1969 Pontiac Trans Am Lost Prototype Documentary – The Trans Am Story
Watch this amazing 1969 Pontiac Trans Am Lost Prototype Documentary – The Trans AM Story.
The search and restoration of the 2nd Pontiac Trans AM Prototype.
Posted on YouTube By: TransAmPrototype
Curt Richards found this car on eBay. He was not sure if the car was a true Trans Am, but he took a chance and purchased the car. This must be one of the best eBay purchases.
After purchasing the car, he started to work on authenticating the car. He was able to find some of the people involved with the car back in 1969. With their help, he proved that the car he purchased was the second Pontiac Trans Am Prototype. Prototype 1 has not been found, so this car might be the only remaining Pontiac Trans Am Prototype.
Once he was sure that the car was authentic, he proceeded to have the car restored to its original condition. He gave the car to Supercar Specialties in Portland. Michigan to do the restoration. The car was dismantled, and every peace documented and restored back to better than new condition.
All production 1969 Pontiac Trans Am’s were only available in white with blue stripes. However, this car was restored to its original silver paint job. The car is an automatic and came with the rare Pontiac 400ci Ram Air IV engine. This engine was rated at 335hp and 430lb.-ft of Torque and was the most powerful engine offered for the Firebirds or GTOs.
In the video, they interview Curt Richards the Trans-Am Prototype’s Owner, Rick Titus Son of Jerry Titus Official Pontiac Race Driver. Scott Tiemann President of Supercar Specialties and Gene Windfield the designers who came up with the Tran Am’s hood and Side vents.
The restored car sold at the 2015 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale for $313,500.
1969 Pontiac Trans Am Production Numbers.
Ram Air III Coupe. | 520 With Manual Transmission | 114 With Automatic Transmission | Total 634
Ram Air IV Coupe. | 46 With Manual Transmission | 9 With Automatic Transmission | Total 55
Convertible | 4 With Manual Transmission | 4 With Automatic Transmission | Total 8
The Trans Am Story
But I get a lot of these calls you know. I’ve got your Dad’s Sunbeam Alpine. I hear that one a lot. I got your dad’s Porsche 911, and I happen to know where those cars are. I know a few of my father’s restored race cars. Man, I get a lot of calls, and they aren’t.
1969 Pontiac Develops Two Trans Am Prototypes. Prototype 1 is lost to history.
You know what, this car could really good be the prototype.
Prototype 2 The Last Original Trans AM has been Found.
Gene Winfield (Automotive Designer): Every day that I wake up I like to get out there and go to work on cars, that’s my life, that’s what I do. Whether it’s painting or creating or chopping tops but, no I love it and it’s my life and that’s what I do.
I modify cars, I build cars, I paint, and I love it.
Well, the Trans Am was born by styling people at the styling department of the Pontiac Motor Division. You know they work on those things, and they develop those five, six, seven years in advance. The Trans Am was developed before I got into the picture. But the styling division called me and asked me to develop some accessories and to enhance the car a little bit. Which I did.
I started doing some sketches and then I contracted Harry Bradley who was a well-known artist. He did the actual rendering and sketches for me. We sent those to the studio, and they said ok, let’s go, let’s do it.
So then, I developed the hood in full-size clay and made fiberglass parts and everything. Then I shipped those parts to Detroit and went to Pontiac engineering and installed the parts. I painted them right there, and then they had John DeLorean comedown, once I got it all painted.
By the way, that was a silver car and I’m pretty sure he likes silver. He came down, and he picked six out of seven of these of the parts that I had designed and developed. In my opinion, the birth of the Trans Am was when I walked in there with those parts. And, installed them on that prototype car right in Pontiac engineering and I painted them.
They furnished the paint gun and the paint, and I actually painted them silver to match. And then John DeLorean, they called him, and he came down the next day. I was there, and he looked it over, and he was pretty surprised. He loved almost everything I did. It was really great.
In the late 1960s, the Golden Age of auto racing was in full swing on ovals, drag strips, and road courses. One of the finest sports car drivers from that era was a two-time national champion, Jerry Titus. That was recruited by Pontiac for the 1969 season.
