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Built 400: 1976 Pontiac Trans Am

Beauty is said to be skin deep, but that isn’t exactly the case with this 1976 Pontiac Trans Am. In its case, the skin looks quite ugly, but the beauty seems to go down to its core. When you look at the photos and the car’s history, it appears that what it needs is a new owner prepared to put the time and effort into a cosmetic refresh. Barn Finder Pat L spotted this one for us, so thank you so much for that, Pat. The Pontiac is located in Burbank, California, and has been listed for sale here on Craigslist. Hand the owner $13,500, and you could take the Tans Am home with you.

The Trans Am doesn’t show a lot of promise if you give it a passing glance. The Goldenrod Yellow paint has plenty of cracking and crazing, and I believe that this is probably the result of a heavy-handed repaint over poor surface preparation. However, you need to know this vehicle’s history to understand the potential that hides beneath that ruined paint. The Pontiac hasn’t spent its whole life in California. It isn’t clear when it moved to its current location, but it spent all of its time before that in Arizona. That means that I’m not at all surprised to learn that it is rust-free. The buyer isn’t going to be faced with the prospect of heaps of cutting, welding, and grinding. However, they will be faced with stripping away all of that paint if a decent finish is to be achieved when the project is complete. There are also a few minor dings and dents, but all of these look to be repairable. The exterior appears to be complete, although the front and rear bumpers have been swapped for a set from a ’75 model. The glass looks good, and the aftermarket wheels suit the character of the Trans Am perfectly.

The Trans Am’s interior is a surprise packet for me because its condition is far better than I was expecting. When I looked at the exterior, I was expecting trim and upholstery that was cracked, split, and sun-rotted. While he doesn’t mention it, I wouldn’t be surprised if the seller treated the car to a trim kit during his 12-years of ownership. The upholstery on the seats and door trims look impressive, while the headliner is perfect. The dash has some minor marks, but it and the pad seem to be free from cracks. The original radio is missing, and the carpet doesn’t fit that well, but both of these issues would be easy to address. A new steering wheel also wouldn’t go astray. I believe that the Pontiac probably had air conditioning, but it appears that the hardware has been removed from the engine bay. That is something that I would look at addressing if the car is to remain in sunny climes. Otherwise, the interior features power windows and a tilt wheel. It isn’t a lot, but it should make life pretty pleasant.

By 1976, time was catching up with the Trans Am. Pontiac engineers were doing their best to produce the most potent cars of their type within the General Motors range, but there was only so much that they could do. That’s where this owner has taken matters into his own hands. The Trans Am comes equipped with a 400ci V8 and a 4-speed manual transmission. This would have given the driver 185hp under their right foot and the ability to cover the ¼ mile in 17.1 seconds. That was originally, but now the story would seem to be quite different. The engine was pulled and sent to a gentleman named Teddy Smith, in Tucson, Arizona. He is said to be a master mechanic, and he worked his magic on the V8. It was bored 0.030″ over and fitted with a hotter camshaft and headers. I can also spot a different intake and a new carburetor. It isn’t clear what sort of power increase resulted from this work, but the owner says it starts, runs, and roars down the street. That sounds like good, clean fun to me.

In its current state, this 1976 Pontiac Trans Am is not about to win any beauty contests. However, it has good bones and would seem to represent a straightforward project for the right person. I am willing to admit that if I were in the market for a project car at present, I would find this one quite tempting. There’s no doubt that it could be made to look stunning once again. However, it would be a hoot to drive it as-is for a while because I can guarantee that it would attract plenty of attention. Would you do that, or would you want it returned to its best ASAP?


  1. Mitchell Gildea Member

    When you can’t decide between the Formula hood and the Trans Am hood
    This car: Hold my Screaming Chicken

    Like 14
    • Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

      We used to call that Belt and Suspenders.

      Like 4
      • JCA Member

        We used to call it tricked out. Now its overblinged with a touch of soy face going on.

        Like 2
  2. RandyS

    isn’t that a ’74 front bumper?

    Like 3
    • JoeNYWF64

      The ’74 & ’75 bird bumpers are the same – black rubber on steel frame. Surprised the owner changed to these heavy as hell bumpers which also are are not ez to find in good condition – especially the rear bumper!!
      I would think instead more likely this car is a ’75 with only ’74 mods to grills & lower valance.
      Hood scoop is ’78 or newer i believe.
      Must be bad gas in that part of LA with the 2 external gas filters on there. lol
      Keep an eye on all that rubber fuel hose!
      Interesting custom lower door panels.
      If the scoops are all open, the 2 in front cool the engine compartment & the shaker gets cool air in the carb.
      Ponch’s bird in “Chips” also had a bird on the hood – that’s a bit much …

      Like 3
  3. JCA Member

    Adam, how about the “Assigned Identification number” tag instead of a VIN from the State of Arizona? That doesn’t sound good. Was it stolen and stripped or otherwise salvage?

    Like 6
  4. Steve R

    Trans Am? I wouldn’t bet on it. I certainly wouldn’t pay a premium for this car based on the owners claim unless verified by PHS documentation.

    Claiming a random person who built the car years ago was a “master mechanic” doesn’t pass the smell test either. When I worked in auto parts every shade tree home mechanic was referred to by that term when the cheapskate who hired them returned whatever parts they were told to buy, which were magically defective when they didn’t fix the cars problem. Many of these “master mechanics” are just fast talking parts changers.

    Besides the sellers dubious claims about the mechanic and calling the car a Trans Am, it won’t pass smog in California. Good luck to whatever sucker that has the misfortune to buy this car.

    Steve R

    Like 10
    • JoeNYWF64

      If it is a ’75 & i think it is(see above), it is exempt from Calif emissions, tho CARB should have made it ’74 or older, since ’75 was 1st year of cat converters.

      • Steve R

        The seller is calling it a 76, I’ll take their word for it. If that’s what it’s title shows that’s how it will be smogged. You are wrong about 75 and earlier cars being emissions exempt, it is only exempt from testing. They are still required to retain their factory emissions equipment. Bills are introduced in the state legislature on a near yearly basis to repeal the exemption, sooner or later one of those will be passed, it’s just a matter of time.

        Steve R

        Like 1
  5. Ralph

    Never saw an actual T/A with this hood. The scoop, yes. The two front scoops, no. There are a lot of things about this one that do not pass the smell test. A fool and his money are soon parted. Just say NO.

    Like 2
  6. roland schoenke

    The fire bird in Corvette Summer that gave chase after the corvette had the same hood.

  7. martinsane

    The wheel chock rock also makes one wonder…

    Bring it ro Washington State, 25 or older and no emmissions.

  8. George

    Firebird Formula hood with a cut out. I would want proof that it was a trans am.

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