Cheap Project? $3,500 1979 Pontiac Trans Am

For a time in the late 1970s, Pontiac couldn’t build enough Trans Am’s, thanks to the popularity of the Smokey and the Bandit movie of 1977. They were part of the second-generations Firebirds which were built from 1970-81. The seller has probably mistaken this car for a Yellow Bird, a special edition Firebird Esprit that was only offered in the 1980 model year. The faded decals and shaker hood give this car away as a well-used Trans Am, from 1979 according to the seller. It’s located behind a building in Newfield, New Jersey, and available here on Facebook Marketplace for $3,500 OBO.

Between 1977-80, there was a series of Firebirds with special colors and options that followed a theme. First, there was the (blue) Sky Bird of 1977-78, then the Red Bird of 1978-79 (can you guess the color?), and finally the Yellow Bird of 1980. They were all based on the Esprit series, which generally used the Firebird’s smaller engines as they were targeting female buyers. Sales estimates say that no more than 10-15% of Esprit production was ever one of these cars.

The seller’s ’79 Trans Am is said to have an automatic transmission, which would mean the engine is a 403 cubic inch V8 borrowed from Oldsmobile, good for 185 hp. Not the barn-burner of years past, however. No mention is made if the car runs and it’s going to need considerable bodywork given the rust, especially on the driver’s side quarter panel and around the rear window. If this were a Yellow Bird, it would probably be worth less than the Trans Am, but not by much.


  1. Ralph

    Nothing but a parts car here.

    Like 9
  2. George Mattar

    Dime a dozen 79. In 79, there were more TAs on our roads than stupid Hondas today. But a 403 boat anchor Olds is useless.

    Like 4
    • Rick

      The worst car I ever owned was a Pontiac.

      The most trouble free car, generator and lawnmower I’ve ever owned (and still own) are Hondas.

      Like 2
      • joenywf64

        ’74 firebird 400 with turbo 400 auto trans. 225k miles – original everything, except timing chain & 1 alternator. No smoke or ticking. One $200 carb rebuild.
        No a/c or p/w tho.
        & i know of an original very high mileage ’68 nova with 250 strait 6 & powerglide still kickin – NO timing belt OR chain! Does/did Honda ever have/make a motor like that?
        & i have yet to see auto A/C that lasted more than 7 yrs w/o needing repairs – on ANY car.
        ANY brand PUSH power mower from the early 2000s & older are trouble free, as long as you change the oil & use stabil.

        Like 3
  3. ed the welder

    I can HEAR the rusting from my home in New York .

    Like 10
  4. Bick Banter

    Oh dear what a rusty mess. Even with all the people out there trying to commit financial suicide, ain’t no one touching this thing.

    Like 4
  5. piston poney

    its rusty but for 3500 you could have alot of fun, drop a smallblock chevy and 4 speed, (or auto) an run it, have a cheap fun trans am.

  6. mjf

    Should buff out no problem… geeezzz too much to say about this one, rust bucket

    Like 2
  7. Jack Leary

    Nothing more than a Vega. JUST JUNK.

  8. Robbie R.

    That barn had a leak.

    Like 5
  9. Troy

    When I was 16-17 years old I would have gotten this and thought I had the coolest car among my friends today I look at this and think what a shame they let it go like this and I would sell the parts that could be saved and let the rest die instead of keeping it on life support.

    Like 2
  10. Rick

    Joenywf64, I bought the ’09 Honda Fit new. In 165K miles it has never had the timing cover or oil pan removed. The cam cover was off once for a valve spring replacement recall. All cooling system, fuel system and electrical components (other than the battery) are the originals. The AC needed a refrigerant recharge in 2020, and that’s after 11 years. I have full confidence that the car will see 200K miles and probably even 250K.

    And, I’m not the only one who has confidence in Honda.

    • Dex

      The first funny part is that you actually bought an ’09 Honda Fit. Second funny part is that you’re bragging about it.

      Like 6
      • Rick

        I wasn’t looking for a car to win any beauty contests. I wanted a car that would be reliable and economical and the Fit continues to deliver.

