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SOLD! LOT 76 – 1979 PONTIAC FIREBIRD TRANS AM

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1979 Pontiac Trans Am WS7

HIGHLIGHTS: – Genuine 9,882 mile car from new – Factory black and gold colour scheme – Factory removable glass targa tops – Factory 301ci V8 engine – Four speed manual transmission – Factory WS7 Performance package – Factory plastic still on floors – Factory air conditioning – 17” Snowflake wheels – Includes original snowflakes with original tyres – Original books, build sheet and window sticker

This 1979 Pontiac Trans Am is an absolute time capsule and would be one of the lowest mileage examples on the plant. The car was very well optioned from the factory, being spec’d in Black with gold graphics, targa tops, air conditioning, power windows, deluxe interior and the WS7 special handling package. The car retains its original 301ci V8 engine with shaker hood and factory four speed manual transmission, believed to be one of only 1,200 built with this engine and trans combo.

The car was built in the Van Nuys plant in California before being sold new by Wilt Pontiac in Ohio on the 21st of August, 1979. The car remained with its original owner for most of its life, being stored on display in a climate controlled car museum in Florida for many years. In 2010, the car was sent to Barrett Jackson in Las Vegas where it was auctioned as a one owner car displaying only 8,444 miles. The car was then purchased by its current Australian owner from a high end classic car dealer in California in 2011. At the time, the car was showing 8,500 miles and still had the delivery plastic on the seats and the floors. He Imported the car to Australia and have drive it around 1,400 miles during his 10 year ownership.

The body of the car is in very good condition with mostly original paintwork. Living in a climate controlled museum for most of its life the body is extremely solid, the paintwork was buffed and polished regularly while on display which did mean it began to get a little thin in a couple of small spots. To keep it original and protect the paintwork, it was clear coated over the original. The current owner also added the gold pin striping and 6.6L decals to the shaker, the rest of the decals remain original. The glass targa tops are in excellent condition. The car is lowered slightly and is now fitted with reproduction 17” Snowflake wheels. The original 15” WS7 Snowflake wheels are included in the sale and are still fitted with the original tyres.

Inside the car is like a time warp, the current owner removed the original plastic off the seats however that does still remain with the car and is included in the sale. The dash is like a time warp and presents like new. The carpets still have the original plastic fitted over them and have never been removed. Some nice factory options inside include the deluxe velour trim, factory air conditioning and power windows.

The original matching numbers 301ci V8 engine remains in place under the bonnet as you would expect from a car with this mileage. The engine is paired to the factory four speed manual transmission which is rare with most cars being sold as automatics. One of the best options you could get on these cars was the WS6/WS7 package. This was a handling package that included upgraded rear leaf springs, larger diameter anti-roll bar, nylon end-link bushings, tighter-valved shock absorbers, a constant-ratio 14.0:1 steering box and 8-inch-wide Snowflake wheels. 1979 was the first year with optional rear disc brakes in the WS6 package but with supply shortages toward the end of 79 (this car rolled off the line in the last 2 weeks of production) the WS7 package was created to include everything in the WS6 without the disc brake rear.

Today, these 70’s Trans Ams are extremely collectible and good low milage examples are extremely hard to come by. The sale of this car comes complete with original build sheet, copy of sales receipt, original log books and manuals as well as PHS documentation. This car is in the most iconic colour combination, has some very desirable options and is one of the lowest mileage examples on the planet.

PLEASE CALL LOCKY MCCANN WITH SALES ENQUIRIES ON 0403 935 488

IMPORTANT: Vehicle information is provided to us by the consignee. We do everything we can to qualify the best cars in the Australian market to represent on consignment for private sellers however, they are still old cars and we can’t capture everything in the photos, we don’t drive them any significant distance and can’t know everything about them. It is the responsibility of the buyer to have thoroughly inspected the vehicle, and to have satisfied themselves as to the condition and value and to purchase based upon that judgement solely. Vehicles may have been sitting for some time and it is suggested that to protect your investment, you allow to change fuel, oil, fluids, filters and inspect brakes prior to use. All vehicles are sold under standard auction conditions, consignment and auction vehicles are sold as is, without registration unless otherwise stated and there is no cooling off period or warranty expressed, written or implied. All sales are final. Independent inspections are welcome and strongly encouraged to help with your decision making.

Located at 2 Palings Court, Nerang on the Gold Coast. Inspections by appointment during auction and public openings/viewing as advertised.

