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Rebuilt Original 400: 1978 Pontiac Trans Am

Sometimes, we need to look below the surface to identify the greatest attributes of a project candidate. That is undoubtedly the case with this 1978 Pontiac Trans Am. It looks tired but is a rock-solid vehicle with a freshly rebuilt V8 under the hood. It needs an enthusiast willing and able to tackle its minor rust issues before returning it to its former glory. The Trans Am is listed here on eBay in Ogden, Utah. Bidding has raced to $4,400, and with the reserve met, it is days away from finding a new home.

The original owner ordered this Trans Am in Cameo White, adding the optional and desirable T-Top option. This is the Hurst version, indicating this car rolled off the line in early 1978. Pontiac transitioned to the Fisher version in mid-1978, with the glass panels significantly larger on the later variant. The paint is tired and baked, but the panels only sport minor bumps and bruises. Rust is always a concern with these classics, and while this car is no exception, the news isn’t bad. It features new floor pans, and the trunk pan is solid. The seller identifies a patchable area in the lower driver’s side rear quarter panel. Otherwise, any remaining issues seem to be confined to surface corrosion. The plastic and glass have weathered the years well, and the Snowflake wheels should respond well to some work with a high-quality polish.

There is plenty of positive news when we delve below this Pontiac’s skin. The first is that this classic retains its numbers-matching drivetrain. It features the W72 version of the 400ci V8, which sends 220hp and 320 ft/lbs of torque to the Posi rear end via a three-speed automatic transmission. Pontiac retained its reputation as the performance arm of the General Motors empire because the Trans Am was the fastest pony car that money could buy in 1978. It could cover the ¼-mile in 16 seconds. The same journey would take 16.8 seconds in an auto-equipped Camaro Z28, while the Mustang II King Cobra brought up the rear in 17.3 seconds. The fact this Pontiac is numbers-matching is the tip of the iceberg because that beautiful V8 is freshly rebuilt. The seller has clocked around thirty minutes of running to break in the camshaft, and it has been yard-driven. The front and rear suspension are rebuilt, and it seems it will only require some minor tweaking and tuning before this classic can return to active service.

The theme of tired presentation carries through to this Pontiac’s interior. It appears to be missing the original radio and a few small items. Otherwise, it seems complete. However, a full retrim would be required to return the interior to a presentable state. Kits are readily available, and splashing $2,000 would produce an interior that looks stunning and well-equipped. The original owner ordered this Trans Am with air conditioning, power windows, power locks, a power trunk release, cruise control, a rear defogger, and a tilt wheel. Some engine bay components for the A/C are missing, but sourcing replacements shouldn’t be challenging.

We see many project candidates at Barn Finds, with some requiring deep commitment and specialized attention before they can grace our roads again. This 1978 Pontiac Trans Am sits at the easier end of the spectrum, with none of the required tasks appearing beyond the reach of a relatively competent person in a home workshop. Its rust issues are minor, it doesn’t require extensive bodywork, and the drivetrain is healthy. It has attracted sixteen bids, and there is time remaining for interested readers to make a play for this promising project. Are you tempted?


  1. Nostromo

    Diamond in-the-rough. The color and stance are arresting; I’ve done a quadruple take. Here’s a nice car which could be driven as it’s being renewed.

    Like 2
  2. Stan

    Be a nice interstate cruiser w the autoloader and factory 3.23 gearset ⚙️

    Like 2
  3. BA

    Hopefully the rebuild had some extra lift added to the camshaft so the new you bought aluminum edlebrock cylinder heads can breath 50 more ponies or more with the long tube headers to make a bird of prey instead of a slower than you figured car. How do I know? I did this already 35 years ago & then you finally have the smokey & the bandit dream you always wanted!

    Like 3
    • Eric

      Knew a guy that dropped a healthy 455 in one years ago with T tops. He found out the hard way that sub frame connectors are a must at that point

      Like 3
      • Michael Freeman Mike Freeman Member

        If memory serves me the only one of this body style that had reinforcements from the factory for the roof was the 81. Why they would do that the last year of the body. Never made any sense and I never dropped the headliner to look but it seemed stiffer and my t-tops were different as they touched in the center like on a Vette with no visible center painted area. Even at that there were no subframe connectors under the floor.

        Like 1
  4. C Force

    Better do close inspection on the floor pans,the t-top cars always leak and the floors experience rotting more often and to a worse degree.

    Like 2

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