Fire Am


Herb Adams is the father of the Fire Am. He was an engineer with Pontiac during the 60s and help develop the handling package that would later be installed on the car that would become the Trans Am. In 1977 he was asked by Pontiac to build a special Trans Am while living within two requirements: 1) Any modifications made had to be modifications that an assembly line could replicate and 2) the car had to capable of handling racing duties and still be streetable at the same time. Pontiac intended to evaluate the finished product and put the changes it liked into future production models. The project was named Fire-Am for Firebird-American. The public reaction to the project was enough that Herb decided to make all the modifications he developed available to the public through a company he would start called VSE, Very Special Equipment, in Pebble Beach, California. Herb offered the parts required to make a Fire-Am only, choosing not to offer an installation service. In order to get one you had to buy or already own a production model Trans Am and then purchase some or all of the pieces. The owner was also left with making the modifications on their own or hiring a professional to do it for them.
Later in 1977 Herb was asked to build eight specialty Trans Ams that would prove how easily TAs could be converted into race cars for competition in the 1977 IROC series (see one of those TAs below). Pontiac hoped the Trans Am would take the Camaro's place in the famous series. The eight TAs were built by modifying factory built cars. Adams' work on these special TAs fathered the WS6 suspension package that would be offered as an option on production TAs.



1977 Fire Am (Y82,W72)
owner: Mike and Peggy Kozar
Featured in the March 07 issue of High Performance Pontiac

Its truly an honor to feature this car on my site. I watched this car undergo an incredible restoration over at Trans Am Country for the better part of 6 months. The restoration, performed by Jason Daughtery from Transformation Restorations, was tracked in the very popular forums over at TAC, something I had never seen before and a testament to the quality of work the individual performing the restoration was willing to perform. The owners are Mike and Peggy Kosar. I had the chance to meet them both at the 2006 Trans Am Nationals, held every year in August in Dayton, Ohio. The Fire Am was there on display fresh off the restoration and this Trans Am will truly take your breath away. Its an incredible car with an incredible history and what was even more gratifying is that I got an opportunity to take these pictures myself.
As I mentioned the car was shown at the 2006 Trans Am Nationals. Mike received the High Performance Pontiac Editor's Choice Award and 2nd in class. The car is incredibly rare and unique and Mike was one of the nicest people I have ever met. I hope you enjoy these pics. Mike writes:

     "The car shown here is a complete 1977 Stage I Fire-Am with some stage II and III parts built by Mike Kozar utilizing many of Herb Adam's components. The TA started life from the factory as a Special Edition black and gold Y82 “Bandit” Trans Am. The Fire Am conversion took place in 1981. This TA got the full suspension kit which included Herb Adams/Moroso 3 way adjustable shocks, larger front and rear sway bars with heim joint linkage and poly-graphite bushings. It features a lowered suspension, retaining factory 15x8 WS6 snowflake wheels shod with P255 60R-15 Goodyear Eagle 1 radials, and sub-frame connectors. Further suspension modifications included cutting the stock front coil springs half a coil and moving the entire front sub-frame assembly up 1 inch. This final modification lowered the front of the car further without limiting travel. The leaf springs in the rear were lowered by moving them upward 3/4" through the use of a specially manufactured bracket.
Also included is a relocated battery for better weight distribution, solid bushing A-arms, aluminum body mount bushings, and front structure kit. The steering features a constant 12:1 ratio gearbox. The clutch linkage for the Hurst 4 speed utilizes a rod end link for smooth operation. Some of the emissions gear was removed and the scoop was opened up and made functional. A worked Pontiac 400 W72 engine breathes through a re-jetted factory Q-Jet carb and exhales through factory Ram Air headers coupled to a 2.5 inch diameter Pypes dual exhaust with an X-crossover.
The car received a full frame-off restoration in 2005 courtesy of Jason Daugherty. All the SE pin striping and the hood featuring the “Bionic Firebird” are painted. Reflective Fire Am graphics on the sail panels, fenders and in the rear finish the scheme.
Flowfit seats in cloth material provide additional support in the interior. The dash highlites include 160 mph speedometer and 8k tach with white gage faces illuminated with blue LED’s."




