The Tale of the Tail-less Trans Am

Note: This article contains no spoilers.

Have you ever seen a Trans Am without it's signature front and rear spoilers? Chances are you haven't but Tran-Zam has confirmed their existence. These cars would be extremely rare today, probably even more rare than the documentation that proves their existence.

Pontiac Firebird options are well documented, particularly on this site, but there is far less knowledge about the Delete option list. It has been rumored for years that a Trans Am could be ordered from the factory without the rear spoiler. After extensive research there is evidence to support that this rumor is true. There is even some dealer literature that verifies that there were Trans Ams built without front or rear spoilers. People who have seen one have called it a "plucked chicken" but others, perhaps James Rockford fans, can appreciate the more subtle variant. To each his own. Certainly there is no right or wrong when it comes to the second generation Trans Am. The design usually evokes either love or hate from casual observers. Tran-Zam had obtained factory evidence of spoiler-less Trans Ams built for Japanese export and some evidence that models may have been equipped without spoilers for the American market. Still other people have commented that they saw European exports without spoilers or with a smaller rubber spoiler. There are many unanswered questions but here is what we know.

The Japanese Export Market

We do know that the Trans Am was advertised to the Japanese export market without spoilers. A blue Trans Am without front or rear spoilers, or rear wheel spats, was featured in the 1980 General Motors Japanese brochure. This car is shown here and also featured chrome external rear view mirrors (not the standard GM bullet style), and chrome side marker lights that extended outward from the body, and white wall tires of all things. Another Japanese brochure featured a spoiler-free 1980 Special Edition Trans Am, show below in the 1980 GM Japanese Brochure section.

Originally the thought was that the removal of the spoilers on the Japanese export was a legal requirement imposed by the Japanese government but this is easily disproven as a Chevrolet Camaro and a Z/28 are show in the same brochure equipped with spoilers (see inset and documentation below). It is more likely that Pontiac thought the Trans Am without ground effects would have greater appeal to the Japanese aesthetic.

To answer some of these uncommon questions we delved into the Pontiac Parts Manual. The parts manual is never definitive when it comes to options or features but can sometimes offer clues as to how the factory built Trans Ams. In this case the parts manual seems to offer some insight on the Japanese export options. For each Trans Am spoiler decal the parts manual list "EXC VE1.' Option VE1 is listed as Japanese Modifications(Export). This exception is listed only for part #s 10003737 and 10006157. the blue and red (orange) TRANS AM spoiler graphics for 1979 respectively. No export exclusions are listed for any other decal colors or any other year. Listed elsewhere in the parts manual are TRANS AM rear bumper decals in blue and charcoal (silver). The part numbers for the rear bumper decals are the same as the small front bumper decals. Rear bumper decals TRANS AM PONTIAC are also listed for 1980 in Gold, Red, Charcoal, and Burgundy. This does not match a front bumper decal part number because bumper TRANS AM graphics were not used in 1980.

Another clue may be found in the 1980 Firebird Assembly Manual. The insert below shows placement for a TRANS AM decal on a spoilerless rear bumper.
Rear Decal placement from the 1980 Firebird Assemble Manual
This decal was never installed on any rear bumper of any Trans Am of any year because it was redundant to the large spoiler lettering. The assembly manual has no indication that this decal was for export, but that is not surprising.

American Spoiler-Less Birds

To add to the rumors, the question remains whether a Trans Am could be ordered in the US without a spoiler. A lost article somewhere I read stated that a 1981 Z/28 could be ordered without a rear spoiler. Would this rumor also apply to the Trans Am? Well, you know how rumors are but there is an indication that Trans Am may have been available in 1981 without a rear spoiler. This rudimentary evidence is listed in the Pontiac Parts Manual where a TRANS AM PONTIAC decal is listed as being for installation on the rear deck lid w/VP4 (i.e. with option VP4). The larger spoiler decals are shown as "EXC VP4." There is no reference to option VP4 in the Options section of the parts manual or any other reference in the Tran-Zam library but it certainly looks like whatever option VP4 was it was for Trans Ams without rear spoilers. The rear bumper decals are the same part numbers as the front bumper counterparts and were listed for the first design orange, charcoal, blue, and red. The "EXC VP4" is also shown on the parts listings for front spoilers and rear wheel opening spats, indicating that these items were also omitted with option VP4. While not a good options reference it is hard to conceive that the editor of this particular model made up option VP4 and added the notations to indicate that it was for a Trans Am with no spoiler.

We have probably caused more questions than we answered but the debate can rage on. Check out our Facebook page and comment.

The 1980 GM Japanese Brochure

Click on any image to enlarge
Examples shown on this page consist of scanned images or reproduction artwork that can not be faithfully reproduced on a computer screen. Illustrations are for example only. Consult with your vendors offerring reproduction parts for their historical accuracy.