Rare 10th Anniversary: 1979 Pontiac Trans Am

This rare car is located in Nashville, Tennessee and is listed for sale here on Hemmings for $34,900. It is a Tenth Anniversary special edition Trans Am. Only 1,871 of the 7,500 10th anniversary models (Y89) were built with the venerable W72 Pontiac 400 engine. Car & Driver voted this the best handling car in 1979 and with 220 hp and 320 ft-lbs of torque, it was the fastest production car manufactured in the U.S.

Many consider the 1979 Trans Am and Formulas that were equipped with the W72 Pontiac 400 engine to be the last of the muscle cars.  Pontiac new the end of large displacement engines was coming and built a surplus of 400 engines in 1977 to stockpile them for 1978 and 1979 production.  The W72 400 was special because it had high compression 6X heads, a special cam with longer intake and exhaust duration, an 800 cfm carburetor and a higher capacity 60-psi oil pump.  For 1978-1979, all W72 400 engines came with larger air cleaner duct adaptors, baffled oil pans, and dual turbo mufflers.

The W72’s 220 hp doesn’t sound much like much compared to today’s cars but with a little help by opening the hood scoop and adding free flowing exhaust, the car was comparable to many 1960 and 1970 muscle car quarter mile times. The best published quarter-mile e.t. in a magazine article was 14.6 seconds.  Pontiac may have understated the ratings because the NHRA dyno’d a W72 engine at 260 to 280 net hp.

The W72 400 only came with the Borg Warner 4 Speed and required the WS6 handling package in 1979.  The other engine option for the Tenth Anniversary Trans Am was the Oldsmobile 403 cu inch engine with was mated with a Turbo 350 automatic transmission and generated 180 hp.  This car is said to be original and by the looks of the belts on the AC compressor and alternator, it may be!  However, the W72 400 cars came with a TA 6.6 decal on the hood scoop and this one shows 6.6 Litre which indicates the 403 Oldsmobile motor.

The Tenth Anniversary cars came with silver shag carpet which you can see best on the door panels.  These seats may have been recovered because they look a little wrinkly which happens when new seat covers are installed over the original foam inserts.  At 80,000 miles, a little freshening up would be expected. Tenth Anniversary Trans Ams with he W72 400 engine used to sell for $40,000 to $50,000. This one may be a good deal, if it checks out.


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  1. Cadmanls Member

    Sorry Bruce but that is the Pontiac engine, don’t know about the sticky on the shaker, but wrenched on a few Ponchos.

    Like 5
    • Bruce Johnson Bruce Staff

      Agreed. That is the W72 Pontiac 400 in this car which makes it pretty rare (1 of 1,871). Don’t know why it sports the 403 Olds sticker on the scoop. Maybe a mistake or trying to look like a sleeper!

      Like 1
    • RobB Member

      The 79 with the T/A 6.6 on the scoop was definitely the Pontiac motor. I had a 79 with the WS6 package, the 403 automatic and it just had 6.6 Litre on the scoop. Wish I had it back. Added a mild cam, a set of Olds 350 c.i. head, and headers. Ran 12.50’s in the quarter. Oh, and a set of 4.10 gears.

      Like 1
  2. Doug Daugherty II

    Definitely A Pontiac Engine. And Has The 4Spd . I See Missing Radio A Knob ? Growing Up My Nighbors Son Had One Of These T/A’s Pretty Fast Car For What It Was . That Was In 1984 . Man How Time Fly’s .

    Like 2
  3. CanuckCarGuy

    Another AMT model kit blast from the past for me…beautiful T/A, wow.

    Like 2
    • Arthell64 Member

      The w72 t/a were decent runners back in the late 70’s. I owned a 79 w72 car in a the early 80’s. With a intake change and a set of headers I surprised a lot of people.

      Like 2
    • Arthell64 Member

      The w72 t/a were decent runners back in the late 70’s. I owned a 79 w72 car in the early 80’s. With a intake change and a set of headers I surprised a lot of people. My favorite car to beat was the L82 corvettes. The 403 cars would outrun the 79-81 z28’s.