Orange Fire-Am (14,428 bytes)

Orange Fire-Am (14,450 bytes)

Orange Fire-Am (13,928 bytes)

Orange Fire-Am (14,824 bytes)

Orange Fire-Am (16,911 bytes)
1977 Fire Am (W72)
owner: Chris and Toni Harris
Featured in the March 07 issue of High Performance Pontiac

Toni recently contacted me to let me know they had purchased this Fire-Am from the original owner down in Florida. It now has 46,054 miles on it and is a complete Stage I Fire-Am with some additional components installed from the Stage II and Stage II package. The original 400c.i. engine was built up with a Holley 650 carb, Holley Dominator intake manifold, 180 degree headers, special oil pan designed to fit with the headers and cross-over plugs in cylinder heads to help keep the intake cooler. More mods include a functioning shaker scoop, chrome valve covers, heavy duty radiator and a front-end lowering kit. The engine is mated to a Turbo 350 automatic tranny. Rear end gearing is 3.23.
The interior was outfitted with Corbeau Racing seats, a four-point racing harness, chrome roll bar and an alarm system. Other factory options include A/C, cruise control, power windows and locks, rear console, rear window defroster, tilt steering wheel and tilted windows.
The Trans Am was originally a silver W72 car. The original owner had it converted to a Fire-Am through a local dealership and chose Ford Tangerine Orange for the paint. The special "Fire-Am" logo decals were added. Wheels are period correct Appliance15x8 steel wheels with a zero offset with P255/60R15 Uni-Royal Tiger Paw tires.

Chris and Toni own two other Fire-Ams. The first is the original Fire-Am built by Herb Adams and show to John Schinella as a concept, the '76 Trans Am seen in the article further down the page. I am working to get pics of the restoration of this car. The second is a blue Fire-Am that Chris and Toni have been working to restore. Its currently located in the Project Firebirds Lot #3. I hope to get updated pics of this car soon as well.



Silver '79 Fire Am (52539 bytes)

Silver '79 Fire Am (32895 bytes)

Silver '79 Fire Am (43830 bytes)
1979 Fire Am
owner: Carol Bales

I recently received permission to add this Fire Am to the site. Thanks to the Trans Am Club of Houston (TACH) for letting me show it off here. From TACH:

     "The beautiful Fire Am shown here is a '79 model that was created by Dane Bales, Jr. utilizing many of Herb Adam's components. It features a lowered suspension retaining the factory WS6 Snowflake wheels, subframe connectors, worked 455 HO Pontiac engine, Doug Nash 4+1 manual transmission, Recaro seats recovered in factory hobnail material, Fire Am graphics, and Dane Bales, Jr. made custom headlight covers. We at TACH are proud to have this special Fire Am in our membership paddock. A big thank you to TACHREV member Carol Bales for sharing another fantastic Trans Am with us."



Blue Trans Am

I don't remember where or when I came across this picture but I had it in the '78 lots for a while and I believe it was one of the first images on the site when the site was started back in 1997. Eventually Wayne Stegmiller wrote in and cleared up some of the mystery about the origins of this car. It turned out it was a 1 of 8 built by Herb Adams for SCCA racing. Considering that Herb went on the create his company VSE and the Fire-Ams that would be the product of that company after this short-lived endeavor for Pontiac I thought it was appropriate to place the car here in the Fire Am lots.

Wayne Stegmiller wrote in and provided some very good, and interesting information as to the story behind this car. Wayne writes:

    "While browsing your site, I noticed at the bottom of the page 78lot2 you have a picture of a blue Trans Am that you were speculating about. I have a little information about that car. It is actually a 1977 (It has the honey-comb grills instead of the cross-hatch). It is a 6.6 Herb Adams Experimental Model that is now owned by Pontiac Motor Division (thus the red license plate). The car actually started to be developed by Adams in 1976, and was updated with the new nose in 77. Mods include dry-sumps, oil cooler, solid suspension bushings, chromed roll bars, 180-degree headers, Koni shocks, Pontiac 8 inch wide aluminum wheels, 4-wheel disc brakes, high-effort steering, shortened springs, stiffer sway bars, special seats, and competition harness. This car is one of 8. Pontiac wanted Adams to build 8 specially prepared Trans Ams suitable for SCAA road racing. Pontiac wanted to do a celebrity match race with similarly prepared cars. But SCAA wanted a lot of money to go ahead with it, and the 8 cars never did hit the track. These cars lead Herb Adams to start a company, VSE (Very Special Equipment), which specialized in F-Body performance. They created the Fire Am and a special Camaro (whose name escapes me right now). The main source for this is Firebird! America's Premier Performance Car, The Complete History by Gary L. Witzenburg, Automobile Quarterly Publications  c1982. It's one of my favorite books regarding the Firebird and I heartily recommend it."

