Poor Man’s Pace Car: 1979 Pontiac Trans Am 403/WS6 Project – Sold!
February 23rd Update: while exercising our project ’84 Eldorado Biarritz on an unseasonably warm and sunny Jersey February, we were able to stop by and check out this 1979 Trans Am for ourselves. We’ve added 44 pictures beyond what the seller provides in his Craigslist post. First, the VIN: 2W87K9L197287, confirms this is a real ’79 Trans Am built in the Van Nuys, California plant originally equipped with the 403 cubic inch Oldsmobile engine. This is very well optioned “Poor Man’s Pace Car” with a silver exterior matched with the combination oyster and grey interior. Additional options include power windows, power locks, cruise control (which was not available with the W72 Pontiac 400), factory air conditioning, and most importantly it appears to be equipped with the WS6 package as the door handles have a faded “four-wheel disc brake” label. Our undercarriage photos confirm it to be a four-wheel disc brake car. While you need to plan on replacing everything but the key in the interior of this project car, the body, floors, and subframe are rock solid. While perhaps not as desirable as a W72 equipped model, we say have the heads milled during the engine rebuild to bump up the compression, change out the ridiculous 2:73 gear set out back, keep everything else stock and you’ll have one nice well-optioned Trans Am that will be even more fun than when new. Good luck with the purchase!
Scour Craigslist every day as much as we do and sometimes you’ll immediately recognize a car you see on a regular basis. That’s exactly the case with this 1979 Pontiac Trans Am originally listed in February 2020 near Clinton, New Jersey as we have been passing this car regularly for nearly ten years. That said, we’ve always thought it was one of the 7,500 Tenth Anniversary Trans Ams, however our visit to see the car and decode it VIN confirmed this example is a regular Trans AM, albeit a very well-optioned example in silver. If it turns out to be, based on the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool the private seller has this project car in need of complete restoration priced $6,500 less than the #4 Fair (Daily Driver) estimate of $12,700. If you are serious about purchasing this Trans Am project, you can start the conversation by calling the seller Ron at (908) 303-3158.
By 1979 while the wild popularity of the original Smokey and The Bandit movie fueled the Trans Am’s popularity, Pontiac’s pony car became the last American performance automobile available with a “big block” V8 engine as the emissions regulations and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (“CAFE”) standards made it difficult for GM to certify the engines any longer. Production of Pontiac’s 400 cubic inch and Oldsmobile’s 403 cubic inch V8s actually ended in 1978 with enough produced that year to supply 1979 car production as well. Pontiac announced and marketed the fact 1979 would be the final year of “6.6 Litre” equipped Trans Ams with great success.
Pontiac could not certify its 400 cubic inch 6.6 Liter V8 in California, so all Trans Ams such as this example sold there came equipped with Oldsmobile’s 403 cubic inch big block mated to a TurboHydramatic 350 automatic transmission. This powertrain was also the 49-state option for anyone wanting a Trans Am with equipped with an automatic. The only way consumers who wanted their new Trans Am powered by Pontiac’s T/A 6.6 W72 400 engine was to order it with the four-speed Borg Warner Super T-10 manual transmission. The easiest way to spot the difference on a stock example before looking inside or under the hood is on the shaker hood scoop: 400-equipped cars had a “6.6 Litre” label while W72-equipped cars sported a “T/A 6.6 Litre” decal.
Pontiac revised the Firebird’s front end by moving the grille inlets lower on the front bumper and spreading the four square headlights near the top. 1979 also marked the 10th anniversary of the Trans Am. A limited-edition anniversary package was made available: platinum silver paint with charcoal gray upper paint accents and mirrored t-tops, and a special interior featuring silver leather seats with custom-embroidered Firebird emblems and aircraft-inspired red lighting for the gauges. The 10th-anniversary cars also featured special 10th-anniversary decals, including a Firebird hood decal that extended off of the hood and onto the front fenders. Pontiac produced 7,500 10th anniversary cars, of which only 1,817 were equipped with the high-output W72 motor. All of the last-year hype worked effectively as 1979 Pontiac sold 116,535 Trans Ams, the highest production year ever.
Here’s the seller’s description:
“79 TRANS AM , T TOP ROOF, 6.6 ENGINE ,AUTOMATIC TRANS, RUNS GOOD, NO RUST, SOLID CALIFORNIA CAR. NEEDS PAINT AND INTERIOR WORK.
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