45k Original Miles: 1979 Pontiac Trans Am

It seems that most of the Trans Ams that Pontiac built in the late 1970s wore Starlight Black paint. That makes this Cameo White example a refreshing change. It isn’t perfect, but it is a rust-free vehicle that could be retained by its new owner as an original survivor. The owner has decided to part with the Pontiac, so he has listed it for sale here on eBay. It is located in Solon, Ohio, and while he has set a BIN of $26,990, there is the option to make an offer.

I searched for some information on paint totals for the ’79 Trans Am, but I came up short on definitive numbers. While the company offered thirteen different shades in that model year, production totals for each are hard to determine. Maybe one of our knowledgeable readers might be able to clarify the situation. There’s no doubt that the Trans Am’s star turn in the “Smokey and The Bandit” movies aided the cause of the Starlight Black cars, and that could be why there’s a perception that more cars wore that color than any other. The Cameo White paint on this Trans Am is in excellent condition. I believe that it is original, and if the car has always been garage-kept, as the owner suggests, that will have limited its exposure to harmful UV rays. A life led in the south has also helped to keep this classic rust-free. There is no evidence of any external problems, and the owner says that the underside is equally impressive. I still think an in-person inspection is worth the effort to ensure that the trunk pan and the rear valance are sound. The exterior plastic is in good order, as are the Rally wheels. The original owner ordered this Pontiac with the optional T-Top, and I can’t spot any problems there. There is some deterioration that the owner notes with some of the graphics, including the iconic Screaming Chicken. However, it hasn’t reached the point where replacement would be essential if the buyer is keen on retaining the car as an original survivor.

Potential buyers had a few engine choices when they ordered their new ’79 Trans Am, and this one features the 403ci Oldsmobile V8 that produced 185hp. The 3-speed TH350 automatic was the sole transmission offered with the 403, while this car is also equipped with power steering and power brakes. Performance statistics were typical of what buyers expected during The Malaise Era, with the journey down the ¼ mile taking a relatively leisurely 16.6 seconds. This V8 was also the thirstiest in the Trans Am fleet, with an average consumption of 10½ mpg. That’s the doom and gloom out of the way, and from there, things take a distinct upswing. The owner claims that the Trans Am has a genuine 45,000 miles showing on its odometer, although he doesn’t indicate whether he holds verifying evidence. However, he does say that the vehicle runs and drives extremely well and that the transmission shifts smoothly. The open road is beckoning this Pontiac and its lucky new owner.

The time has come to open the doors and take a look around inside this Trans Am. Once again, the impression that it makes is mainly positive. The two-tone cloth upholstery on the seats shows some minor edge wear, but not to the point where any holes are developing. The remaining upholstered surfaces look good, as does the plastic and the machine-turned dash. There are a couple of minor issues. The first is that with a cover in place, we don’t get a clear look at the pad. The cover may be to protect the top of the dash, or it might be hiding some problems. The kick panels have some damage, but I think that a color-matched plastic dye could address this. The original radio has made way for a Pioneer radio/cassette player, while the original owner ordered the car with air conditioning and power windows.

This 1979 Pontiac Trans Am isn’t perfect, but that is part of its attraction. There is nothing quite like owning a perfectly preserved or meticulously restored classic car. They will always turn heads, and the owner will be flooded with positive comments. However, these cars also have a darker side. At some point, the owner will be out on a leisurely cruise when a rock is going to flick up and damage the paint, or some uncaring individual will brush against the vehicle and inflict a scratch. If the car is pristine, that will be a stressful experience. This Pontiac isn’t spotless, but its condition is still impressive. There’s no doubt that the occasional scratch or chip would be disappointing for its owner, but it might not be as traumatic as if the car were perfect. That’s why I like this car, and with its overall condition and low odometer reading, it’s why I think that the owner will be saying goodbye to this classic very soon.

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Comments

  1. Terrry

    This car really looks good in white. Much better than the black ones with the gold thunder chicken on the hood.

    Like 7
  2. JoeNYWF64

    Could one order a ’79 with the older smaller ’73-78 design hoodbird if the factory had any left over?
    Not sure why Pontiac changed the trim ring design of the rally II’s for ’73-’81.
    The older shinier “thinner” ones looked better.

  3. BA

    Doesn’t this have the T/A 6.6 shaker? That usually means Pontiac 400 ?

    Like 3
    • Robbie R.

      It does, but it has been re-decaled. The aftermarket decal packs all have the “T/A 6.6” callout for the hood scoop. They don’t carry the “6.6 Litre” decal.

