: Yes, the convertible featured boxed rocker panels, stiffened hood bracing, and a plate behind the rear seat for additional structural rigidity. This improved handling over a less reinforced convertible chassis.
Q: Were the Ram Air engines available on convertibles?
A: Yes, both the Ram Air III and Ram Air IV high output 400 V8s could be ordered on 1969 Firebird convertible models just like the coupes. The 400 Ram Air IV was highest performing engine offered in the ’69 Firebirds.
Q: Are 1969 Firebird convertibles a wise investment today?
A: For collectors that want a rare, iconic American muscle car, the 1969 Firebird convertible is an excellent investment. Prices are rising yearly as buyers realize their significance. Finding one in great original or restored shape takes dedication but pays off long-term compared to buying stocks or leaving money in the bank.