Project Trans Am – Focusing on the Engine

To update on the progress of my project 1981 Trans Am, the Turbo motor has been successfully pulled and I’m now in the process if getting it sold. So if you’re looking for a Pontiac Turbo 301 from a 1981 Trans Am to rebuild or for parts, please contact me!!! I’m going to keep some of the core parts for the Turbo just in case I need them for the other motor.

Pontiac 400 W72 EngineIn late August I acquired a Pontiac 400 V8. It is a Pontiac 400 from a 1977-78 Trans Am with the W72 option. Click here to read details about the motor. What makes this engine special is the heads, which are 6x-4 higher compression. Even though this engine does not have the same compression as some of the older Pontiac 400’s, it should be just right for the desired mixture of performance and economy I’m looking for in a car I can drive on an almost daily basis. The motor included the TH-350 automatic transmission with the original torque converter as well as the original carburetor, which helps out tremendously with the swap.

My initial plan was to just go ahead an use the motor right away in the car. After spending a good month trying to clean the motor and do some light dis-assembly, I came to the conclusion that I really need to take the engine down completely and have a machine shop do their thing to the crank, block and heads. This weekend I plan on taking it apart and taking it to a reputable machine shop known for Pontiac motors to do the valve job and let me know what sort of condition everything is in.

I’m recording video of the process, though I am on the fence if I should release all the work I’m doing as a podcast or not. What do you think, should I post all the video as a podcast? My only reservation is, I’m no automotive mechanic expert and I don’t want folks to watch thinking I am an expert.

I have to thank Mr. Yuhnke for all the help acquiring parts for the motor and Chris Goetz for coming down to helping me with the engine swap and for putting up with going to Greaters for Ice cream, I know it’s hard!

Project Pontiac Trans Am

Last week I purchased a 1981 Pontiac Trans Am! If you know me well, you know I’ve wanted a 1978 Trans Am for years. Even though this is not the correct year, it’s very similar to the Trans Am I wanted and with a little effort over the coming years hopefully it will look like a 78′.

This is the first time I bought a car off eBay. The experience was a good one, but I certainly learned a lot in the process. Biggest thing, ask the seller lots of questions. I was not aware that some of the dashboard components were broken including the turn signal. I did, however, anticipate some issues with things like the doors, window gaskets, etc… So even though I was initially shocked by a few of the additional problems, I still feel somewhat satisfied that I got a decent deal on the car.

Important details about this car:

  • Has no rust (came from the West Coast)
  • Any Pontiac engine from 1970-1981 will fit (I’m looking for a Pontiac 400)
  • Car has factory T-tops

When this car was new in 1981, it was originally dark gray with silver interior. It came with the Turbo Pontiac 301 (4.9L) engine, power windows, power door locks, all wheel disc brakes, posi rear end, air conditioning, cruise control, intermittent wipers, and aluminum honeycomb wheels. It currently still has all of these options except the interior has been converted to tan color, the power door locks is no longer present, and the car was repainted black. For those Trans Am enthusiasts, I am sorry to say that it does not have the WS6 performance package.

The car needs a lot of work. So far the engine needs replaced, interior panels need some TLC, drivers door mechanically  needs some TLC, the wipers are not functioning, heater/AC controls are not functioning, broken interior heater core cover, window and T-top gaskets need replaced, turn signal is broken, steering column needs tightened, and heater core molding needs replaced.

The initial plan is to replace the engine with a Pontiac 400, fix the steering column, heater core cover and drivers side door.

I’ve decided to document all the work I do to the car as a podcast. I haven’t yet decided on a name or format for the podcast, but it should be a lot of fun. Anyone who would like to be involved with the podcast and/or help me with restoring this car, please shoot me an email, angelo [at] mandato.com.