Proper placement of a product in a high-profile public forum can create a desire for ownership that stands the test of time. So many of HPP's readers tie their love of Second-Gen Trans Ams to Smokey and the Bandit, Judges to Two-Lane Blacktop, and Third-Gens to Knight Rider. This story is a little different, yet its thread is familiar.
Here’s page one of the window sticker. Page two only has the disclaimer regarding GM using
Tom Gray of central Florida told HPP, "In early 1979, the Trans Am was the ‘cool' car to purchase. One of the more popular shows was Dance Fever, a disco-dancing contest that ran weekly on national TV. The grand prize for the winning dance couple was a matching pair of '79 Solar Gold Trans Ams."
Tom's initial exposure to the Solar Gold T/As led to another discovery. "At each of the Pontiac dealers I visited in Tampa, Orlando, and Daytona Beach, there was a poster with an overhead photo of all the '79 models, one of each. The Trans Am pictured was a Solar Gold WS6 with a hatch roof and camel tan hobnail interior. All the dealers called that Trans Am the Gold Edition. It was not a special edition by Pontiac [as had been the case in '78] but it was the poster-model Trans Am, and it was very hard to find one."
In May of 1979, Tom finally located his T/A at Ferguson Pontiac in Daytona Beach, where it sat with three 10th Anniversary four-speed T/As. A healthy list of extra-cost options (see the window sticker) had pushed the price to $9,726.55.
One aspect that Tom was not pleased with was that his automatic-equipped T/A has the Olds 403 engine instead of a Pontiac 400. Coming out of a '78 T/A with a Pontiac 400, he felt it was a necessity. "I asked the dealer if he could swap the 403 for a 400 and I even ordered the ‘T/A-6.6' decal for the Shaker hoodscoop, which is on the car today." He soon relented however. "After driving my new T/A for a week, I called the dealer and cancelled the motor swap. The 403 was a great motor and equal to the standard 400 in my opinion."
A salesman by occupation, Tom racked up 95,000 miles on the T/A in just two years. Its hunger for fuel led to a more thrifty daily driver and relegation of the Pontiac to weekend and special-occasion status. He moved many times over the years, yet the T/A always came with him.
Tom’s T/A features code-62B1 Camel Tan hobnail interior. While the console, steering wheel
The 185-horse Olds 403 has been rebuilt to mostly stock specs, but was augmented with head
In 2012, the T/A took Second Place for ’70-’81 Firebirds at the Orlando Wide-Track Warrior
By the late '90s, the golden Bird was showing its age, so Tom decided to take action. "I did a cosmetic restoration over a year, as that was all I could afford. The car shows and cruise-ins had become very popular and I was hooked into the hobby."
At the time, the F-Body was treated to a fresh PPG base/clear repaint in Solar Gold (GM code-50) and the wheels were refurbished. The paint details are unavailable because the shop, which did the work is no longer in business. Interior resto was also done at this time.
After enjoying the T/A on the road through the first decade of the 21st century, Tom had Slim Gawne of Slim's Auto Repair In Debary, Florida, pull the L80 403 Olds engine and Turbo 350 trans in 2011 for rebuilds. His friend Tim Weber resurfaced the block, bored it 0.030 over, and honed the cylinders. He also resized the 6-inch-long SAE 1140 steel rods, refurbished the 3.385-inch-stroke crank, resurfaced the heads, and performed the other machine work. Slim did the engine assembly, reinstallation, and detailing.
Pistons are Speed Pro forged flat-top with moly rings, and the stock oiling system was augmented with a Melling high-volume pump. A Melling hydraulic flat-tappet stock replacement cam with 250/264 degrees advertised duration and 0.400/0.400 lift was slipped in.
The heads were rebuilt and a valve job was performed. The 2.00/1.50 valves remain, and stock replacement valvesprings were installed to work with the factory 1.60:1-ratio, stamped-steel rockers and stock pushrods.
The original Q-jet, cast-iron intake manifold, and GM HEI distributor were also retained, but to add a little more power, a K&N filter allows air to be ingested more freely, an MSD 6A box enhances the burn in the chambers, and a set of Hooker headers with true dual exhaust and Dynomax mufflers evacuate the combustion byproducts from the engine with little restriction.
After all these years, except for replacing wear items, the T/A is riding on its stock suspension, which of course isn't a bad thing when it's a WS6. With the standard T/A 1.25-inch front stabilizer bar, paired with the WS6 bushings; 0.75-inch bar in the rear; 14:1-constant-ratio, high-effort power steering; HD springs, and rear disc brakes aiding the standard 11-inch front disc brakes, this suspension system was one of the best of its era. The code JF WS6 15x8 Snowflake wheels traded their original 225/70R15 tires for more-modern and lower-profile 235/60R15 BFG Radial T/As.
How does Tom feel about his fresh T/A after 34 years of ownership? "This car is a dream come true for me," he says. "It looks and runs terrific. I love the smiles I get from people who see it and the stories they tell of their Trans Am adventures."
Just for the record. Tom says, "I hate disco—rock and roll forever!"