With the exterior looking like it should, Blevins turned its attention to the interior. As with the undercarriage, everything that was in excellent condition was cleaned and reinstalled, most notably the carpet and weatherstripping. The code-19B deluxe cloth buckets were showing wear, so NOS upholstery was stitched by Chance Blevins to bring the front thrones back to like-new condition He also replaced the headliner; other than those three items, the rest of the interior is completely undefiled and original.
The stock-appearing engine bay hides a secret—the factory block now displaces 461 cubes, a
Under the hood, however, some things are decidedly not original. Jerry Kolbuss of Pine Hill Machine in Bainbridge, Georgia, filled the code-X7 400 block with Keith Black forged flat-tops, wrapped with Total Seal rings and connected to Eagle H-beam rods clamped to the throws of an Eagle stroker crank sourced from Butler Performance. The T/A's engine now displaces 461 cubes.
An 068 cam actuates the valvetrain to the tune of 212-/225-degrees duration at 0.449-/0.448-inch lift. The original HEI distributor handles ignition duties, but has been recurved to further complement the modified powerplant. Total timing is set at 34 degrees, all in by 2,500 rpm. The voltage travels through reproduction 8mm wires to ACDelco plugs, which light off the big bang.
Providing the volatile mix is the original 800-cfm Quadrajet, rebuilt and recolored to look and function better than new. The original intake is still present, although massaged for more flow and port-matched to the 6X(4) heads, which have received extensive porting and polishing to complement the cam. A set of 2.11-/1.77-inch stainless valves seal the deal and milling the heads' surface results in a healthy 9.65:1 compression ratio. Reproduction D-port Ram Air III headers scavenge the fumes and send them aft through a Pypes 2.5-inch, mandrel-bent, F-body exhaust system with crossover.
Model-year ’78 Trans Ams are most easily identified from the rear by the new spoiler decal
Shifting is via the original Turbo 350 automatic, which was reworked by Mike Helton of Nationwide Transmission in Tallahassee. The driveshaft is original, right down to the U-joints, and spins the G80 Safe-T-Track axle filled with the original 3.23 gearset. The combo makes enough torque to put a smile on Ray's face whenever he squeezes the throttle, but not enough to scatter the 36-year-old factory parts. With the exception of the exhaust manifolds, everything looks bone stock.
Ray's Trans Am may lack the popular S/E and T-top options, but it's equipped with just about everything else: power windows, cruise control, air conditioning, controlled-cycle wipers, rear window defrost, tilt steering, and the aforementioned WS6 performance package. Not to be completely left out of the Bandit craze, the Trans Am is also fitted with the UP6 AM/FM Stereo/40-channel CB radio.
According to Ray, "The CB has never been used. When I called Arnie about the car, he told me he never used it and that the antenna stayed in the trunk the entire time he had it." Along with the T/A's paperwork, Ray received the CB owner's manual featuring a temporary broadcast permit that has never been completed. It may be the rarest part of the car!
Ray drives the Trans Am a couple times a month, and it always stirs up a crowd wherever it goes. "Everyone from kids to people in their 90s know a black Trans Am," reports Ray. "It seems like everybody grew up in one!"
Car-show judges like the T/A, too. It took its class at the 2013 World of Wheels in New Orleans, and then backed it up with Best of Show finishes at the Cruizin' the Delta event in New Orleans and the 29th Annual Trans Am Nationals in Dayton, Ohio.
Ray stays in touch with Arnie and keeps him abreast of the T/A's status and show victories, much to the delight of the original owner. Arnie started out wanting a '78 Firebird Esprit; Ray set out to own a full-fledged '77 S/E Trans Am. Both men wound up owning the same Starlight Black '78 T/A that, to each of them, is as good as gold.