Rick Titus (Son of Jerry Titus): The Firebird, my father had been racing for Ford. The Firebird, John DeLorean talked to my dad, talked to Shelby, talked to a lot of people. Got my father to come, Shelby did not go with him. And decided we’re gonna get Pontiac up front as well, what do we need.
The first early prototypes of that stuff started to show up. Very talented engineers. They did a good job at General Motors developing these cars. Pretty much you know, cloak-and-dagger, it was a stealth program to be sure.
Now 69 happens. Man, everyone’s busting loose with these wild cars. We go to Royal Pontiac to pick up this car. Very, very early car production. Like in the first eleven and probably number two or three in that group that were built, really as kind of litmus test of the development of these cars.
So now, we bring this car back, we start to fix it up. I assume this is going to be one of the cars we stripped to turn into a race car. It turns out, the car has other responsibilities. We pick up five maybe six, probably five standard bare-bones, three on the tree, six-cylinder Firebirds.
Those that are cars we ultimately strip that we get from Royal Pontiac. Now he’s driving this thing and every once in a while, I got to take it out. Which is why, when Kurt got it, it didn’t have any more trim rings on the wheels and the tires no longer had riding left on the sides either. Because these things move around.
It became an important car in my family. First, I like it parked out front, it looked pretty cool. But my dad grew to like it. Then unfortunately after he died my stepmother, got off her broom long enough to drive the car. And, unfortunately, traded it in for a Datsun 510. It doesn’t have the happiest of endings. I’m not going to lie to you.
The car traded hands several times over the next 40 years and his true identity was lost. Its historical importance as the sole remaining Trans Am prototype would only be rediscovered after the car was purchased by Lexington car collector Kurt Richards.
Curt Richards (Pontiac Trans Am Prototype Owner): My story begins in 2009. I saw this car on eBay, and I went and look at this car. The car was in Simpsonville Kentucky. When I left my curiosity just kept me interested in the car. The power of the Internet is kind of what gave me that gut feeling that you know what, this, this car really could be the prototype.
1969 March Hot Rod Magazine actually featured this car. Seeing these pictures and kind of just putting, putting things together you know. I just went on a gut feeling and went and bought the car.
I called the guy up; he still had the car. He said, you know, that’s a special car from Pontiac. I said to him, I said you know I really think that it is too. And I said, I’m either paying high watermark for a 69 Firebird or I’ve just bought a piece of history for 25 cents on the dollar. He looked at me, he said you know it’s up to you to prove it.
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Proving The Cars Identity Of the Pontiac Trans Am Prototype
Steve Kelly, you know, it’s the same thing there, I got on the internet I found him. I just searched his name, and I found his information, called him up. He is still around, and you know, I said, I’m looking at a March 1969 Hot Rod Magazine that you wrote about this silver Trans Am.
In 1969, they were releasing the GTO Judge also. And Steve tells the story, that he got a call from John DeLorean. John DeLorean told him, look Steve we’re behind on the release of this Firebird Trans Am. Will you do this story on this car?
Actually, John DeLorean delivered the car to him personally at Peterson publishing. He had the car for two weeks. When John DeLorean delivers the car to him, he takes the car to Riverside.
The same December press test day they did with the GTO Judge, they also did with the 69 Trans Am. There are a number of pictures that actually show the car, along with Steve at the racetrack.
At Riverside driving the car. There were some really, really, good pictures of the car. In his recollection of the event. George Stevens who was, I guess, I think he was the assistant public relations director for Pontiac. He was the guy who arranged that test.
Steve Kelly was very entertaining to talk to and just connected a lot of the things about this car. Because this car was manufactured in November of 68. This press test happened in December of 68. The car had to be an early 68 car in order to be done by December 68 in order to be in the magazine. 08:45
George Stevens at Pontiac not only orchestrated the prototype’s immediate tests at Riverside but personally oversaw the transfer of the car. From Pontiac into the hands of their leading sports car driver for the 1969 season, Jerry Titus.
The handwritten invoice from Stevens contained vital clues to the car’s identity. The vehicle identification number matches the one on the car. The number 35 delivery designation demonstrates that this car was destined for the Pontiacs engineering department. Where designer Jean Winfield performed his development work.
And the display instructions prove that this was a media test car the same one used by Hot Rod, Car Craft, and others.