 

FEATURE –1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am with only 9,824 miles going to auction!

More than 50 years after it debuted, Pontiac’s Firebird Trans Am remains one of the most iconic American performance cars ever built.
Words: Mike Ryan

Photos: Dean Walters

The ‘Malaise Era’ in American automotive history, a period that ran roughly from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, is generally regarded as an industry low point, especially for performance cars.  While the likes of Ford, Plymouth, Dodge, AMC and others had either transformed their pony cars and muscle cars into new animals or culled them entirely, one brand was almost singlehandedly keeping this sector of the industry alive – Pontiac.

While Pontiac has now joined the list of deceased American automotive brands (Mercury, Plymouth, Oldsmobile, etc.), there was a period when it was the Number 3 brand in the US behind Chevy and Ford, selling some the hottest vehicles on four wheels, including the Firebird Trans Am.

 

This car’s very good, unrestored condition is explained by the fact it spent many years in a museum.

A New Boss and a New Image

Pontiac’s reinvention from a dowdy “dad car” brand in the late 1950s to the performance member of the General Motors stable was kickstarted by Semon Knudsen and his assistants Elliot Estes and John DeLorean. While all three were pivotal to the brand’s transformation, DeLorean would get most of the credit and go on to bigger things, including the infamous car that bore his own name.

Starting as an assistant engineer in 1956 and taking on the Chief Engineer role in 1961, DeLorean had risen to the position of General Manager at Pontiac by 1965, which at 40 made him the youngest ever head of a GM division.

Under the performance-driven mantra that saved Pontiac from extinction, DeLorean oversaw the introduction of the GTO (arguably the first muscle car), Grand Prix and Catalina 2+2, to name a few.

DeLorean also pushed to bring a compact Pontiac sports car called ‘Banshee’ to market, but GM’s senior management blocked the idea, fearing it would take sales away from the Corvette, which at the time had the American-made sports car market virtually to itself.

When it came to adding an in-house rival to Chevrolet’s Camaro, there were no such qualms, as the runaway success of Ford’s Mustang had proven the ‘pony car’ market was strong enough to support multiple entries.

GM’s top brass had also got wind of an imminent Mustang derivative from Mercury, the Cougar, which would be playing in Pontiac’s territory, so they had to counter that with a product of their own. Thus, the Firebird was born, coming to market in early 1967, a few months after the Camaro.    

By early 1969, DeLorean was gone from Pontiac, promoted to the position of General Manager at Chevrolet, but his legacy continued, as did the Firebird.

Front end styling for 1979 Trans Ams was an evolution of the 1977 design made famous by Smokey and the Bandit.

The Performance Champion

By the early 1970s, what had been a white-hot muscle and pony car market in the US had cooled considerably, with federally-mandated safety, fuel economy and emissions regulations making it harder for manufacturers to offer the performance cars that people wanted, while those same people, particularly young buyers, were turning away from such cars due to the sky-high premiums that insurance companies were applying to them.

 

In response to this, Ford released the ‘Mustang II’ for 1974 that – shock, horror – was offered without a V8 engine, the signature feature of any serious muscle car. In the same period, pony car rivals like the Javelin, Challenger and Barracuda had either been reinvented as “personal luxury” cars with little to no performance capability, or discontinued outright.

The times were changing in the 1970s and American carmakers were changing with it for the most part, but Chevrolet and Pontiac were the holdouts in the performance car field. Chevrolet was continuing to offer the Corvette and Camaro, while Pontiac persisted with the Firebird. Both the Camaro and Firebird almost got the chop, though.

Despite the 6.6 decal on the shaker scoop, this Trans Am was built with a 4.9-litre V8.

In 1972, Firebird production had been in excess of 53,000, but had dropped to less than 30,000 a year later, with Camaro sales on the slide, too.

GM had the capacity to absorb such losses, albeit briefly, and despite the first ‘oil crisis’ of 1973-74 that saw most US manufacturers scramble to bring smaller, more fuel-efficient cars to market, Firebird sales actually increased.

Why Firebird sales rose during this period and continued going upward for the remainder of the 1970s is open to interpretation, but the reduced field of pony car and muscle car rivals was certainly a factor.

While the second-generation Firebird was never offered as a factory convertible, a targa-style roof was the next best thing.
First offered for the 1976 model year, the T-top with its removable panels added a considerable premium to the Trans Am’s price.