      Like 2
  4. Rosco

    Most likely the person that did the repaint didn’t know there were different decals required for different engines.

    Like 8
  5. JOHN Member

    I’m not really a fan of the 74 and up Firebirds, but the anniversary model, especially with a real Pontiac engine and a 4 speed really does work for me. The silver leather always got my attention. Not a fan of T-Tops, but in this car, perfect. Someone spent a lot of time detailing the suspension, complete with paint dabs, but for $34,900 I would expect a spare tire, that horrible stereo removed, and a new console without the speaker holes. At the least, paint the grilles silver to make them blend in somewhat.

    Like 1
  6. Ken

    James Garner hated the ’79 Firebird front-end design so much he refused to upgrade to one on The Rockford Files, and he had the final say. Can’t say as I blame him.

    Like 6
    • FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

      Garner was right about the ’79. That front end is really ugly.

      Like 4
    • Robbie R.

      Yes, I had a 77 with the weak L78 400 engine, and I had saved for 2 years to upgrade to the 220 hp engine model in 79. I went to the dealership when the first 79’s came in. I was so mad that they had changed the iconic nose of the car to that ugly design, that I bought a different car altogether.

      • JoeNYWF64

        Surprised you didn’t change the cam, exhaust & rear(&/or to shorter 60 series tires), etc. A plus if yours had as few heavy options as possible, including heavy factory radio.
        Also a change to 350 pontiac heads would increase compression ratio, i believe.
        Or find a junk yard 455.

  7. Cattoo Cattoo Member

    That’s a nice looking, a real nice looking T/A right there. I especially like that color interior. There are quite a few exterior colors that would look great with it. She’s a keeper.

    Like 1
  8. Robert Sabatini

    I ordered a ’79 W72 Trans Am, and took ownership of it on Nov. 7, 1978. It was black with black interior, hood decal delete, radio delete option and no A/C. There were no gold pinstripes either. The car was also equipped with the WS6 handling package. No power windows, no added insulation with only power door locks and rear window defroster checked on the order sheet. The 4-wheel disc brakes performed flawlesdly, as did the 3.23 safety grip rear diff.

    Car weighed in around 3425 lbs with about a half tank of gas.

    The very first time I put it on the 1/4 mile, I ran a 14.62 E.T.

    I truly miss that car. It’s victims were a ’79 L82 Corvette, a myriad of 80’s Z28’s and other TA’s and the one I remember most, a 396-equipped Chevelle.

    Like 5
    • Bruce Johnson Bruce Johnson Staff

      Robert, that is an awesome story. Thanks for sharing. Here is a Nocturne Blue W72 that I used to own.

      Like 5
      • Robert Sabatini

        A true masterpiece from the Pontiac Division! I have seen similarly-equipped T/A’s of this genre go for 60K or more. Truly regrettable for selling mine back in the early 80’s.

        Like 2
  9. JoeNYWF64

    There still may have been heavy insulation under the carpet. I assumed you opened up the hood scoop. Shorter 235-60-15 tires would be preferable to the silly 225-70-15s.

    Like 2
  10. Robert Sabatini

    Joe, I eventually opened-up the hood scoop and also installed an H-O Racing Specialties re-curve kit along with installing higher performance secondary metering rods in the Q-jet. Yes, that tire change surely would have helped!

    Like 1
  11. Tom P Winker

    I have a 79 10th anniversary with 403,auto I bought new. It sits in my garage on a hoist covered with 20.8 miles on the odometer. Bought in Brookings SD at Tribble Motors. Never titled, original MSO.

    • JoeNYWF64

      What is the purpose of any of the owners doing THAT? It’s like getting married & not consumating it! My friend bought a ’74 & put 36,000 miles on it the 1st year & never even left his small state!
      Car now has 250k miles & the red orig paint is still shiny(no hood bird to fade) & black carpet still looks new! Orig motor & turbo 400. No rain or hot sun – lot of nite driving & cruising – back then – today, with everyone looking down at the phone staying at home – forget it – even b4 Corona.

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