Rick Titus: My dad had started this race team. We got a shop not too far from our house in Encino. The shop was in Tarzana and look like a big hobby shop to me. All these cool things for building cool cars. I knew we were gonna be running Firebirds now. And so, we were off to go pick up the first series of those cars.
Not least of which was Curt’s silver car at the time. You know we went over there with the intent that I would drive the truck back and my dad would drive the Firebird home. I mean they are pretty powerful street cars at the time. Unfortunately, as a shop door opens, we see what I believe was the Left Front tucked completely underneath the car.
Apparently, though no one would confess to it, whatever the lot boy or somebody decided to go out test-drive it for Jerry Titus. We really did not need their help but apparently, they thought so. And what they test drove was the curve and apparently a fire hydrant and tore it up pretty good.
So, we end up having to go back to get a trailer to bring it back. They offered to fix it, but my father said, we’ll handle that. I sensed he was pretty upset let’s put it that way. It had a report card day feel to it. We put it on the trailer and ran it back to our shop.
It’s funny, it’s interesting how those scars, kind of became important when I was talking to Kurt about the restoration of that car. You know there are so many cars that pretended to be something. The way our crew fixed that was certainly not conventional body shop repair. It was far more along the lines of a racing-type repair.
As Kurt and I talked on the phone, those scars proved to be very important. So, I’m glad they are still there. The patchwork was just done so differently, it’s not how a body shop would have stretched it back or maybe even cut a section and put a rail in.
It was the way our guys actually went in and re-weld at that area. The nuts that were going to be important to put the control arm back. I instantly recognize what they did and remember that from me, to watch craftsman of this level. You know my father was a pretty skilled fabricator. The guys who came with my dad that formed this team were really talented.
I mean these guys were aircraft-level welders, with TIG and all that stuff. The quality of what was almost like stitch work and the way things were done. That kind of fabrication, for me was just amazing to even witness. So that kind of stuff sticks to you when you are that young. You have never been exposed to it at that level before.
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Restoring the Pontiac Trans Am Prototype
Curt Richards (PontiTrans Am Prototype Owner): I am so thrilled that Scott and his crew are part of this project. From the very beginning, once I decided that, you know what, this car needs to be taken back to its glory. Because it was a far cry from that, you know when I got the car. To me, there was no other choice than to pick Scott and his crew at supercar specialties. To do this car when.
Scott Tiemann (President Supercar Specialties): When I started this business, my goal was to restore the rarest and most unique cars. But Kurt’s car, I mean we all know and love Tram Ams, and here is the car that got the ball rolling.
Basically, all the cars that we’ve done over the years, we disassembled every single component on the car. Whether it’s the steering column, the engine, the rear end, every single piece gets disassembled. We clean every piece carefully, we look at what 1plating we find, what color we find, and then we try to replicate it.
You know whether it’s a plating process, a paint process so every component of the car will be restored as close to an original look as we can achieve.
The Rear Wing
Curt Richards (Pontiac Trans Am Prototype Owner): The wing was missing, and we found the original wing too. It was off, it was gone when I got the car.
Unbelievably the prototype’s original rear wing was found in Hickory North Carolina. Sanding it down revealed that the wing was originally painted silver over a red primer. The exact colors of the prototype as painted by Jean Winfield in 1968.
Scott Tiemann (President Supercar Specialties): This is the body for Kurt’s Trans Am, the prototype car we have been doing metalwork on it since the middle of the winter, up until, you know current time. We have done the bodywork on the trunk lid, the spoiler. The spoiler had warped over the years. It was down about a quarter of an inch in the center.
So, when, you shut the trunk it had a much bigger gap right here to the quarters than what we wanted. And, then of course when you cited down it, it was really low in the middle. So, Tim was able to cut it in a few places, and we got the shape that we want and then re-glassed it all back together.
Basically, we ended up working towards the front end. We’ve got this left fender repaired, the rust at the bottom, refine the gaps, the way that we wanted. These are the fender extractors. They were on the vehicle; you know when it got here. Now, we didn’t disassemble them, so all this stuff was just apart.
