Category Archives: Members’ Cars and Photos

What To Do With a 40 Year Old Trans Am

by Chuck Lincoln

I refer you all back to an article from the January 2010 issue of the National Firebird and Trans Am Club Eagle. I am the original owner of a 1976 Trans Am. Living in Upstate NY and wanting to “keep this car for its life;” it has not seen a Syracuse (a.k.a. “The Salt City”) Winter – stored every year since I have owned it. This year I decided to take it into a local, full service speed shop (White’s Auto & Speed, Cicero, NY) to discuss what critical maintenance needed to be done to a 40 year old car with 120,000 miles on it. As we put it up on the rack, one could see that all the rubber bushings and spacers were shot – dry rot mostly; some even gone. So we elected to get the Energy Suspension bushing & frame kit and replace them all. Also, it was also noted that the engine was leaking oil. Leaks were coming from the valve covers, oil pan, intake tray, timing cover, around the fuel pump, the rear engine seal and a few other places. So we also purchased the engine gasket kit.

As we totally took the front suspension apart, we decided to replace other worn items: upper & lower ball joints, new front shocks (the third set for this car), and coil spring isolators. While most of this stuff is boring, it needed to be done and should bring the handling to better than Factory original. While this work was contemplated, it was determined that in order to properly get at the rear engine seal, the engine would have to come out of the car. So once the engine (a 400 cu. in. Pontiac engine) was out of the car, we did a leakdown (compression) check which revealed that four of the cylinders (1, 8, 4, & 7) were leaking 30%. Two more, 2 & 5 were at ~ 23% blow by. The normal guideline is < 20%. So we decided to consider an engine rebuild. Bore & hone all the cylinder walls, new oversized pistons & rings, polish the camshaft & crankshaft (keeping the original components), new connecting rods and main bearings, a valve job, new oil pump, new valve guides and new brass soft plugs. While removing the engine, we also removed the radiator – the original 2-core. We saw the condition and decided to recore the unit with a 3-core replacement as these Firebird engines were noted for their overheating issues.

While this was certainly a good plan, the 64 million dollar question was: “is the engine still in good enough shape to merit a rebuild?” As we took the engine apart, we all agreed that it was still in good enough shape the warrant a rebuild. This Pontiac engine is strong, all cast iron: block, heads, intake, etc. I have religiously changed the oil and have used nothing but Mobil 1 since the first oil change at 1,000 miles. While the cylinder walls had the expected wear ridges at the spot where the pistons reversed direction (< 0.006″), they were Bored then honed out 0.030″ and the pistons were replaced with oversized ones to accommodate this machining. The crankshaft was in great shape and needed to be just cleaned and polished std/std and fitted with new bearings. The camshaft was another thing. Three of the lobes were worn past their Factory specs and so we decided to replace it. We put in a new OEM camshaft to stay “original.” In the cylinder heads, three of the exhaust valve seats angles were out of spec – probably from the Factory, so all the valves and valve seats were machined back to original tolerances. Also, 3 of the valve guides were worn past Factory specs and were fitted with new valve guide inserts. The cylinder heads were also resurfaced .005″ for a good head gasket seal. All engine parts were dipped, cleaned and shot blasted and repainted the original Pontiac Blue. (see photo).

We also rebuilt the carburetor, which was the original Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carb and actually really didn’t need anything more than a good cleaning, but we did it anyway, while it was off the engine. [Note: I have always used HiTest gas in it.]

Before the engine came back together and went back into the car, we power washed, painted and detailed the engine compartment and overall spruced it up. We also changed the oil in the rear differential and 4-speed Muncie manual transmission. All looked well with both so no other work was done here. The clutch was fairly new and was in good shape. We also put in a new (rebuilt) starter as the electrical connections on the original one were pretty well shot.

Once I had the completed car back the first very noticeable improvement was how quiet it was cruising down the road. When I hit a bump, there were no more rattles and noises – those new bushings along with tightening things up really did the trick. Next was how much cooler the engine was running after obviously cleaning it all out and recoring the radiator, now much more efficient. The engine starts quicker, the choke engages properly (had always been a problem before) and it runs super smooth. As I presently have break-in oil in it, I haven’t yet really gotten on it to see what real performance improvement I gained, but more to come.

Also, since we put in all new bushings throughout the frame and steering suspension, I took it into a local body shop with new digital alignment equipment to insure that everything was properly aligned. My 1976 Trans Am has been given a new life with this expensive rebuild and will provide many, many more years of pleasurable driving and cruising. I am truly looking forward to it!

