Save the 301

We’re going to restore an ’80 Pontiac Trans Am with a 301 Turbo engine. Can you suggest a book or a manual about this kind of engine? Thank you in advance.

Gemelli Racing Garage
Camposampiero, Alaska


Rocky Rotella responds:
The 301 was available in most any Pontiac model during the late-’70s and early-’80s (as well as competitive models from other makes of the era), and finding specialized information about it can be rather difficult. While the 301ci engine (and its 265ci counterpart) shares many of the same machining tolerances and assembly practices as its larger, more traditional brethren, the turbocharged variant is a specialized application that requires some unique attention.

In my opinion, the single best resource for a rebuild such as yours is the Pontiac Service Manual from the appropriate year. You should be able to find a used copy of the ’80 manual on Internet auction sites relatively easily, and with some patience, at a reasonable price, too. It will contain information such as the recommended clearance tolerances, assembly techniques, and torque specifications, as well as proper installation of the turbocharger and its associated hardware.

In my opinion, the single best resource for a rebuild such as yours is the Pontiac Service Manual from the appropriate year.

Another excellent resource for your 301 Turbo rebuild is the web-based 301 Garage forum (www.301garage.com). Its members are a dedicated group of 301 engine owners/enthusiasts who are happy to share what they know about the 301 and the Firebirds it was installed in. Searching its archive, you’ll find suggestions on where to purchase replacement pieces and the proper tuning techniques to maximize performance and reliability. It is free to join and ask your own questions.

I’m confident that with these two suggested resources, you’ll be able get your 301 Turbo running at its best again relatively easily!


Need an Assist?

I have a ’69 Firebird with a manual-steering gearbox. I want to convert to power-assist, but I’m confused with the Pitman arm. The one on the manual box is curved and stepped. Will that arm work on a power-steering box? What are my options?

Paul Maxwell
Via Internet


Rocky Rotella responds:
Paul, I think you’ll really appreciate the decision to convert your Firebird from manual to power steering. Getting it setup correctly so it performs as the factory intended will be the greatest challenge, as you’re finding, but it shouldn’t be any more difficult that sourcing the correct replacement components for the appropriate application.

While you might guess that you can reuse your Firebird’s existing Pitman arm on the new power-steering box, you’ll find that the size of the sector shaft (the splined output shaft that the Pitman arm fastens to) differs between the manual-steering gear and the power-assisted unit. That means sourcing the proper Pitman arm is required.

According to vintage Pontiac parts manuals, the Pitman arm used on ’69 Firebirds equipped with power steering is unique to that model year and application. The ’67-’68 Firebird Pitman arm is visually similar but differs in the way it connects to the center link. The ’69 unit carries part number 7806617. I found that part number applies to ’72-’74 X-bodies equipped with power steering, too. To the best of my knowledge, this particular Pitman arm is specific to Pontiac and its steering systems and wasn’t used by other makes.

According to vintage Pontiac parts manuals, the Pitman arm used on ’69 Firebirds equipped with power steering is unique to that ...

You may be able to find a used Pontiac-specific Pitman arm by contacting salvage yards that specialize in vintage vehicles. However, I also found that Performance Years (www.performanceyears.com) offers a reproduction—part number RFU213B—and it sells for $69. It’s likely that any of the other resto-part retailers advertising in HPP sell the same unit, or one like it, so you may want to check your preferred retailer, too.

Since the Pitman and idler arms work in concert to maintain proper geometry and provide smooth operation, I suggest purchasing a new idler arm specified for a ’69 Firebird equipped with power steering to install at the same time. You should be able to purchase it from the same retailer as the Pitman arm. Even if you should find it is identical to what’s currently on your Firebird, ensuring that the Pitman and idler arms match will maximize safety during normal operation.


Email questions to christopher.phillip@sorc.com