To look at them, the way they were fabricated in things. I believe that they were the original parts to the car. They were a little bit crudely made, which you would kind of maybe expect from a prototype part. And, the way the studs were in him, was different than I have seen on production. So, they were made out of brass, they were just a little screw kind of. They drill the hole, countersunk them, slid the brass screws, and glassed over them.
Well, there were cracks and different things. So, we took them all back apart and cleaned all the stuff up. Ultimately, we’ve finished the inside nicer than they were. Just because I thought it would look better when you look inside them. So, these are basically ready to sand and paint.
We have got them fitted to the car real nice so that’s gonna look good. The only thing we have to do yet because these are new fenders, we have to put the holes in, that allow the extractors to work.
So, I’ve got a figure out exactly the dimensions and the shape of those holes. So that’s one thing we have to do yet to the fenders. Just kind of neat that it had the original extractors that Winfield had and made back then.
Curt Richards (Pontiac Trans Am Prototype Owner): Getting excited, yeah, you know the cars actually starting to look like a car and you know we’re making some really good progress. I’m excited, you know. What’s still just truly amazes me is that whether it was my fate or fortune. But you know, there were a lot of other people that are looking for this stuff, that were asleep at the wheel.
Scott Tiemann (President Supercar Specialties): This is assembly, all the painting is done on this car. Everything is painted, it’s all assembly at this point.
Curt Richards (Trans Am Prototype Owner): I look forward to the day, and we’re not that far away, that this car is finished, and I can wait. When I arrived back in Michigan from Kentucky and we opened the garage door and there it is. This car is going to be spectacular.
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The Trans AM Story. Unveiling the Car.
Curt Richards (Pontiac Trans Am Prototype Owner): Oh, I know it’s gonna be spectacular. Scott and the crew here at supercar just have done a fantastic job and I couldn’t be happier.
Wow, you know, it hadn’t looked that good since 1969 I’m sure. Beautiful, beautiful. It’s gonna be one of the premier cars for the muscle Corvette Nationals show in Chicago. We’re gonna do an unveil, and I am just excited to do that. People are gonna really, really, enjoy this car and it’s gonna make a real fitting end into this project.
I mean it’s just gonna be very special. I think it is something that, you know, cars come and go but memories always last. Sometimes they’re more important and more valuable than the machine. The memories of the journeys and the trips and in the drives and things, that come along with any car. So, I think that’s part of it you know.
Rick Titus (Son of Jerry Titus): it’s funny, I’ve been around a few of my father’s restored race cars. Imagine I get a lot of calls, and they aren’t. But the cars that really are there is an immediate emotional hit for me you saw how hard it is for me to talk about my dad. Anyway, it’s gonna be hard, it’s always a little hard because he’s there.
But I’m looking forward to it because I love stuff that you know. My father has been gone 44 years, and he’s still talked about all the time. That’s pretty cool. I don’t think people would be talking about me, unless I do some kind of mass shooting in 44 years. So, you got ‘a respect and admire the accomplishments that he pulled off.
Muscle car and Corvette nationals
Curt Richards (Pontiac Trans Am Prototype Owner): Well, the muscle car and Corvette nationals here in Chicago is the biggest show on the planet. For, you know, unveiling of really special cars. As well as just everything that you see here is real, you know. It’s a real show there is nothing if you can imagine It, and they built it, then it is here.
Thousands of people had the chance to see the newly restored Trans Am prototype. One of them was James Wallace a Holley carburetor engineer who had driven the car when it belonged to Jerry Titus.
James Wallace (Holley Engineer): Well, I used to go out to do calibration work. Jerry would schedule racing events or calibration events at Willow Springs. This car was outside his shop at Thousand Oaks. And, I had to go run an errand for something and he said, take that car. I thought Jerry was very personable he could talk to anybody. But he was very serious when it comes to racing. Outside of the track or off on the side of the track he was friendly. He wasn’t a lude, I thought he was a great guy.
Curt Richards (Trans Am Prototype Owner): It is a time machine, you know. You look through that windshield when you’re sitting in that car and it’s the time machine. It takes you back you know. It’s the smells, it’s the sounds, it’s the noise. I don’t know how you top it. You know, I really don’t. I’m just part of the story and hopefully, it’ll remain in this type of condition. It’ll always just have my touch on it, and I’ll look forward to seeing it down the road.