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for all year Firebirds and Trans Ams  

including Formulas, GTAs and Firehawks
Established in 1984


 

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THE MAKING OF THE BIRD

by Jeff Denison
this is an excerpt from the articles appearing in the EAGLE

The 1970 Pontiac Trans Am was one of the most aggressive looking cars ever to roll out of Detroit. It was also virtually an all-new car carrying over only the drive train from the previous year. There was a very important new Trans Am design cue conceived for the 1970 Trans Am; the famous hood bird graphic.

Recently, I sat down with Bill Porter, the Chief Designer of the 1970 Firebird (he's now a Chief Designer at Buick), and Ted Schroeder, the designer who put the Trans Am package together for 1970, (now a Chief Designer for Chevrolet). We discussed how the design for the giant hood bird, often referred to today as the Screaming Chicken, came about. Bill Porter talked about two 1970 Trans Am show cars that were being built: a bright white one at Design Staff, and a racing blue one at Pontiac's prototype facility at Pontiac Engineering. Both of these cars were to receive the hood bird graphic -- a white one on the blue car and a blue one on the white car -- traditional racing colors without the traditional racing stripes. No one is sure who came up with the idea for the huge bird decal, but Ted remembers drawing it up and sending it to Design Staff's graphic department, where a graphic designer named Norm Inouye (pronounced In-o-way) laid out the actual artwork before sending it to 3M Corp. to produce the prototype decals.

Bill Mitchell, GM Vice President and head of Design Staff, always kept up-to-date with current projects. While walking through the paint department one day, he noticed the finished Trans Am with the hood bird. He hated it and immediately called Porter on the phone, yelling that the car had an Indian blanket on the hood, that it looked like a Macy's truck (a rolling billboard), and to get the damned thing off immediately!

Bill Mitchell had a way with words and the authority to https://fochal.com/forms/fborder.htm them up, so there was no turning https://fochal.com/forms/fborder.htm. The hood bird graphic was a dead issue for the time being; a bold single blue or white stripe would run the length of the 1970 Trans Am, with a small bird at the edge of the bumper.

In 1971, Bill Porter moved on to another studio, and John Schinella became Chief Designer responsible for the Firebird. The racing colors of blue and white would run through the 1972 model year on the Trans Am. The new colors for 1973 were Buccaneer Red and Brewster Green -- Cameo White would remain in the color selection, and Lucerne Blue was dropped. John took one of the prototype decals 3M had made, changed the color, and put it on a red prototype 1973 Trans Am. He literally took it to the streets, driving it up and down Woodward Avenue, talking to the car guys at each stop. Everyone overwhelmingly liked the hood bird.

Now came the tough part. Schinella knew the hood bird graphic was a winner but he had to sell it to management. At first, Pontiac General Manager James McDonald wasn't impressed with the hood bird presentation, but he agreed to go along with the Design Staff proposal if Mitchell was behind it.

John knew that Bill Mitchell liked the black-and-gold John Player Special paint scheme, so he had a black prototype 1973 Trans Am made up with a gold foil hood bird graphic and gold pinstripes. No one can remember if this particular Trans Am had a Super Duty 455 or not, but if Bill Mitchell used it as his regular car, it probably did. Bill already had some of his motorcycles painted in a similar fashion. By pitching the hood bird to Mitchell in a color combination he already liked, Schinella sold him on the idea and the hood bird was finally born.

The hood bird would go on to become an icon, one that would identify the Trans Am for the rest of the second generation's production run. When the 1982 Trans Ams arrived at the dealerships in late 1981, the legendary hood bird and shaker scoop went into the history books -- gone but certainly not forgotten.

The author wishes to thank Bill Porter, Tom Peloguin, Ted Schroeder and John Schinella of GM Design Center.

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