Joe selected Carmine Red interior...
Joe selected Carmine Red interior for its color contrast with the black exterior, also opting for a D55 Center Console, and B19 Custom Trip Group-a $173 option that included vinyl covered bucket seats.
"While at the dealership, salesman Bill Upton pulled out a unique catalog that included only the Grand Prix and Grand Am," says Joe. "It presented them at a low angle, showing off their lowered stance. Both looked very sporty, and standing next to each were professional racers Richard Petty and Geoff Bodine-Bodine raced a Grand Am in NASCAR's Grand National series. It was with this catalog that I hit the jackpot. When I found I could get the 301 engine with a Hurst-shifted four-speed manual transmission, I decided on a Grand Am right there."
Though Joe had considered ordering his Grand Am in Carmine Red, he ultimately decided upon Starlight Black with Burnished Gold lower accents-a scheme similar to the widely popular Special Edition Trans Am on the road at that time. Wanting to maximize the Grand Am's performance persona, he added such extra-cost options as an N31 Custom Sport steering wheel, U21 Rally Gauges with tachometer, G80 limited slip differential, N66 14x7-inch Rally IV wheels, and the L37 301ci four-barrel engine and MM4 four-speed manual.
The brushed-aluminum trim...
The brushed-aluminum trim plate was a Grand Am-only feature. Electric quartz clock and manifold vacuum gauge are owner added, as is the aftermarket steering wheel cover. Joe replaced the Grand Am's original 85 mph speedometer with a 140 mph unit from an early '70s A- or G-body. Joe says that his friend, Mike Chamberlin, came across it one day while salvage yard hunting, and its odometer reading was within a few miles of that in Joe's Grand Am, so it was installed.
"We placed the order in late December 1978, and agreed on a price of $6,400. After a few anxious weeks, the car arrived and I took delivery of it on February 25, 1979, which, coincidently, was my 18th birthday," he recalls. "I was so happy, but as my dad and I left the dealership, I noticed that the car seemed sluggish and it took a lot of throttle to get it going. We didn't get more than a few blocks before I realized that something was seriously wrong. So I turned around and headed straight for the dealership's service area."
He continues, "It only took a few minutes for the mechanics to diagnose the problem, and they couldn't believe what they found. The shifter linkages were installed upside down at the factory, and the transmission was actually in second gear when the shifter was in first. The repair took about five minutes, and when I released the clutch while pulling out of the service garage, I left rubber marks on the garage floor! It's always seemed to have enough power after that."
The Power Plant
During its development in the mid '70s, the 301ci engine was treated to a number of weight-reducing modifications aimed at improving economy that shed roughly 150 pounds over a comparable 350ci. With its 4-inch bore and 3-inch stroke, the four-barrel-equipped 301 still churned out 150 hp at 4,000 rpm, and 240 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm in 1979, however.
This Grand Am's engine compartment...
This Grand Am's engine compartment is an untouched timepiece. Though tattered, the PWB-code 301's original scanner label is still affixed to the front of the passenger side valve cover. N41 Power Steering was standard on the Grand Am, but JL2 Power Brakes were required when ordering a V-8 engine or C60 Custom Air Conditioning-this particular car has both. Nearly all of the original coolant and vacuum hoses, and factory wiring remain intact. The only replacement component on the engine is the water pump.
No. 01 cylinder head castings common to all 301 applications contain 1.72/1.50-inch valves, and a combustion chamber volume of 72cc, producing the 8.1:1 compression ratio. Residing atop the cylinder heads is a low-rise cast-iron single-plane intake manifold (No. 10000518) with runners that lack a common dividing wall-a feature Pontiac engineers specifically incorporated into the intake manifold and cylinder heads to further reduce engine weight.
301ci engines backed by the SC-code Saginaw four-speed manual transmission with a first gear ratio of 2.85:1 were coded PWB, and contain a slightly more aggressive single-pattern camshaft (No. 471) with an advertised duration of 274 degrees and gross valve lift of 0.364-inches, when combined with the 1.5:1 ratio stamped-steel rocker arms. Bolted to the cast iron flywheel is a 10.4-inch diameter clutch disc and pressure plate assembly, and the 2BB-coded rear axle in Joe's Grand Am houses a 2.73:1 gear set with a ring gear diameter of 7.5-inches-the only available ratio with the 301 and manual trans.