1979 Pontiac Trans Am 10th Anniversary Edition Barn Find

I am going to review this 1979 Pontiac Trans Am without making a reference to Smokey and the Bandit or screaming chickens, enough is enough, already! These late gen-II Trans Ams have come into their own and they should be judged on their existential merits and not constantly be fodder for some kind of a cliched comparison. For now. Next week and a different Trans Am? All bets are off. This Tenth Anniversary edition is located in East Aurora, New York and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $7,500, one bid tendered so far.

The ’79 Firebird and Trans Am introduced a new soft nose, that at the time it was considered controversial. James Garner, a Firebird wheelin’ private eye on the weekly TV show “The Rockford Files” (’74-’80), reportedly took one look at a ’79 Espirit upon introduction, and said Uh-Uh! He told his producer that he was sticking with his more traditionally styled ’78 model. Nevertheless, ’79 was a strong Firebird sales year with 211K copies finding new homes. Of that total, 117K were Trans Ams, a high watermark. Helping the cause was the fact that ’79 was the Trans Am’s tenth anniversary and a “silver” edition was released to commemorate the milestone.

By ’79, Pontiac was starting to get out of the V8 business, part of GM’s overall consolidation program. The last 400 CI Pontiac engine, a Trans Am mainstay, was built in ’78 and some did carry over to ’79 – those with a four-speed manual transmission are the most coveted. Most ’79 Trans Ams, such as our example, were powered by a 185 net HP, 403 CI, V8 engine, supplied by sister GM division, Oldsmobile. The 403 CI motor mandated a three-speed, automatic transmission and that’s exactly what we have here. The seller states, “The car runs and drives well and is all original and complete which makes the restoration that much easier.” The mileage is listed as 39K but it is not claimed as such so the odometer has probably been once around. Nice to find on this bird are its four-wheel disc brakes.

The most visually standout feature of this Trans Am, for me, is that it has not had a trip to the wash-rack. It seems peculiar that one would not want their sale object to look its best for presentation and promotion. Makes one wonder if that is holding back the bidding action. The finish isn’t perfect, there are some nicks and scratches here and there the depth/sheen could be better, but a thorough wash job would do wonders, methinks. The seller suggests “needs paint” but I’d clean and buff first and see what’s really there. The body panels look well-aligned, except for the rear spoiler but if I’m not mistaken, that’s not that unusual with a Firebird/Trans Am of this vintage. This is a T-top equipped model but there is no word regarding their integrity.

Of concern is the underside, there is a lot of rust pitting and the seller advises that the driver’s side frame rail will need work. It is claimed that this car was not driven in winter and has been barn stored for eleven years. If that’s the case, the storage probably had a damp surface. It’s not all of the underside mind you, some of it appears to be sound but other parts, not so much so. If I were interested in this Trans Am, I’d really eyeball that underside carefully, it belies the general topside appearance.

The Silver Anniversary leather interior is a mess, even the back seat has ripped or shredded apart. The instrument panel is intact but the steering wheel is molting and the rest of the interior has a filthy vibe to it. A good cleaning, as with the exterior, would help immeasurably but some expensive trim shop work is going to be needed to make the interior presentable again.

Getting back to the current bid, or lack of current bids, perhaps it is just the presentation that is the problem and if that’s the case, this Trans Am could prove to be a reasonable buy. As with Rockford, I strongly disliked the nose piece on the ’79-’81 Firebird when first introduced but it has grown on me over time. I’d say this Pontiac has nice potential, how about you?


  1. Mitchell Gildea Member

    I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure this is a 10th Anniversary edition. $7.5K seems wayyyyy too high; I get that it’s a special edition, but it’s also a 403 auto car, not a 400 four-speed. I’d pass on this one

    Like 2
  2. GuernseyPagoda

    New revenue idea for BF: How about offering a “Selling your car 101” class? First chapter is very brief, one page in fact- Wash the car. Then on to Chapter 2.

    Like 10
    • Dave

      With all due respect, if a car being dirty keeps the price reasonable then I can wash it off and spend the money I save on things that make it a better driver. With this car you’re going to need to spend money on the interior for starters, then whatever issues crop up along the way.

      Like 1
  3. Turbo

    Little crusty for my tastes, and yes, Mitchell G is right: this can’t be a silver anniversary car, it was a 10th anniversary deal. I have learned my lesson on rusty cars or I would be way more smitten with this T/A.

    Like 1
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      OK, I changed it to Tenth Anniversary Edition. The seller referred to it as a “Silver Edition” and if you look up Silver Edition in Google or BING it pulls up one of these. Granted, “Silver” would be 25 years but I believe the silver reference is to the color.


      Like 3
  4. wjtinfwb

    In ‘79, all 400 Pontiac engines (code L78), were mated to the 4-speed. But not all 4-speed cars were 400s as Pontiac also made the 301 4-barrel available with either a 4-speed or automatic. The 403 Olds cars were the majority, all had the 3-speed automatic and can easily be identified under the hood by the oil filler location in the front, center of the engine. The Pontiac engines had the oil filler cap on the valve cover. There were less than 1900 400, 4-speed cars built in 1979, as the article states the engines were stockpiles 1978 units that were used up until gone. A really rare Firebird is a ‘79 Formula with the L78 400 and 4 speed, not sure how many of those were built but I’d guess less than 100.

    Like 4
    • Barry Johnson

      There were 367 1979 Formulas with the W72 400 4 speed.

      Like 3
      • wjtinfwb

        Thanks. Surprising as the seem extremely rare compared to Trans Ams of the same vintage. Great info.

  5. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    I’ve gone the opposite was with these. As a kid in the eighties I thought the 79-81 nose looked great. Modern compared to previous Firebirds. As time goes by I agree with Rockford, the 78 Firebird is a better looking car. It would be perfect with a 78 nose and a 79 tail section.

    Like 2
  6. mjf

    I like the trailer hitch… It is not too rusty

    Like 4
  7. John Oliveri

    I didn’t dislike the new nose as much as I disliked the Oldsmobile under the hood, in 79 I looked a Bandit Trans Am, but because I wanted automatic it was a 403, I bought the 301 Pontiac powered Grand Prix next to it in the showroom, I’m a Pontiac man, and even though the 301 was no barn stormer, it was a Pontiac

  8. Ike Onick

    East Aurora, NY, the heart of the Buffalo Snow Belt. “Pass the salt please”

    Like 3
  9. Darryl

    Well someone with money to throw away bought it for $8600 on Oct.17th. I live near that shop. All the stuff is high in price.

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