Tag Archives: Trans Am

The 2021 Trans Am Nationals

The year 2021 marks the 36th Trans Am Nationals. It’s a three-day celebration for all Pontiac Firebirds hosted by the Dayton Chapter of the Trans Am Club of America. This year it was held from August 27th through the 29th.

It takes place at the Dayton Holiday Inn in Fairborn, Ohio, which is on the eastern side of the city of Dayton. I’ve been coming to the Nationals for years now, and I always have a great time. It’s fun to see what new cars show up.

On Thursday and Friday, a movie theater on the southeast side of Dayton had screenings of Smokey and the Bandit (naturally).

The Car Show

Firebirds, Formulas, and Trans Ams fill the parking lot around the Holiday Inn. The 35 years of the Pontiac Firebird are well represented. The rumble of cars and music from the DJ fills the air. You’ll find everything from showroom stock to custom Firebirds.

The classes are divided up by years, as well as the level of modification. A car is considered “modified,” “heavily modified,” or “custom,” based on the number of modifications it has. There are several Concours classes and a driver/work-in-progress class as well.

The categories the cars are judged on include the interior, exterior, engine compartment, as well as the overall appearance. On Sunday, the winners of the show are announced and presented with their trophies.

This year the show had 494 Firebirds registered, up from the 485 at the last show in 2019. This year, the Nationals also raised over $10,000 for the A Special Wish Foundation. This charity helps grant the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses. The Nationals have supported the A Special Wish Foundation for years now. You can learn more about the charity on their website.

The Seminars

On Saturday, there were several seminars. There was a presentation by people involved with the engineering and design of the Firebird, Trans Am, and Camaro. They told some great stories about working at GM in the 60s and 70s under icons like John DeLorean.

They discussed the evolution of the iconic “Screaming Chicken” design evolved from the logo used on 50’s GM experimental cars to possibly the world’s most famous hood decal. A radical design element at the time, the hood decal faced pushback from factory higher-ups. There were concerns over the perceived difficulty of installing them in large quantities.

The “Screaming Chicken” design printed on film.

The aluminum Snowflake Wheel’s creation was also covered, including the design process, and the pitch meeting that set it into production.

The Mini Nats

Like the full-size show, there’s always something new at the Mini Nats too. The Mini Nats is a room in the hotel filled with model Firebirds and Trans Ams in a variety of scales.

There’s everything from plastic model kits to die cast replicas. Tables are covered with Firebird, Formula, and Tran Am models, some decades old and others still in the box. In addition, an incredible scale model of the host Holiday Inn was on display, complete with model Firebirds surrounding it.

Tipp City Cruise In

Located just outside of Dayton, the Tipp City Cruise In draws hundreds of Firebirds. It’s been a part of the Trans Am Nationals for years. Saturday afternoon, hundreds of Firebirds make the drive from the Holiday Inn to Tipp City, a city with just under 10,000 residents. The entire downtown area is shut down for the cars.

A late 70’s Trans Am with stunning custom paint and wheels in Tipp City.

Firebirds fill the main street and parts of side streets. Restaurants around town are filled to the brim, and a band performed on one end of town. The downtown is made up old brick buildings that are great for photo-ops, especially when surrounded by cars.

Lambo doors and a custom air intake make a statement on this wild third-gen Trans Am.

More Info

For more information on the Trans Am Nationals, you can check out the official website at tanationals.org. You can visit the website for the Trans Am Club of America, Dayton Chapter, the club responsible for putting on the Nationals at tacadcinc.com.

Also, check out my blog posts about the 2019 Trans Am Nationals and the 2018 Trans Am Nationals. Been to the Trans Am Nationals, or know of a car event I should attend next? Let me know in the comments!

The 2019 Trans Am Nationals.

               This August I went to the 35th Annual Trans Am Nationals in Fairborn, Ohio. Although I was only able to attend on Saturday and Sunday, I was able to see a lot of stuff and got to go to the Tipp City Cruise. The Cruise is considered a highlight of the event by many. This year there were 485 cars. According to one person who was attending the record was around 600 back in 2002. Although it was a little off from the all-time high, it is still impressive considering that in 2002 the Pontiac Trans Am was still in production.
The 1971 Pontiac Pegasus.
               This year was unique in that the GM Heritage Center had brought several Pontiac Firebird concept cars from Detroit. This was a rare opportunity to see these cars as the Center is not open to the public, although large groups can arrange a visit. They included the Banshee, a red on red concept car with a longer, sleeker hood then production models. The Pontiac Pegasus, a V-12 Ferrari-Powered 1971 Firebird. The K Type Trans Am station wagon concept car was also in attendance. There was also an unveiling of the nearly completely restored Silverbird racecar, as well as the actual 1989 Trans Am used to pace the Indianapolis 500. There was a huge 1989 Turbo Pace Car turn out as it was the 30th anniversary for them. Several high-ranking Pontiac engineers were in attendance as well who helped shape the Trans Am in its early days of production in the ’60s and ’70s.
The Pontiac Banshee concept car.

