The Trans Am was a specialty package for the Firebird, typically upgrading handling, suspension, and horsepower, as well as minor appearance modifications such as exclusive hoods, spoilers, and wheels. In using the name Pontiac Trans AM, a registered trademark, GM agreed to pay $5 per car sold to the SCCA. Four distinct generations were produced between 1969 and 2002. These cars were built on the F-body platform, which was also shared by the Chevrolet Camaro.
The first generation was available only in 1969. The second generation was available from 1970 to 1981 and was featured in the 1977 movie Smokey and the Bandit. The third generation Pontiac Trans AM, available from 1982 to 1992, was featured in the 1984 movie Alphabet City. KITT, the automotive star of the popular 1980s TV series Knight Rider, was a modified third generation Trans Am. The fourth generation TPontiac Trans AM, available from model years 1993 to 2002, offered between 275 and 325 horsepower.
Although the Pontiac Trans Am nameplate was discontinued along with the Firebird in 2002, the body is still used in the IROC Racing Series.
Firebirds were used in the Trans-Am series in the 1960s and 1970s. When the Pontiac Trans Am came out, there was controversy over the model's inability to compete in the Pontiac Trans Am because the smallest available engine was too large for use in the series at 400 cubic inches (6.6 liters). The name also caused controversy because it was used without permission from the SCCA, who threatened suit. GM settled the dispute by paying US$5 to the SCCA for every car sold. When the Pontiac Trans Am was last seen, model year 2002 Firebirds were in use. Firebirds have been used in the IROC Series for a number of years.
During the 1996 and 1997 NHRA seasons, 14-time Funny Car champion John Force used a Firebird body to replace the obsolete Oldsmobile Cutlass body he had used since 1986. He used it for two seasons, winning the championship in both years.