Sunday, February 23, 2014

Repairs, parts and finish work on the Trans Am


This is a postscript to the introduction of my latest restoration project the Firebird Trans Am. The following are some of the repairs, parts and finish work that has gone into restoring this vehicle into not just an extremely nice appearing classic car, but also one that I feel is safe and reliable. Without a doubt the most important of these items is safety. The truth is, regardless of how extensive the restoration process is, a classic car will never approach the safety features of a new car. A good example of this is my 1968 GTO, which by the way was "Car of the Year" in 1968, has the following safety features; power brakes, padded dash and seat belts. There are no air bags, ABS brakes, steel reinforced doors or energy absorbing crumple zone technology. They are fine for short trips to car shows or events but long distance driving is something I would discourage. From the 1968 GTO to the 1978 Trans Am the safety factor did improve substantially. For example, the brakes are not just power brakes they are power disk brakes with large rotors, the seat belts are three-point design (The shoulder strap is connected to the lap belt), which helps to keep your face from becoming part of the windshield in an accident, the car's body is lower to the ground and therefore the center of gravity is also lower, reducing the possibility of rollover. The suspension was modernized to take advantage of the radial tire design. There is an actual plaque on the dash of the Trans Am stating it has "Radial Tuned Suspension". This resulted in a substantial improvement in overall handling and control of the vehicle. If I had to choose between the GTO and the Trans Am for an extended trip the Trans Am would win out every time.

To move forward with the restoration process a good point to begin is to say the front suspension has been reworked with new bushings & ball joints, shocks on all four corners, no play in the steering and the brakes are in excellent working condition. The paint is approximately one year old and is a base / clear coat using the original color code of the car (Martinique Blue). Eagle Decal graphics along with all Trans Am decals are new and do not have any flaws, blemishes or bubbles. The A/C has the newer style compressor and drier manufactured by Classic Auto Air and the system has been converted to the R134A refrigerant. The seats were originally cloth and have been replaced with new vinyl, which I greatly prefer. The carpet, floor mats, seat belts, console box, rear package tray, rear seat side molding, door panels and dash are either new or like new. New exterior door handles. All gauges work. Dash has factory tachometer and working clock. New gas tank and sending unit. Like new alternator. New battery. Duel exhaust with high flow mufflers. Correct chrome split exhaust tips. New complete 3:42 rear axle gears. New weatherstriping on doors, windows, trunk and hood scoop. When I purchased the car it would start in any gear, a very dangerous problem, I installed a new Neutral Safety Switch which did not correct the problem it was later discovered that linkage from the transmission that controlled the switch was actually missing, new linkage was purchased and installed by Protrans Inc of Tampa and the problem was solved. New headlight dimmer switch was install as someone apparently decided it was not needed and completely removed the switch leaving only the wires hanging. Transmission has a mild shift kit installed (shifts normal under normal driving conditions and quicker when the engine is pushed hard). The ignition is a Pertronix Flame Thrower electronic with about 45,000 volts to the plugs running through 8MM spark plug wires. The tires are Uniroyal Tiger Paws GTS size P245-60-R15 with excellent tread depth mounted on factory "Snowflake" style aluminum wheels with new Firebird emblem center caps.

The car was purchased in a city approximately 60 miles from Tampa, during the drive home I noticed the temperature gauge was fluctuating between 220 degrees and 240 degrees. The fluctuation is typically caused by a failing thermostat that is no longer capable of adjusting to the changes in the cooling system pressure. Once home I flushed the radiator, installed an new 160 degree High Flow thermostat and the car now runs at 200 degrees even in traffic. I tell people all classic cars have their quirks and that is what makes them different and part of the fun of ownership. This car is 36 years old and even with all of the above described restoration work it is not a 100% perfect Barrett-Jackson show car, but it is a very solid car that will get you home at the end of the day and it is a knockout to look at. The attention this car gathers is amazing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

1978 Pontiac Firebird 400 Trans Am

Another Pontiac restored. My favorite brand of Classic Cars. Classic Muscle car styling and big block torque was the trademark of Pontiac. What a mistake to terminate the Pontiac Division and keep Buick. I would typically not venture into this late model of a car (Like 1972 and older) however this model of Trans Am has always been one of my favorite style of the mid 70s cars. There are only a hand full of older American cars, that when you look at them, they say get in and turn the key and I will take you for a real ride. Cars like the Cobra, Barracudas, some Vetts, Shelby Mustangs and Dodge Chargers are a few that come to mind. I feel this Trans Am is in that class. When you look at this car there is nothing that says this is the family grocery getter. It is "Smokey and the Bandit" in blue. The following is an overview of the car. In 1978 the Trans Am was offered with two 6.6 Litre engine options. The first and by far the best was the "Z" code 400 cu.in. Pontiac, which was first offered in the 1967 GTO, and the second option was the 403 cu.in. Oldsmobile engine, also known as the California engine, due to the additional smog emission equipment that was added to comply with California's regulations. The 403 Oldsmobile engine was the only engine California would permit the Pontiac dealers to sell in the Trans Am. Needless to say the more emission equipment that was loaded onto an engine the lower the HP and torque dropped. This car is the "Z" code Pontiac 400. This is also a well optioned car in that it has the following goodies from the factory such as Air Conditioning, power steering, power disk brakes, tilt steering wheel, power windows & locks, full console, rear window defroster, tachometer, clock (actually works), factory Snowflake sport wheels, T-Tops (Two sizes were offered and this car has the large style aka Fisher Body style), radio antenna mounted in the windshield and tinted glass. There have been some upgrades made to the car and I will add those on a later post.

Click on image below to play slideshow and 4 arrow button at bottom right to enlarge.