               It was amazing seeing cars in person that I had only seen pictures of in books or magazines. The Pegasus was beautiful with its deep red paint. The body differed significantly from a production Firebird. The interior had been modified as well. The Banshee was also radically modified from a stock Firebird. Not only was the front of the car sleeker, but the doors had also been modified enough that that traditional full side windows had to be substituted with a much smaller one, like the kind seen on a DeLorean. There was also extensive pinstriping done as well, which makes sense as the car is from the mid-’70s. The other concept car was the Trans Am Type K. I had seen it years ago when the show was located at a nearby airport back in 2006. The Trans Am Type K is unique in that it is a station wagon prototype. It features redesigned rear seats, giving backseat occupants more room. It also has a lower rearview mirror to counter the changed rear visibility. A station wagon may seem like an odd choice for a Trans Am concept car, however, in the late ’70s, the Trans Am was a big enough seller that GM could afford to try something different. The sleek Silverbird was cool in a book and awe-inspiring in person. It was the brainchild of Pontiac engineer turned racecar driver and designer Herb Adams. It’s custom body mounted on a race car tube frame made it stand out from production models. It was very cool to see them all side-by-side.

The Pontiac Trans Am Type K concept car.
               
                The Tipp City Cruise was always fun. It was nice seeing the hundreds of Firebirds and Trans Ams converge and park around the beautiful downtown area. There is a separate award ceremony for the Tipp City Cruise, as well as a DJ. On Sunday, I was able to check out more cars and go to the Mini Nationals, located in a room at the hotel. The Mini Nationals is always fun to see. It is an entire room filled with die-cast and plastic model kit Firebirds and Trans Ams representing many different scales, both unboxed and still in the original box. There were also some dioramas set up as well. Several people had brought large collections of cars to it.
A 1969 Pontiac Trans Am. The first year for the Trans Am.
               On Sunday a charity auction was held. Some of the items auctioned off for the charity event were a slot car set autographed by several of the Pontiac engineers in attendance. It was a great show that took a lot of effort to pull off, but the staff did an amazing job making sure everything ran smoothly. It was great catching up with old friends and meeting new people. I’m looking forward to seeing what new things are there next year.
A large collection at the Mini Nationals.
One of the many 1989 Turbo Trans Ams at the show.

The 2018 Trans Am Nationals

The 2018 Trans Am Nationals.
                The Trans Am Nationals, on its 34th year, is held annually near Dayton, Ohio. For the last several years it has been held at a hotel in Fairborn, Ohio. It is open to all Pontiac Firebirds. This year there were almost 400 Firebirds. It starts on Friday, and goes on till Sunday, with an optional meet up at a dragstrip several miles away on Thursday. It is made up of a car show with judging, auctions, a swap meet, cars for sale, and a vendor’s row. There is also the “Mini Nats” which was comprised of a wide variety of model Firebirds, spanning several decades and scales that filled an entire room.
Trans Am at the Hotel.
The hotel, which is located right off of the interstate, could be described as a college town. Just across the road from the hotel is Write State University. Surrounding the hotel are various restaurants and strip malls. I arrived around 2 in the afternoon. Went through the tech inspection and got my car washed with the hose the hotel had left out for the show cars. Later in the evening, we got dinner at a restaurant/brewery called the Wandering Griffin just down a side road not far from the hotel. The parking lot there formed a miniature car show. Even after dark people hang around outside their cars, inside at the hotel restaurant/bar there was karaoke. The second day had several seminars, as well as the Tipp City Cruise. The judging for the Nationals takes place on Saturday and Sunday and is divided up into several classes, in regards to year, extent (if any) of modification, as well as a driver/work in progress class and a concours class. The concours judging involves a far more detailed inspection of cars that what is normally performed in other classes. In the concours judging tent, it’s not usual to see a judge lying on the ground to get a view of the underside of a car.   
A group of second generation Trans Am’s.
Tipp City is a small city located just north of Dayton, Ohio. Its small downtown makes up the main drag and continues for a short distance down a few side streets. The main drag is actually a state highway, making the fact the entire thing gets closed down extra impressive. The Tipp City Cruise had its own awards. Ongoing to the Tipp City cruise; we were instructed to take a “scenic route”. There was construction on the main highway to Tipp City, and they had wanted us to enter the city opposite of the main highway. The route took us on the main highway, where we turned off far before the state highway that runs through downtown Tipp City where the site of the cruise is. After turning off the main highway, the road to Tipp City winds through fields, small towns, and rolling hills until it arrives there. The main street and side roads were filled with Trans Am’s and Firebirds. The restaurants in the town (although it is technically a city it gives a small town vibe) were packed. There were several groups that were selling food as well. We left out a little after noon on Sunday. I had a great time; I really look forward to returning next year.
A variety of Trans Am’s arriving at the Tipp City Cruise.