Silver
Silver
400 V8
4 Speed Manual

Have you been watching these Trans Ams fly through our showroom like I have? Well, OK, I guess nobody sees the cars like I do because I spend a few hours with each one, but I'm definitely spotting a warming trend here with the late '70s and early '80s T/As. We've had a half dozen of these silver anniversary models blow through in the past few months and they rarely sit around for long. Of course, being “instant collectibles” helps these cars tremendously, because quite a few have survived the three decades since they were built. And lucky for us, the best ones keep landing here at RK Motors Charlotte.

The latest is this 1979 10th Anniversary Trans Am with a FACTORY 4-SPEED. A vast majority of the 7500 Anniversary cars came with slushbox automatics that were befitting the Trans Am's sport/luxury mission in 1979, but for a hardcore few (1817 to be exact), a 4-speed behind the 6.6 liter (that's 400 cubic inches to us gearheads) Pontiac V8 was the only way to travel. With under 55,000 miles from new, this one has been well maintained but properly exercised to keep it in top physical condition, and features one quality repaint in its history file. Forget about trailer queens and show cars, these are machines that should be driven and enjoyed.

Like I said, this one has been repainted once, and I like the work the guys did. Not over-the-top, it could easily pass for well-maintained factory paint, and if I didn't know better, I might be convinced. Panel gaps are factory-issue, and nothing about the finish is badly done or screams “over restored!” No, this T/A is just the way I like to see vehicles of this vintage because I remember them so vividly from my earlier years. Yes, there's some orange peel because that's how the factory did it. No, the body gaps aren't flawless, because the guys on the assembly line didn't have 30 hours to spend getting it perfect. To me, making these cars too perfect is erasing their history and is almost as questionable as painting it an incorrect color. You can do it, sure, but it never quite looks correct or authentic to most folks and most don't even know why.

Thus endeth my rant on over-restoration.

Moving on, the decal package on this car was obviously reapplied after the repaint, and remains in excellent condition, from the screaming chicken on the hood to the gothic lettering on the rear spoiler. There's no checking or cracking or sun damage, suggesting that this car has led a very easy life since the work was done. All the plastic parts, including the unique front nose cone, wheel spats, and rear spoiler are beautifully done and match properly, something Pontiac seemed to better than, say, the guys over at the Corvette factory. Proper paint additives were used in the paint to keep it from cracking when the plastic flexed, and all the parts look great today. What little stainless and brightwork remains on the Trans Am's flanks is in excellent condition. Glass is decent, with a new windshield, but the rest is original with the driver's window showing some scratches. But fear not, those cool, full-width smoked taillights, which were new in '79, are in outstanding condition and almost impossible to find today.

Moving under the hood, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the detailing on this 55,000-mile piece. Frankly, I expected something much rougher, but instead there's an exceptionally clean engine with the correct Pontiac blue paint on the block, T/A chrome valve covers, a fresh alternator, and factory A/C, which was standard on the Anniversary T/A. The carburetor actually breathes through the driver's side front fender, not through the hood scoop, although it can easily be made functional with the removal of the block-off plate that the factory installed. Wiring and hoses are in excellent condition, and I'm guessing the brake system, particularly the master cylinder, is new. It does carry a set of aftermarket headers to eke out a little more horsepower, but on a car like this, I hardly think that's a demerit. There's exactly zero evidence of rust or damage, again more proof that this car has led the easy life as a cherished collectible rather than serving as a daily driver, even when it was new.

And interestingly, this engine is the last of the Pontiac 400s. In 1979, if you ordered an automatic, you actually got a 403 cubic inch Oldsmobile V8, while the 4-speed cars received the Poncho motor. Actually, the 400 cubic inch engines were leftovers from 1978, and there were a finite number of them, which is why they only went into the 4-speed cars. Frankly, if I got an Oldsmobile motor in my Trans Am, I'd feel a little ripped off, but then again, I don't think I would have ordered my new hot rod with an automatic anyway. The factory claimed that torque was the same at 320 pound-feet, but the Olds only managed to wheeze out 185 horsepower compared to the Pontiac's more robust 220. Thanks to the better breathing engine, if you keep your foot in it and ignore then 5000 RPM redline, this Anniversary car will climb all the way to 132 MPH according to Car and Driver's road test. Pretty impressive for 1979!

Underneath it's about par for the course on a 55,000-mile original car. It isn't detailed for show or polished and clean, but it has been expertly maintained from new and shows no signs of rust or damage. Those are original floors (and on a T-top car, you need to be wary of rusty foot wells) covered by factory undercoating with acceptable levels of factory-type overspray. The exhaust features some aftermarket mufflers to accentuate the sound of the Pontiac V8, and is terminated in the correct quad tips so nobody will know the difference. These cars featured 4-wheel disc brakes, which was one of the earliest applications on an American muscle car, and the 4-speed Trans Ams got 3.23 gears in the 10-bolt rear for improved acceleration and decent highway manners. And those gorgeous “turbo” alloy wheels made their debut on the 10th Anniversary models, today wearing fat 245/60/15 BFGoodrich T/A radials that look exactly right on the car.

The interior fitted to the 10th Anniversary 'Birds were perhaps the most lavish of all Trans Ams with silver leather which matched the cars silver exterior being the dominant theme. This Trans Ams fully restored interior is in excellent condition sporting that comfortable look of use that your favorite leather jacket has after a few years and displaying little to no wear at all. It should be noted that the six-color embroidered bird had a special machine imported from France to produce the emblem. The thicker than usual shag carpet on the floors is in excellent condition, and the dash is 100% original, including the gauges and engine-turned dashboard. As an Anniversary car, this one is loaded with every single option Pontiac could throw at a Firebird, including power windows, power locks, factory A/C, and an AM/FM radio. This car also sports an AM/FM/CD player integrated into the console below the dash, keeping the original radio intact if you want to go back to 100% original condition. The T-tops are the original mirrored glass pieces, and the factory-issue storage bags are still in the trunk with a complete jack assembly and space saver spare tire.

This car comes with a decent documents package, too, including the original build sheet (not a PHS reproduction!), which is incredibly rare. We also have a stack of receipts for recent work to keep this Trans Am in top condition.

Although these cars may not be A-list collectibles yet, their day is fast approaching. Here at RK Motors Charlotte, we're often able to spot trends before they spread just by watching the cars move through our showroom. Knowing what I know, I'm going to say that these Anniversary Trans Ams are on the verge of becoming The Next Big Thing. Earlier T/As are already getting their due, of course, the “Bandit” cars just a few years before this one are red-hot, and nice Anniversary models with 4-speeds like this one are fairly rare. With the Pontiac motor and 4-wheel disc brakes, they're also excellent road cars that don't feel 30 years old. If you like the car and will enjoy owning and driving it, I think there are much worse places to park some money for the next few years than this 1979 Trans Am. Call now!

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