Engine Swap Candidate: 1979 Pontiac Trans Am

This 1979 Pontiac Trans Am looks like a sharp driver, but you always have to wonder what it’s doing on a Copart lot. Barn Finds reader Matt spotted this pretty example that looks sharp sitting on gold snowflake wheels, but unfortunately shows the sad end results of an underhood fire. Find its here on Copart where bidding is currently at $4,350.

The Trans Am is still a looker, with glossy paint and its OEM graphics still looking sharp. The trademark dual exhaust poking out from under the bumper may indicate this was a largely stock example that’s simply been maintained as a weekend driver, or it could have been a one-owner care in the same hands for many years. No sign of ugly 70s window tint, either.

Coupled with an interior that looks sharp with black carpets and black cloth buckets (were those offered from the factory?), it seems to reinforce that this Trans Am was a decent car before its untimely death. The missing radio is the only really demerit I can assign against the cockpit, as the dash seems to be uncracked and the console looks to be in fine shape as well.

Frankly, as engine fires go, this is far from the worst I’ve seen. Perhaps a fuel hose gave out, or some simple failure. The more we get used to driving an older car reliably, the more a sense of security can build in – but vintage cars always have something waiting to go south. Hopefully, this Trans Am can be fixed with an engine swap and perhaps a new wiring harness.


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  1. Steve R

    If it can be bought cheap enough it would be the basis of a good build. There is no reason to keep it stock since it has a salvage title. A moderatlty built 455 Olds or Pontiac and some 3.23 or 3.42 gears would give it enough kick to make it more enjoyable that the stock 403.

    Steve R

    Like 8
    • James M

      Ya know… this isn’t a turbo trans am, but I’d be more interested in an old meets new build with say a pontiac 455 (the 7.5L) with a turbo thrown on to make some gnarly power and noise

    • djjerme

      ….in addtion to Copart fee’s.

      Their fee are ridiculous now, I have bought a few cars through them and because you are bidding against everyone in the world now, it’s just not worth it most of the time.

      Like 2
      • al

        I agree. Last 1 I reluctantly bought from them was 4+ yrs ago & I was going against another in Yemen for an older Benz. Forget Harleys. Euros & Aussies pay TOP dollar for wrecks there as they do not recognize salvage titles, so no stigma attached when fixed up for resale. As if nothing ever happened. But yes their fee’s as well, plus state tax, it adds up considering no one around to talk to as far as how it ran or the bugs, prior to its demise.

        Like 1
  2. Mike

    I Agree. The possibilities are endless if someone can pick it up for a reasonable price.

    Like 4
  3. Bruce Johnson Bruce Staff

    Good find! That would make a great project. Just replace the 403 Olds motor with a Pontiac 455 and put some 15×8 snowflake rims on it.

    Like 1
  4. Rosco

    Looks like an easy builder, but the price may soon make that unrealistic. Guessing it’s not a true SE.

    Like 1
  5. Timothy Cox

    Bid is over 7K now.

  6. Benjy58

    A big block Chevy would help a lot.

  7. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    It’s already up to $9600 and Copart says the value is only $7806.

  8. Sam

    Is there an easy way to tell if this is a Y84?

    • Dex

      Build sheet or PHS documents.

  9. George Mattar

    Trash that 403 boat anchor and find a Ram Air III engine. I had a 77 Grand Prix with a 403. Beautiful silver car with t tops and 36 other options, but that engine was a dog and sucked gas. It would keep up with modern day traffic, but took forever to get to speed, most likely due to the 2.56 rear. 79 TAs are bringing decent money, but $9,000 is far too much for this. Fires are very damaging.

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