        Yes, I actually bought the car. You didn’t expect me to swipe it from the dealership, did you? ;)

    • joenywf64

      I’m assuming your Fit has a manual trans, because listenng to
      for decades, the honda auto transes are not all that great at all. & their dealer-only auto trans fluid is very expensive, compared to the powerglide’s dextron, which i’ve even seen at dollar stores.
      If your Fit has a timing CHAIN, it is most likely stretched by now
      & should be replaced! – it is no better or different than any other timing chain.
      If it has a timing BELT then a miracle had occured! because that should been changed every 80k(or is it 100k?) miles((& while it’s all apart, the water pump, tensioners, etc. should also be changed) – OR approx every 7 years(according to the experts) WHICH EVER COMES 1ST!!! Not sure why it’s every 60k with ’91 mitz 3000gt dohc v6(crappy rubber belt? now i put only 700 miles a yr on the latter car & therefore i still should replace the belt every 5000 miles!! – with the 7 year limit! – which costs about $1000 every time on the dohc mitz v6. – & then i wonder if the shop did it right or did it at all!)

      I’m not too crazy about the styling of any contemportary subcompact WITH 4 DOORS(IMO the early 2 door only Vega & Pinto – each had a trunk, hatchback & wagon variant!) looked a LOT better & sportier. I wanted not only an entry level contemporary TWO door car even tho i’m 67 yrs old, but 1 with a TRUNK. We can all forget that forever, considering now that even the 4 door Fit & Sonic have been discontinued!
      Why the Mirage & Spark remain are a mystery, & who would want either of those?
      I think Honda had a 2 door civic or accord with a trunk, but that was a long time ago.
      Pray that Honda does not discontinue key parts for your Fit, (especially the many complicated electronic parts) because many of them come from small vendors, who can go out of business overnight!
      That ’68 nova could not be simpler – even the wiring harness is baby stuff. & parts are still readily available.
      Anyway, if i was in the walking dead universe, the only car i would would feel confident in would be any smaller chevy nova type car with the no-timing-belt-or-chain chevy strait 6(& pts & condenser distributor) & a powerglide. lol

      Like 2
      • Rick

        My Fit has an automatic transmission. I put on my grubbies and change the fluid every 15K miles, along with the inline filter at alternating 15K mile intervals. When the car was under warranty I used Honda DW-1 ATF. Now I use Castrol Transmax Import Multi-Vehicle ATF. There have never been any noises, delayed shifts or leaks.

        I change the engine oil and filter at 5K mile intervals, or sooner if the oil life monitor reaches 50% life remaining.

        The timing chain, sprockets, tensioner and chain guide are all original. There are no clattering noises on startup or during acceleration.

        The Fit’s less than attractive styling means nothing to a guy who would own an AMC Pacer and a bathtub Nash if I had the garage space for them.

        Let’s hope you’re never in dire s-t-r-a-i-t-s, but if you have confidence in a s-t-r-a-i-g-h-t six with point and condenser, then you should be OK.

  11. joenywf64

    Rick, you would probably notice an increase in performance if you changed the timing chain, & there is a chance the orig one could break without warning with such high mileage – plus over the years, performance decreases slowly as a chain stretches. I noticed a difference on the firebird when i changed mine – to a double roller one at about 120k miles
    The ’68 nova was used to drive to work from 1981-2003 & never had to be towed. & is still being used today on occasion.
    Cheap points & condender were simply replaced in minutes every 12k miles, along with the usual basic maintenance which can be done by anybody, including water pump, starter, etc – all easily accessible.
    Still has original ignition coil!(only 1 needed) & original “stand alone” ignition switch on the dash. Many troublesome ignition switches on modern vehicles go bad & have complicated linkage that sometimes jams that is tied into the shifter & brake pedal, which the ’68 does not have. Also the ’68 does not have electric HVAC blend door motors which often can go bad. & older GM reciculating ball power steering can be very quick lock to lock & is a lot more durable than rack & pinion steering.

  12. Stevieg Member

    You two are arguing over a fairly modern economy car & a 50 something year old economy car. I just thought I would point that out lol.
    I’m too late to the party. This is a whole different year.

    • Dex

      Late to the party, but a great comment! I guess the good thing is it’s not being compared to a 2018 Hyundai Elantra. That would really be something!

      Like 1

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