Like many Pontiac hobbyists, my love of Trans Ams began after I saw the movie Smokey and the Bandit. I was seven years old, and it made a huge impression on me. I started noticing Firebirds and Trans Ams more as I grew up, and dreamt that one day I would own one.
That dream became a reality in the summer of 1995, when I purchased a ’77 Firebird Formula. It needed some work and was underpowered with its 305/two-barrel, but I still loved it. Over the years, I purchased more Firebirds and Trans Ams, and made it a point to always upgrade to nicer cars. I’ve owned 15 Firebirds and Trans Ams so far, and have always had two at a time—one for summer and one as a daily driver.
I currently own a ’99 Trans Am that I drive during nice days and take to car shows. My daily driver, a ’96 Trans Am, was starting to show its age, so it was time to find a new one.
I’ve always wanted to see a Fourth-Gen Trans Am done in a black-and-gold theme just like in Smokey and the Bandit. My first step was to find the right car. After a few months of searching, I found my ’00 Trans Am on an Internet site. It was originally a California car that had never seen rain or snow, and it had only 28,000 miles on the odometer. I drove four hours from home to look at it, and knew instantly that it was the perfect car to build my Fourth-Gen Bandit.
Before “Banditizing” my Trans Am, I gave it a little more power, a meaner sounding exhaust, and an upgraded sound system. I installed a set of Edelbrock ceramic shorty headers and a GMMG after-cat chambered exhaust system. My Bird now roared to life when I turned on the ignition. I also swapped in a high-flowing air lid, ported my MAF and throttle body, and installed a Diablosport tune.
Since it was my daily driver, I didn’t want to worry about the T/A’s automatic transmission, so I changed out the stock pan for a deeper aluminum one and fitted a transmission cooler. I removed the factory Monsoon sound system (except the amp), and installed a JVC 2Din CD/MP3 and Alpine speakers. I also added a dual-gauge A-pillar pod and installed a GlowShift transmission temp and an Aeroforce Interceptor OBD-II gauge to monitor engine vitals.
For a little flair in the evening, I installed TheDoubleAA.com’s laser courtesy lights with the Firebird logo, which project from the bottom of the doors onto the pavement, and a Pontiac logo that hits the ground in front of my ride. I custom-built a Knight Rider-style scanner with 175 LEDs and programmed it with 30 different scan patterns, and mounted the setup in the hood to aim out the front-fascia nostrils. Finally, I lit my front license plate panel with a random fire effect, which I created with 45 LEDs.
Once the performance, interior, and lighting projects were completed, I turned my attention to what should have been a Fourth-Gen Trans Ams Special Edition, but never was. I purchased a ’77 gold decal kit from Classic Industries, and installed the hood and sail-panel birds. I then sanded off the taillight filler-panel emblems and applied gold “Trans Am” and bird decals. I even used a heat gun to remove the “Trans Am” letters on the doors and installed the correct German font on the fenders.
With that done, I switched the stock wheels to black-and-silver Ruff Racing R281s, measuring 18x8.5 inches and wrapped in 245/40R18 Falken rubber.
My Trans Am was starting to look like a Bandit car, but it still lacked something. True Trans Am fans only need one guess to know what it was. That’s right: the Shaker scoop. I purchased a reproduction ’70-’71-style shaker from The Parts Place. (I chose this style because I liked how the flap was fiberglassed into the scoop.)
I made a template from my friend’s ’71 T/A, and had my father-in-law cut the hole in the hood. I was a bit nervous, but we had experience doing this before with my previous Shaker install (on a ’96 Trans Am). Once the hole was cut, I fabricated a mounting bracket and built a magnetic switch to actuate the Shaker flap at 50-percent throttle. The final touch was the Shaker “T/A-5.7” decal I had custom-made in the correct German-style font.
My ’00 Bandit Trans Am is a blast to drive and grabs a lot of looks everywhere it goes. It’s been on multiple family trips, and has even taken a few trophies at local car shows on days that I decide to give my ’99 T/A a break. It’s been a great addition to my Trans Am collection and takes me back to the days of watching Smokey and the Bandit as a kid.
In my words spotlights reader experiences with their own Pontiacs in their own words. To be considered for publication, submit several high-quality color photos (if digital, each photo must be larger than 1 megabyte in JPG format—no other formats, please), your own Pontiac story (typed, approximately 500 words), and your name, address, and telephone number to:
High Performance Pontiac
In My Words
c/o Christopher Phillip
9036 Brittany Way
Tampa, FL 33619
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