Few drivers were ever fortunate enough to have owned a new Pontiac during their teenage years, and only a minute number can say they still have that car in their possession. Bellevue, Nebraska, resident Joe Fuccio is proud to be in that minority. At the young age of 18, the now 46-year-old Information Technology Specialist purchased a new '79 Grand Am that he drove sparingly and gave the utmost care to over the years. Today it's a 16,000-mile pristine original.
Joe's story starts out like many others-he comes from a family with a strong interest in Pontiacs. "My dad, Sebastiano, bought his first Pontiac, a Bonneville Brougham Safari wagon, new from McKenzie Pontiac in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1967. He then purchased a new '76 Catalina Safari wagon, powered by a 455, from another local area Pontiac dealer, and a few others in later years," says Joe. "My two sisters have owned Pontiacs, too. We're just a Pontiac family at heart."
It has rarely been driven...
It has rarely been driven in the rain, and has never seen Nebraska snow. The Special Edition Trans Am's black and gold paint scheme and the large-screen hit Smokey and the Bandit were a few of the influences that inspired Joe to choose this combination for his Grand Am. The heavily padded C04 Padded Landau Cordova Top was a $239 option, added at his dad's request.
When Joe reached the driving age, it was only logical that he own a Pontiac, and the first vehicle he called his own was a Sunstorm Yellow '75 Firebird Esprit with a white Cordova top and Morrokide interior. "I purchased the car in 1977 when I turned 16 and drove it for about a year until my younger sister turned 16. My dad then talked me into giving it to her and I started looking for a replacement. I found a '68 Firebird 400 with a four-speed that was in primer and needed paint, but my dad felt that a well-used car wasn't practical, so I started looking for something new," he says.
Just 17 at the time, dealers wouldn't even begin talking to Joe about purchasing a new car without his father present. "He and I went to McKenzie Pontiac to see what was on the showroom floor," Joe recollects. "I really had my heart set on a Trans Am with a Hurst-shifted four-speed manual transmission, but my dad thought a larger car would be better. Trying to please him, we looked at mid-sized models, but I really wasn't happy with the offerings."
A Bit Of Grand Am History
General Motors downsized its mid-sized vehicles for 1978, and the Grand Am-once cancelled after 1975, was revived. Like the original, it, too, was based on the A-body (LeMans) platform, available in 2-door coupe or 4-door sedan styling, and aimed at a specific buying group. This time, however, its standard-equipment content was drastically reduced, making base model Grand Ams more attractive to budget-minded enthusiasts.
Bellevue, Nebraska, resident...
Bellevue, Nebraska, resident Joe Fuccio bought his Grand Am new in February 1979, when he was just 18 years old, and he's been its only owner. Still wearing 100 percent of its original paint, this Pontiac has just 16,000 miles on the odometer.
The Grand Am's standard powerplant in 1978 was the 140hp 301ci two-barrel engine, and an automatic was the only transmission choice. A large number of performance options, including a four-barrel carburetor, did, however, allow it to remain competitive with similar models from other divisions, including Oldsmobile's Cutlass 442 and Buick's Century Sport Coupe.
An assortment of new features greeted Grand Am buyers for 1979. According to vintage Pontiac sales literature, the list included brushed-aluminum instrument panel trim, blacked-out grille and taillight treatments, a revised suspension package that boasted of higher rate front and rear springs and shock absorbers, a 32mm front sway bar with urethane end-link grommets, and a redesigned 22mm rear sway bar.
Buick's 231ci V-6 with two-barrel carburetor became the standard powerplant, and a floor-shifted three-speed manual was the standard gearbox. A floor-shifted four-speed manual and three-speed automatic were available behind the 231ci at extra cost, and Chevrolet's 305ci four-barrel small-block, backed by an automatic, was optional in high altitude counties and in California. Pontiac's 301-available with a two-barrel carburetor and an automatic transmission, or four-barrel with either an automatic or four-speed manual-was the optional 49-state V-8.