My favorite all time classic Trans Am is the first offering from Pontiac in 1969. It’s even better with the Ram Air IV option.
My friend thinks the 1970 455 HD 4 speed car is the one to have. I love both of those cars, but who can afford them? For me the most bangs for the buck in a Pontiac TA is the 1979 model year.
Although I’m biased on this subject, because I owned one, give me a chance to prove my point. I’ve included higher resolution full size pictures at the bottom of my personal TA.
This wasn’t my first car, but it was my favorite. The 6.6 L and the shaker hood could have something to do with my opinion. One of the interesting things about the 79 model is it’s the last year you could get a big block in a Trans Am.
Meanwhile over at Chevrolet the biggest engine offering in the sister car Z28 Camaro was a 350 cubic inch small block.
Bone stock my TA ran a 13.50 at the Atco New Jersey race track on street night. After I made a few minor modifications the car would run a 13 flat all day long.
Some of the notable mods included an Edelbrock aluminum intake, large diameter exhaust, headers, and a Holly 780 dual feed double pump four barrel spread bore carburetor. Here’s a useful tip from this certified mechanic to you.
If you want to boost items on the induction side to increasing fuel flow, you must keep things balanced by also increasing exhaust efficiency. The only thing my Pontiac needed to run twelves was a hotter cam shaft and slicks.
I owned the car for about four years and never had any major problems with it. Nevertheless, I did have some notable and common problems that I’ll share with you, but for the most part they were self-inflicted.
I took this Trans Am into a stereo shop and had a mega stereo system installed. They mounted an amplifier in the trunk and drilled holes straight into the top side of my gas tank. The first time I filled the tank after the stereo install the trunk filled with gas and the car stunk inside for months.
I tried using a specialized fuel tank patch kit to make the needed repairs. However, eventually I had to replace the entire tank because the patch would not hold.
If you decide to try patching a fuel tank let me give you a heads up. Some of the putty wound up in the gas tank and made its way into the small paper fuel filter mounted at the carburetor inlet. This caused a severe and hard to find hesitation.
As you can see from the above picture my Trans Am was repainted the original silver color. However, I couldn’t come up with the funds to put the bird back on the hood.
The hood decal of the flaming chicken is expensive. Also the self installation scared me. You only get one shot at installing the one piece giant decal.
What Killed the Trans Am
The newer the T/A the cooler it looked. It had more ground effects and style with each passing year until the next generation in 1984.
Unfortunately, in 1980 the biggest engine you could get was a 4.9 L which is basically a Pontiac 301 CID.
Although these engines had a little get up and go it was far from impressive. Pontiac slapped on a turbocharger and produced the Turbo Trans Am. Turbochargers and carburetors are not a good match, because of low fuel pressure coming in around 6psi and low boost.
With only about 4 psi of total boost it didn’t help much either. The weak turbochargers were known for leaking oil internally and this caused massive smoke emission from the tailpipes. This again makes the 1979 T/A the sweet spot for style and power.
The weak sub-frame body killed my classic Trans Am. The design strength became even weaker thanks to the factory T-top option.
After I borrowed a set of slicks the 6.6 L V-8 Trans Am broke into the upper 12 second range in the 1/4 mile. The massive torque caused all kinds of problems again self-inflicted.
The first time I ran it with slicks it busted the engine bracket and motor mount. The fiberglass shaker scoop cracked like an egg against the side of the hood when it let loose.
After replacing parts and fixing the hood I installed a torque strap attaching the engine to the frame. When the car launched on the next run the windshield cracked. Obviously, the car wasn’t as strong as the engine.
There is a fix for this problem. You have to weld and bolt in a set of sub frame connectors. This reinforces the flimsy sub frames. In fact, it actually pulls them together for added strength.
In my opinion this is a must have upgrade that tackles the weakest part of this generation Firebird and Trans Am cars. Here’s a link to the Hotchkis Sub-Frame connector kit for Firebird and Camaro 1974-81 on the right.
Big blocks and sub-frame construction didn’t work well in the 70’s. These things help the problem. So after replacing the windshield I ran the car a few more times and it turned in respectable times of between 12.50 and 12.75 quarter-mile.
On the car’s last run I heard a metal ripping sound and a pop. The sheet metal between the 2 glass T-top openings started to rip. I pulled the headliner down and saw it went all the way through.
Cutting away the roof for factory T-tops weakens the structure of any automobile. This is when I decided my classic Trans Am would no longer visit the race track on street night.
Fondest Memories of My Classic T/A 6.6L
There’s no doubt that the 1979 Trans Am is Cool. Case in point, my friends and I were at a drive-in on a Saturday night and a hot girl came walking up and said, is this your car?
I said yes it is. She said, would you like to take me for a ride. I said yes I would. This girl was way out of my league and she made me suffer for the next seven years.
It was the first and last time a hot girl walked up to me and asked for a ride. Another fond memory I have is when I first got the car. Me and a friend pulled up to a stoplight on a long empty stretch of highway.
The year was 1987 and the rich kids in the neighboring town were all getting Mustang GT’s for graduation presents. One of these kids pulled up next to us at the stoplight and said I’m going to kick your butt. Well that’s the PG version of the conversation.
My friend looked at me and said, you can’t beat a Mustang with an old Trans Am.
The light turned green and all that Mustang could see was my Pontiac taillights. The 1979 Trans Am with a 6.6 L could kick the butt of a Mustang GT with ease.
Another special piece of information about my 79 T/A is the engine displacement. It did have a 6.6 L, but it wasn’t the Pontiac 400. It came from the factory with the Oldsmobile 403.
A lot of people think the Pontiac 400 motor is the one to have. This isn’t true. The 403 Oldsmobile made the same amount of stock horsepower, but more foot pounds of torque than the 400 motor. I never lost to a 400 CID T/A so that’s proof enough for me.
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Nothing makes me happier than talking about any classic Trans Am. Nothing makes me sadder than to think the future of the TA is now discontinued with the closing of Pontiac.