A Rising Star

In 1970, Pontiac introduced their second-generation Firebird, available as a base model or one of three specific variants: the ‘Esprit’ that focussed on luxury; the ‘Trans Am’ that focussed on performance; and the ‘Formula’ that was a halfway house between the two.

The transition of the Trans Am within this group is perhaps the most intriguing.

Four-speed manual was only available with the 301 V8 and a very limited number of 400ci-engined Trans Ams, not the volume-selling 403ci engine, making this car relatively rare.

What Pontiac had initially offered as an option package to homologate the Firebird for the SCCA Trans American Racing Series in 1969 (hence the Trans Am name) became a standalone model in 1970, but accounted for less than 7 per cent of total Firebird production that year.

After the low point of 1972, Trans Am sales would rebound in 1973, when the bold ‘Big Bird’ bonnet decal (better known as the ‘Screaming Chicken’) was introduced. Sales continued to rise, progressing in leaps and bounds in the years that followed, despite being the most expensive Firebird variant available.

By 1975, Trans Am production had exceeded that of the other Firebird siblings and would peak in 1979, the year of the car featured, when 117,109 Trans Ams were built from total Firebird output of 211,454 units.

The Trans Am’s meteoric rise in the late ‘70s owes much to Smokey and the Bandit, which everyone knows featured a 1977 Firebird Trans Am ‘Special Edition’ (defined by its Starlight Black paint with gold inserts and pinstriping) that became as much of a star in the movie as Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed and Jackie Gleason.

Thanks to Smokey and the Bandit, people think every Trans Am was black with gold pinstriping and badges, but other colours were available.

The ’79 Style

Given the success Pontiac was enjoying with the Trans Am post-Bandit, you could forgive them for leaving the car unchanged stylistically, but a makeover did come for the 1979 model year.

The rectangular headlights and split grille remained, but the lights were now in separate recessed pods and the grille openings moved into the lower portion of the impact-absorbing Endura nose, so they appeared to be part of the bumper. At the rear, a smoked finish to the tail lights made this section look like one panel.

Trans Ams got additional instrumentation that other Firebirds didn’t.

The standard engine for the ’79 Trans Am was a 403ci (6.6-litre) V8 that produced 185hp (138kW), but this Oldsmobile-sourced engine could be swapped for a 301ci (4.9-litre) V8 that offered 150hp (112kW). As fitted to the car featured, this engine entitled the buyer to a US$194 credit.

The need to meet fuel economy and emission standards meant the Trans Am’s 455ci V8 had been discontinued after 1976, with the high-performance, 220hp (164kW) 400ci V8 deleted at the end of the 1978 model run, although a handful did make it into a ‘10th Anniversary Limited Edition’ Trans Am that was offered early in 1979.

If some of those performance figures seem meagre, remember we are talking about the late 1970s when engines were being strangled by anti-pollution gear, while more efficient technologies, including EFI, were still to be introduced.

Trans Am transmission options comprised a Turbo-Hydramatic three-speed auto or four-speed manual, but this choice was only available with the 301ci or 400ci engines. The standard 403 V8 could only be had with an auto from the factory and the vast majority of Trans Am buyers in 1979 chose this, making the 301 and four-speed a rare combination, most likely sought by driving enthusiasts who were happy to give up a little power to gain three-pedal operation.

Other standard gear for ’79 included power steering, power-assisted brakes, a limited-slip diff and Radial Tuned Suspension similar to what was being offered on Holdens at the time.

On the outside, a front air dam, rear spoiler, air extractors in the guards and rear quarters, sports mirrors, a ’shaker’ bonnet scoop, subtle wheelarch flares and dual exhausts with ‘side-splitter’ extensions were all standard Trans Am features, while inside, cloth interior trim, full carpeting, an engine-turned dash panel, ‘Rally’ gauge cluster (with a tacho and clock), the same steering wheel as used on the Firebird Formula and front bucket seats with a centre console were standard, too.

While most Aussies associate Radial Tuned Suspension with Holdens, it was offered on GM cars in the 1970s, too.

Factory options were wide-ranging and included the T-top removable roof panels that were first offered in 1976, four-wheel disc brakes (a new option for 1979 and standard in the Special Edition) and the ‘WS6’ Handling Package that added stiffer springs, thicker front and rear sway bars, revised bushes, firmer transmission mounts, sharper steering and the ‘Snowflake’ alloys that were still of 15-inch diameter, but wider at 8 inches compared to the regular wheels.