This is a story in progress with more to come (photos too). I made additions to this as the engine was being rebuilt.

’67 Firebird of Dan & Debbie Tietze “Freeda”

A National Firebird and Trans Am Club featured car is the ‘67 Firebird of Dan & Debbie Tietze from Firestone, Colorado. Here is their story:

We purchased our 1967 Firebird in 1997. It has always been a Colorado car, originally sold in Grand Junction, Colorado. Although the cosmetics were in sad shape, it was a rust free car. After having an interior kit installed and the body stripped; Freeda, as we call her, was sprayed in her original color – Cameo Ivory. She has a bright blue interior. We enjoyed the car along with our 1971 GTO convertible.

 In 2008, after the GTO went by the wayside, I decided to pull Freeda’s original 326 engine, which is now stored. I replaced the engine with a nicely built 400 YT code engine with factory crank, speed pro rings and pistons, Eagle connecting rods and Crane cam. The 6X heads were treated to some port work and three angle valve job, and an Edelbrock intake with a 750 Holley dual feed. Cooling is taken care of by a Meziere water pump, 16″ electric fan and a Griffin radiator. The original 350 turbo was built by Ram Transmission Gear and underneath the front drums were replaced with a Hurst roll control and Wilwood disc brake system and also rebuilding the front steering components. Quick Time performance servo controlled exhaust cut-outs and FloMaster mufflers, and Competition engineering subframe connectors. The ten bolt third member is loaded with 3.55 gears and of course body bushings will Edelbrock INS shocks for handling.

Freeda enjoys some car shows and going to Sonic Burger Friday nights, seeing other muscle cars – some oldies but goodies and even some rat rods. Freeda was built in Lordstown, Ohio, not fifty miles from where I was born. Colorado lets you run the year license plate of your car in place of your collector plates.

My wife and I will enjoy Freeda until the bitter end.

Happy cruisin’

’79 Trans Am of Michael Bartholomew

I am forwarding some photos of my 79 T/A which I hope some of which you will put in the member magazine.

Car info:
1979 Trans Am
Automatic Transmission
403 olds engine
AM/FM/8-Track Radio
CB Radio
T-Tops
Space Saver Spare Tire

 When I first found this Bird, I really wasn’t looking for a car from this era. After bringing her home, I quickly fell in love and this car can also be credited with starting my love affair with Pontiac. It accompanies my daily driver, a ‘64 Bonneville, in the stable. From early on, this car has been on a journey to go “back to factory” replacing a ‘77 nose that had been placed on it with the proper ‘79 nose among other changes that the previous owner had made. One of my favorite “upgrades” that I’ve made is getting the snowflake wheels with reproduction period correct tires put on all 4 corners. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed shows and cruises with my kids, but also introducing them to things like 8-Tracks, the CB, and getting dirty under the hood. I look forward to many more years of fun!

Michael Bartholomew
Dunedin, Florida

2002 Trans Am WS6 of George Bravo

A National Firebird and Trans Am Club featured car is the 2002 Trans Am WS6 of George Bravo from Marina, California. Here is his story:

This is my 2002 Trans Am WS6 which I changed the brake rotors to cross drilled front and rears. I installed the Lambo doors myself. It has the high performance super chip program on it. It has a Hurst 6 speed shifter. I also added sequential turn signal lights to it. I put the racing stripes on myself. I changed the ram air decals to chrome ones. I also changed the ram air grills to chrome ones. I didn’t want to get rid of my front chrome Firebird because I live in California that requires the front license plate, so I installed a front license plate that retracts to hide under the front bumper and it also displays my front license plate from a remote control key chain. I am a Marine Veteran who plans to work more on my Trans Am and to keep taking my Trans Am to car shows. I hope you enjoy these photos, I’ll post more at a later time.

2002 Trans Am WS6 of George Bravo
2002 Trans Am WS6 of George Bravo
2002 Trans Am WS6 of George Bravo

2002 Trans Am WS6 of George Bravo

‘89 Turbo Trans Am of Robert Rogacki from Westchester, Illinois

A National Firebird and Trans Am Club featured car is the ‘89 Turbo Trans Am of Robert Rogacki from Westchester, Illinois. Here is his story:

My 1989 Turbo Trans Am – 20th Anniversary – Pace Car replica for the 73rd. Indianapolis 500 is car number 265 out of the 1550 made. This was the first car to pace the race that did not require engine modifications. The cars were all built as GTA‘s sent from General Motors to PAS in California to be modified. The car has the Buick Grand National 3.8L V6 engine, brakes are the 1LE option and it has a Borg Warner Australian rear end. There were only two options available on the car T-Tops and leather interior I have both. I am the fourth owner; the car has 18,150 miles and is all original / stock except for a couple of chrome pieces under the hood and the white face gauges. All changes were made by owner number two. The car was original purchased in Connecticut, owners two thru four all live in Illinois and are separated by less than twenty miles. I found the car at a local car show in September of 2010.

