When released to the public back in the day, the Second Generation Trans Ams ('70-'81) were exceptional from a ride, drive, and handling perspective versus the competition. While still a subframe-architecture vehicle, the generation's suspension improved over the model years, especially with Pontiac's new Radial Tuned Suspension, which took advantage of radial-tire technology.
Fast-forward to 2013. A great number of still-in-existence Trans Ams and Formula Firebirds are restored and modified to perform beyond what Pontiac designed. The aftermarket for suspension technology is rapidly expanding, and after manufacturers initially focused on the First-Generation F-body platform, the Second-Generation is now coming on strong.
Pro-Touring F-Body (PTFB) is at the forefront of Second-Gen suspension expertise and its line of specific parts is branded as Gen II Racing. Owner Dave Masello is an enthusiast. “My business is Second-Generation specific, and grew out of my desire to make F-bodies handle and perform better on the street and track,” he says.
PTFB offers a wide range of upgrades, from full suspension kits for stock restorations all the way to track setups that will allow your Second-Gen to compete in various competitive driving classes. After speaking with the owner of a '79 Trans Am who desired better handling replete with a modern wheel/tire combination, HPP and Whiteside Customs teamed up with PTFB to put together a suspension package that would increase handling beyond the WS6 performance offered by Pontiac and serve as a foundation for additional modifications.
Now let's tell you about our test car. It's a '79 Trans Am, now in possession of its second owner, Randy Jamison. The T/A sports an Olds 403 engine, automatic trans, and air conditioning, and was cosmetically restored in 2000. The non-WS6 Bird has just over 100,000 miles on the odometer and is mostly original.
Since owning it, Randy has partially rebuilt the front end and replaced the original steering box with a WS6-spec unit. He's also replaced the shocks and end-link bushings. We think it's a good vehicle for testing because it is representative of many Trans Ams in the enthusiast community today—that is, a nearly unmodified vehicle that has wear, but is functional to drive.
Randy says his T/A's handling is soft, vague, and not performance-oriented. Let's see how PTFB changes his impressions.
Whiteside Customs in McKinney, Texas, performed all of the work. It is known as the go-to place for late-model GTO and G8 suspension and performance modifications.
In Part 2, we will install the rear leaf springs, body bushings, and rear sway bar, and then dive deep into the results of testing on a standardized slalom course and skidpad. Hang on as we push the T/A to the limits to determine how well the stock suspension and restoration-style wheel/tire combination perform, then up the ante and show you a comprehensive package that can go head to head with many late-model performance sports cars.
||Metric socket set
|Drill and drill bits
||Ball-Joint Separator tool
|SAE wrenches and sockets
|Nut, lower ball joint to steering knuckle
||90 (not to exceed 120 ft-lb)
|Nut, lower control arm pivot bolt
|Nut, upper ball joint to control arm
|Nut, upper ball joint to steering knuckle
||50 (not to exceed 80 ft-lb)
|Nut, upper control arm cross-shaft end
|Nut, upper control arm cross-shaft to frame
|Nut, shock-absorber upper stud
|Nut, sway bar end link
|Nut, wheel lug
|Bolt, brake caliper