      Like 2
  4. Erik

    When I was growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s, the 20-something daughter of our neighbors across the street would get a new T/A every few years. I remember playing in the yard as a kid and always thinking it was cool to have “Bandit’s T/A” parked across the street. Later I recall being a young teen and as attractive as she was (although I always thought her older sister [who drove Mazda RXs] was more attractive) instead I lusting after her T/A’s more than her “T&A”. This was especially the case after one day she brought home a white T/A with blue screaming chicken hood decal and blue interior exactly like this one featured here. She kept that T/A for a long time as she soon had a daughter but continued to live with her parents but still held on to that white T/A. Soon I was off to college and then back to live with my parents while starting my own career and that T/A was still across the street as it was a decade earlier. Soon I was married and living elsewhere yet on occasional trips back home to visit my aging parents I would notice the T/A still there across the street but my own life was in a different place and I was then into other classic cars rather than old T/A’s. Later my parents passed away and my childhood home was sold even though every once and a while I still wax nostalgic and drive past the childhood home when I am in that area as if hoping to recapture that long gone youth and simpler time. As I end my story, I would like to say I went back and bought that T/A in recent years but that never happened. To be honest, I do not know what ever happened with that white T/A although I believe that the daughter ended up with the house after her parents passed away and I believe she lives there to this day. Short of making a trip and knocking on her doo to inquire about it’s whereabouts, all I can do now is be like so many of us and see these cars at shows, cruises, or here on Barn Finds and wonder “What if?” I would have pursued that white T/A across the street all those years ago.

    Like 9
    • douglas hunt

      What is it with girls and T/A’s
      When i was out of high school and attending a tech school (electrical engineering) i worked part time at a NAPA as a delivery driver
      As such i went daily to the distribution warehouse for pickups and met a girl working for another local NAPA (her dad owned that franchise) she drove a 77 black T/A 4speed
      We dated only briefly as i graduated and moved to accept my first job post graduation

      Like 1
  5. John Ouellette

    Olds 403…sigh

    Like 1
  6. Morris Bacon

    185 hp of neck snapping acceleration. Might get up to 70 going downhill

  7. Roland Schoenke

    Who ever redesigned the nose of the 79′ should have been reduced to the assembly line.

    Like 4
    • Robbie R.

      Agree Roland. I had a 77 TA that I bought new, which had the weaker L78 400 engine, and planned to upgrade to a 79 model with the 220hp WS6 engine package when they came out. As soon as photos were released (in car mags back then) I changed directions completely. Sold the 77 TA anyway, but bought a brand new (to market) Mazda RX-7.

      Like 1
      • JoeNYWF64

        You could have gotten a new or possibly used ’78 with the 220 hp WS6 as well. Or certainly a ’74 or older one with even more hp.

      • Robbie R.

        Yes Joe, very true (in hindsight). In 79, I was only 20 years old and had the “new cars are better” mentality. Getting a new or low mile 78 TA probably would have been the smarter move because the RX-7 turned out to be a turd. The used car lots back then were full of older TAs that had been run very hard, not like the cream puff survivors and refurbed cars that we see today.

    • Robbie R.

      In addition to my own story above, it’s well-documented that James Garner refused to “upgrade” his firebird beyond the 78 model that he drove as Rockford because he also hated the new front nose.

      Like 1
  8. Mark

    I don’t get the prices of these trans am’s. The corvettes of the same Era performed the same, handled better and looked better but the resale values on the Vette’s are bottom of the barrel and Trans Am’s are sky high.

    • JoeNYWF64

      I think it’s you know what movie that’s responsible.
      I can only imagine the sales increase of ’77-78 t/a’s after people saw the 1st “Smokey & Bandit” movie. Oddly, they sold even more ’79s even tho the latter was in the 2 terrible sequel movies.
      But there was never a good movie to promote the ’70s vette, especially with the terrible mods to the car in “Corvette Summer”.
      & even the ’81 vette was based on the very old ’63 architecture, complete with archaic power steering with a ps control valve underneath the front end(like old Fords). & the handling was not as good as a WS6 bird.
      “Car and Driver magazine named the Trans Am with the WS6 performance package the best handling car of 1979”.
      Also, the very expensive cost of repairing common rusty hidden bird cages on the Vette also did not help, while it was ez to spot & fix rust on the bird’s exposed front subframe.

      • douglas hunt

        I remember corvette summer, i was like what threw up on that poor vette …………

    • Larry Wood

      Mark, Road and Track did a test with the 1979 Corvette, Z-28 the Trans-Am and a couple of others I do not remember but a 301.cubic inch 4 speed, WS6 Trans-Am was rated the best handling car in the test. I still have my 79 WS6 Trans-Am. I auto -crossed it and had no trouble keeping up with and beating the other bigger horse power cars and my times were always better than a Corvette of the same vintage.

      • JoeNYWF64

        I believe the WS6 got you 8(instead of 7) inch wide wheels, but weren’t the tires still those very high profile 225-70r15s?
        Impressive handling with such tall tires. 235-60r-15 would have been a better choice for the car. (I think the vette actually had wider tires than those by ’79.)
        Then again, back in the day, such tires were actually wider than “same size” replacement tires today!
        Note how many tread grooves going around – i count 6, instead of the thinner “same size” replacement tire today with only 4! …
        http://img.hmn.com/900×0/stories/2019/03/02-1979-Formula-with-W50-Formula-Appearance-Package.jpg

      • Mark

        Vettes with Gymkhana Suspension handle pretty well. Not every Corvette has the Gymkhana Suspension package just as not all Trans Am’s are W6’s. My point originally was C3 Vette’s are a dime a dozen and Trans Am’s cost nearly as much as a old chevelle or Roadrunner. Before Mecum & Barret Jackson they were $5k for a nice TA.

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