I should also mention I have an all original / stock 1987 Buick Grand National with 14,886 miles.

'89 Turbo Trans Am of Robert Rogacki  '89 Turbo Trans Am of Robert Rogacki    '89 Turbo Trans Am of Robert Rogacki  '89 Turbo Trans Am of Robert Rogacki

 

’80 Trans Am of Kevin Janusek from Green Bay, Wisconsin

I found my 1980 Trans Am on the internet. It needed a lot of work. I have been fixing it up as I go so I can use it. It is not the best way but the car is nice but not mint. I drive and use it now. The car has the 400 engine in it (go it that way) but it originally has the 301 engine in it. It was originally silver but I like the current blue better.

’80 Trans Am of Kevin Janusek
from Green Bay, Wisconsin
’80 Trans Am of Kevin Janusek
from Green Bay, Wisconsin

 ’68 Firebird of Jim Burrowes

A National Firebird and Trans Am Club 68jimburrowesfirebird 68firebirdjimburrowes2 68firebirdjimburrowes3featured car is the ‘68 Firebird of Jim Burrowes from Yellow Springs, Ohio. Here is his story:

My uncle bought the car when I was 15 years old. I relentlessly begged for it as it sat in a barn for 27 years. He finally let me purchase the car, and I have spent the past six years rebuilding it. I still have a lot of work left to do. So far I have replaced the suspension, brake system, floor pans, rear quarters and fenders. Additionally, I have rebuilt the transmission. The car had the wrong motor in it, so I found the right one and rebuilt it with lots of performance pieces. Most of the parts have been purchased and I am currently working on installing a new interior.

 

‘84 Trans Am “Phoenix” of Sussie Due from Bend, Oregon

This issue’s featured car is the 84TASussieDue5 84TASussieDue6 84TASussieDue7 84TASussieDue8 84TASussieDue9 84TASussieDuefrontHere is her story:

I always wanted a Trans Am and decided I was not getting younger so it was time to get my dream car. I found this one on Craig’s List. It had been living in a well kept barn for 6 years. The owner had decided that a Corvette was better (How little does his know). Cosmetically it was a beauty. Mechanically? Well it had been sitting for six years, what can you expect? Almost exactly one year and $17,000 later, not including the $3000 purchase price, this car is a piece of art now mechanically as well as cosmetically.

The 350 engine the original owner had put in it after his daughter blew the 305 had to be rebuilt. By the time the block was saved it ended up being bored out to a 355. Then my mechanic went above and beyond the rebuilt by adding a roller cam, roller tip rocker arms and topping it off with an Edelbrock 600 cfm carburetor. We also added a custom made aluminum drive shaft and many other high performance parts. This car turns heads and is actually requested at some of our local events. All 6 of my vehicles have names. I named this one Phoenix because he rose again. My new project is a 1982 Trans Am that I am turning into “K.I.T.T.”

’95 Trans Am of Dave Publicover from Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, Canada

95TADavePublicover2 95TADavePublicoverHammondsPlainsNovaScotia (1) 95TADavePublicoverHammondsPlainsNovaScotia MacKenize Motorsports 95TADavePublicoverNew seatsHere are some images of my 4 Year Restoration.

It is a 1995 Pontiac Trans Am Convertible, LT1 engine with 4 speed auto. All options, other than the power seats. 100,000 mile car.

The car was built in Quebec, Canada for export to the U.S.A. and was sold new in Los Angeles, California. Over the next 16 years it made its way to Arizona, Oklahoma and finally to Nova Scotia, on Canada’s East coast. It became a summer car for a Couple from Puerto Rico who had a vacation home in Nova Scotia.

I acquired the car and started restoring it. Aside from a new GM transmission (dealer installed by previous owner) I had to go from one end of the car to the other. It had not weathered the years well cosmetically and mechanically, some short cuts had been taken. I designed the seats myself, rewired the engine, new roof components and glass, Magna flow exhaust, paint, stereo returned to factory so I could use the steering wheel controls, and a host of other small issues we tackled.

I really enjoyed the process and I am very pleased with the success in the restoration.

David G. Publicover
Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, Canada