Affordable: 1979 Pontiac Trans Am

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We have covered several 1979 Trans Ams over the years here on Barn Finds and watched their prices increase almost every year. While 1979 was the highest production year for the Trans Am at over 117,000 units, their popularity never seems to wane. This 1979 Pontiac Trans Am is located in Denton, Texas which is just north of Dallas. The car is listed here on Facebook Marketplace for what seems to be a reasonable asking price of $14,500. The listing was just posted yesterday. Unless the car was repainted a nonoriginal color, it is painted Code 19 Starlight Black.

The camel interior indicates that the car was ordered with the deluxe interior option. The original hobnail cloth interior has been replaced but the original deluxe door panels are still in place. the dash has a dash cap on it which is probably hiding some cracks. The seller states that the car has had recent brake work as well as a new 4 barrel carburetor and fuel tank. The car appears to be in good enough condition to be driveable while you restore it.

This Trans Am is equipped with the base engine for the 1979 Trans Am which was the L80 403 cubic inch V8 engine that was rated at 185 horsepower. It was only available with an automatic transmission. The top performing engine option was the W72 Pontiac 400 cubic inch V8 engine. This engine was rated at 220 horsepower and was only available with a 4 speed manual transmission. In 1979, the W72 engine option required the WS6 suspension which came with 15×8 snowflake wheels and 4 wheel disk brakes. For a $50 credit, a buyer could opt for the L37 Pontiac 301 cubic inch V8 engine that was rated at a only 155 horsepower. This engine was available with either an automatic or 4 speed manual transmission.

This Trans Am is riding on 15×7 Pontiac Rally II wheels which were stock on the 1979 Trans Am. The pictures indicate that the body is in pretty good condition but the paint and decals show a lot of sun fading and damage. The seller states that the car has 85,000 miles on the odometer. This one is going to need some work but, if the undercarriage looks good, it could be a good starting point for a nice driver.

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  1. Bick Banter

    At 14.5k you don’t have a long ways to go before you’re underwater. This is a non WS6 403 car, which is the least desirable short of the 301. They used to call them Oldsmobirds back in the day and they weren’t really respected by the gearheads. But they did sell a lot of them. I believe this was the best selling year of the Trans Am ever, and the vast majority had this motor.

    Like 5
  2. Steve R

    Black, manual windows, no-AC (no dash), 403 automatic, this will be a hard sell in many parts of the country. At this price, someone may pull the trigger without a thorough inspection or by asking specific enough questions.

    Steve R

    Like 2
  3. Tbone

    I don’t think the 403 was so bad. A lot if the disdain was because that was the engine you received when you ordered an automatic transmission. And maybe because it was an Olds engine in a Pontiac. We were just beginning to move towards corporate engines and I remember someone my parents knew who was upset his full size GM car didn’t have the “right engine.”

    Like 2
    • Bick Banter

      It’s not known as one of the best Olds engines either. It was a small block with a wide bore known for overheating.

      Like 2
      • Larry D

        @Bick Banter
        I bought a new Trans Am in ’79 with the 403. I never had ANY problems with that engine or the entire car for that matter.

        Like 0
  4. CCFisher

    The shaker decals should read “6.6 Litre.” The “T/A 6.6” decals on this car were reserved for the W-72 versions.

    Like 2
    • SteVen

      It sure seems that nearly all of these 403-powered cars now have the “T/A 6.6” decals on their shakers. Were the “6.6 Litre” decals hard to find or are all these guys so insecure that they don’t have a real Pontiac 400 that they felt the need to put on these stickers? It’s not like it’s hard to look inside and see the auto shifter and know the truth. Makes me wonder what else a seller is up to when they do this.

      Like 1
  5. Robbie M.

    Identical to the 79 I had back in the day. Wish I still had it. :(

    Like 2
  6. Scot

    Not being a specifically desireable model the price is a little optimistic. Forgive me for thinking that the first modification would be to add a 78 style front bumper/grill

    Like 2
  7. Motorcityman

    I had a friend in Do Csl that was a retired GM Engineer.
    He had a 73 455 SD trans Am and a 440 Cuda I believe, nice Black one.
    Anyway he told me the Pontiac 400 was a superior engine to the Olds 403, something about the 403 having head problems or something, I don’t remember the details but he also said the Pontiac 400 was much more “buildable” than the Olds 403 for more power.
    We used to go to car shows together.


    Like 1
  8. Motorcityman

    *So Cal*

    Like 0
  9. Ashtray

    I had a 1979 Trams Am with the 403 Oldsmobile engine. It was Solar Gold.
    The biggest complaint that I heard about not having the correct brand name engine installed was that GM did not tell the public that it did not have the correct engine. GM was sued over this. Some 350 engines were also interchanged in other GM vehicles.
    They all worked ok, but you needed to know which engine you had before you were to an auto parts store for replacement parts. Not all parts were an exact replacement.
    I never did hear a reason for this?

    Like 0
    • JoeNYWF64

      Were non chevy owners told that the 250 straight 6 in their ’70s firebird, apollo, ventura, omega & a whole bunch of other cars back then that the 6 cyl motor in their car was indeed a chevy one? – never heard no lawsuits about that – maybe cause it was so durable, ez to work on, & reliable?

      Like 0
  10. ShelbyGT

    Looks decent to start with as these had some serious rust issues if i recall I had a brand new 79 T/A with the 403, seemed pretty torquey, Dark Blue with Light Blue int. Also wished I had of kept that car but had to downsize for lower payments. Hind sight is 20/20!

    Like 0
  11. PRA4SNW

    From reading many comments here on B.F. about the 403, the downside seems to be that they aren’t built with the heavy duty internals like the Pontiac 400 and that there aren’t as many performance parts available.

    So, it probably isn’t that bad of an engine for someone who wants a good looking boulevard cruiser. Which is probably the biggest audience for these cars nowadays.

    If you want performance, you are going to be looking at a 74 or older.

    Like 0
  12. Chris Cornetto

    I bought what I thought was a 79 ta from the original owner back in 2003. The car, a 400 4speed, ac, tilt,4 wheel disc and the honey comb wheels. He told me he had an accident with the car in the mid 80s and the shop swapped a front in the same color so he was elated at the cost and turn around on the fix. I never checked the numbers but when I went to sell the car a few years later I found out the car was a Fomula which deemed it more or less a parts car. For a late 70s ride it boogied. Now a barn hide with other stuff that lies entombed. Not my favorite, I wouldn’t put that much in one but I know the ta’s are hot for many as they were everywhere once upon a time. I always liked the 73 personally.

    Like 0

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