Best regards,
Wayne Stegmiller

If anyone has any further information to offer on these special TAs or has pictures of them to add to the site please contact me via e-mail.

Photo courtesy of Mark Allbaugh.



Herb Adams racing a Fire Am (36810 bytes)

Herb Adams racing a Fire Am (34283 bytes)
These are photos of Herb Adams himself driving one of his Fire Ams in a road racing competition. I don't know which race it was or how he did. If anyone has any info about these pics or the race send me an email: (remove the "1" before sending)

Cam Roberson writes in and provides the following:

     "He raced it at the 24-hour race at Daytona, where the car had run 19 hours at more than 150 MPH but it then broke down. but it was an impressive showing considering had been driven to the race from Michigan."

John  Hoffman writes in and provides the following:

     "The pics of the Fire Am were taken at the 24 hrs of Daytona in '79. The car was driven to the race from Michigan and finished the race. I'm not sure where it placed. The same car was entered in the Cannonball Baker Sea to Shining Sea Memorial Race (Also known as the Cannonball Run) later the same year. It was plagued by mechanical problems and didn't finish. I'm sure you could round up all the particulars. Pretty cool stuff huh?"

While both accounts above are accurate in that this car was raced at the 24 Hours of Daytona its obvious these pictures were not taken at the track so if anyone knows where this racing was conducted let me know!!

Thanks to Steve Chin who took these photos for allowing us to display them. He originally posted them on his own website located here.



Fire-Am Ad (134229 bytes) This is an ad taken from the December 1979 issue of Hot Rod Magazine. The basic intent of the ad was to make these cars known to the public and to advertise the fact that the Fire-Am was now publicly available through Pontiac dealer showrooms. The VSE (Very Special Equipment) package was offered initially as an upgrade package through Herb Adams own company. Beginning sometime around the publication of this magazine Herb entered into an agreement with the Michigan based company Cars & Concepts to build Fire-Ams for Pontiac by installing the VSE package before delivery to the dealer. A situation similar to Pontiacs recent arrangements with SLP.



Fire-Am Ad (31627 bytes)

Fire-Am Ad (30254 bytes)

Fire-Am Ad (26500 bytes)
These pics are shots from the May 1978 Motor Trend. They feature a 1976 Trans Am that has been converted to a Fire-Am. I believe 1976 was the first year the Fire-Ams were produced. These early modified units would lead to the production units in 1978 and 1979. The Trans Am pictured was a complete Fire-Am built by Herb Adams and was provided to Motor Trend for evaluation. It featured Corbeau racing seats, a chrome roll bar, 180 degree headers, a single 3" exhaust that exited in front of the right rear wheel, a battery re-located to the trunk, and a Holley Dominator carburetor, intake manifold and fuel pump. One of the more interesting modifications to the car was the installation of an aluminum tank in the vacated spot left by the battery that formed a dry sump system, which is an external container that takes over oil storage duties from the oil pan. A belt connected to the crankshaft pulley drove the pump. The system was installed to prevent oil starvation during prolonged hard cornering, a problem Motor Trend describes as, "a weak point in the TA engine that needed to be corrected to allow the engine to survive the stresses of competition."
All the emissions gear was removed from this TA and the scoop was opened up and made functional. This TA also got the full suspension kit which included Koni shocks, larger front and rear sway bars, machined steel bushings, and 15x8 wheels shod with HR 60x15 Goodyear GT radials. Further suspension modifications included cutting the stock front coil springs half a coil and moving the entire front sub-frame assembly up 1"! This final modification lowered the front of the car further without limiting travel but did require modification of the fender whells to achieve proper tire clearance. The leaf springs in the rear were lowered by moving them upward 3/4" through the use of a specially manufactured bracket. Finally the braking system was modified to improve cooling and stock equipment was replaced with full metallic racing linings.

Thanks to Steve Robertson for providing me with a scan of this article and identifying it!!



White '79 Fire Am (66776 bytes)

White '79 Fire Am (51055 bytes)

White '79 Fire Am (65545 bytes)

White '79 Fire Am (60258 bytes)

White '79 Fire Am (55723 bytes)
Pat Gibbons recently acquired this amazingly rare Fire Am and is planning a restoration for it. Pat writes:

     "Here are some pics of my Fire-Am. I just bought it off my uncle a few weeks ago. Its in a very early stage of restoration. I don't know too much about this car except for its very rare. If you have any more info about this car please email me back. This is what I do know about it:

-403ci with a TH400
-The hood scoop is opened up
-Chrome Roll Cage
-Recaro Racing seats
-15x8 Honeycomb wheels

I do have everything to put this car back together to make it completely original. If you know anywhere I can get a new hood bird for this car PLEASE email me back!! I hope to have it on the road by summer of 2003."