Various convenience and cosmetic features were extra-cost options, too, which surprisingly included the ‘Screaming Chicken’ bonnet decal.

On the car featured, some of the options selected include T-top panels, which was the most expensive option in ‘79, closely followed by air conditioning, which this car also has. Additionally, the first owner selected the bonnet bird decal, Rally II wheels, power windows, a tilt steering wheel, additional interior lighting, tinted glass all round, a rear window defroster and the Custom Trim Group that comprised subtly patterned velour seat upholstery front and rear, door handle ornamentation, special pedal trim and detailing. Curiously, the radio was deleted from the order sheet.

While it was very well-equipped from the factory, there’s something much more remarkable about this particular 1979 Firebird Trans Am.

Survivor

Just when you think all the barn finds and low-mileage survivors have been found, cars like this turn up!

The photos alone make it clear how much of a pampered life this car has led since it was built more than 40 years ago. Decoding the VIN shows it was one of the very last 1979-model Trans Ams built, with the owner, Tony Ramunno, believing it rolled out of Pontiac’s Van Nuys plant less than a fortnight before production of the 1980 models began. It’s also believed to be one of only around 1,200 built that year with the 301/four-speed combination.

Velour seat upholstery was part of a factory option package that also included custom door and pedal trim.

Finished in the popular combination of Starlight Black with gold detailing and black interior trim, this Trans Am was delivered to Wilt Pontiac in Ohio, but spent many years in a climate-controlled museum in Florida. It had also passed through a Barrett-Jackson auction at one stage before Tony purchased it.

“It was my dream as a kid to own a car like this,” Tony explains. “I’d always wanted to buy one, but Trans Ams here were usually in terrible condition or converted to right-hand drive, so I started looking in the US to get a nice one.”

Tony has owned other American cars in the past, as well as blue ribbon Aussie classics, including a few Brock Commodores and a VL Group A Walkinshaw Commodore, but didn’t scratch the Trans Am itch until a bit over a decade ago.

After some time spent searching in the US, Tony came across this car in 2011, listed for sale with a specialist dealer in California.

As mentioned, this Trans Am had been in a museum for years, so was close to pristine inside and out, with the factory plastic coverings still on the seats and less than 8,500 miles on the odometer when Tony bought it.

However, that long tenure as a static display piece meant the exhaust, fuel tank, fuel lines, carby and brake lines needed rebuilding or replacing after it landed here in order to be able to drive it.

Tony also added a set of factory-style Snowflake wheels in a larger 17-inch size, but he’s kept the 15-inch originals which still wear the original tyres, too.

Full documentation, including the original order sheet, is part of this car’s rock-solid provenance.

“Since I’ve had it, I’ve added around 1,200 miles in ten years, but I’m just not driving it enough now. It needs to go to someone who’ll love it as much as I did.”

Cars like the 1979 Trans Am, especially in this condition, don’t come onto the market very often, but they’re just as striking to look at and offer a similar driving experience to the 1977/78 ‘Bandit’ Trans Ams, without the crazy prices.

Against Camaros and Mustangs, Firebirds are something of a left-field choice, but that’s also part of the appeal for those that don’t want to follow the herd. There’s sure to be someone out there that’ll love this Trans Am as much as Tony has. Maybe that someone is you.

First offered in 1973, the ‘Screaming Chicken’ bonnet decal came to define the Firebird Trans Am in the 1970s and ‘80s.

To Auction

While it comes from the peak year of Firebird Trans Am production, this example’s drivetrain and combination of factory options make it a rare unit.

Given this car’s years as a display piece, rust is virtually non-existent, but conversely, the time spent in a museum meant it was being cleaned and polished constantly, so the paint is thin in a few places.

As mentioned, Tony has undertaken some restorative work to make it safe and reliable to drive, while adding aftermarket wheels, too. But for concours purists, the original wheels and tyres will be included with the sale.

Everything this car was built with remains in place and everything works, so this Trans Am could be enjoyed on the road as a club car, or even go back on display as a museum piece.

Mileage is just 9,824 at time of writing, but it’s the condition of this car that really sells it, with few, if any, original and unrestored ’79 Trans Ams as good as this one.

This car will be auctioned by SEVEN82MOTORS Classics Lowriders & Muscle cars in Queensland as part of their week-long stock drop event this coming December.

For more details, including how to bid and information on other consignments, go to www.seven82motors.com.au

 

 

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