 Pat Gibbons

Pat if you see this, I no longer have a valid e-mail address for you!!! Please contact me.



Blue '78 Fire Am (54374 bytes)

Blue '78 Fire Am (40308 bytes)

Blue '78 Fire Am (71145 bytes)

Blue '78 Fire Am (85427 bytes)

Blue '78 Fire Am (83057 bytes)

Toni Harris is working to restore this incredibly rare Fire-Am. Toni sent me the following details shortly after purchasing the car:

     "Jimmy, the car has finally come home to Indiana and is awaiting restoration while we do some fancy 'title work'.  As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait :). We brought it home last week from Colorado Springs to Indiana and now after much reading and phone conversations, here's what we found out about the car pictured on your website:

Here's the information we can definitely CONFIRM:
By the VIN and Cowl tags, the car is a 1976 and was originally white with a navy blue interior.  It came with a 400/4spd combination from the factory. We've already ordered a vehicle history report from Pontiac to see what other information we can glean from the sheer 'numbers'. The car has been very carefully painted black as well as the interior being completely changed/dyed black to match. The front end as you can see has been changed to a 77-78 and the blue bionic bird added with matching side decals. 

Here's what we're still trying to CONFIRM:
We still don't know why the front end was changed nor the color of the interior/exterior changed as well.  There is speculation that this car was what Herb Adams VSE coined the 'research car' that was used for all the magazine road tests and that during one of these 'tests' the car had been returned wrecked sometime in 77-78.  Due to either the availability of body parts during these years or to better promote the VSE products, they put a new front end on the car.  We are still gathering information about the car, but a previous owner told us over the phone that he purchased the car from Jerry Bishop, whom co-financed the VSE company with Herb Adams.

Well, now you know about as much as we do about the car.  I'll forward more information as it comes along with photos once we really sink into it. Also, on your website you state that the car has a five speed.  How did you come to that conclusion?  Because of the weather we've been unable to really look at the car closely, and the shifter knob wasn't with the car when we picked it up.  I was hoping maybe you could remember..."

Your observations would be greatly appreciated! :)

Thanks so much,
Toni Harris

Webmaster's Note: Recently another person who is/was heavy into collecting the Macho TAs contacted me with some information on this car. The following information was provided by Chris Putzi:

     "That car is probably the rarest Trans Am ever. It is Fire Am #1 of 8 built by Herb Adams for Pontiac motors. It was originally a white '76 T/A with a black not blue interior. It was wrecked by a certain magazine during a test drive, when it was returned to Herb Adams he installed the new at the time '77 front end and repainted the car black. Options on the car included body bushings removed and body welded to frame, front brake cooling kit, Tarantula intake with 850 Holley, unique 6 into one exhaust that exited under the driver door, 4-point roll cage, remote oil cooler and filter. The eight snowflake wheels are ORIGINAL to the car, the very first Trans Am to get them and the only '76 to get them! In my possession is the original carb, roll bar, oil cooler, owners manual... The car did belong to Jerry Bishop and I may still have some contact info. This car lead directly to the development of the WS6 package. Truly a super rare car, wish I had it back. I may still have some earlier photos of the car, I'll look. Also the car was equipped with a 400, 4 speed with a 3.23 posi and also came with fiberglass seats and 5-point harness', which I think I still have!"

Webmaster's Note:
Thankfully I have once again re-established contact with Toni and she sent me the following update on this rare Fire Am:

     "Hi Jimmy - I wish I could give you news of some real progress, but we've been battening down the financial hatches so to speak along with trying to finish a previously started '81 Formula. The original plan was to finish the Formula to sell to go toward the Fire Am while gathering NOS parts for the 76 restore. This is still underway. We have acquired a very nice set of quarters for the car, but still need some NOS fenders and of course the interior pieces. Amazingly the drive train of the car is there, with numbers matching engine. We're still looking for a moon tank for the dry sump system as was originally on the car, as well as the battery relocation kit from VSE. We knew it would take some time, but like little kids before Christmas its not going fast enough. I'll have to forward some pictures of both the Orange 77 and the Black 76 in its present condition so you can post some updates."



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