Rusty Bird: 1978 Pontiac Trans Am

Many people would look at this 1978 Pontiac Trans Am and see a rusty hulk of a car. A closer examination of the car and VIN indicate that this car was equipped with rare Hurst t-tops and a W72 400 cubic inch V8 engine which was the top performer in its day. The engine parts alone could fetch $2,000 if the car is parted out. This car can be seen here on eBay with 5 days remaining to bid. The Trans Am is located in Lunenburg, Massachusetts. A close examination of the engine indicates that the car still has its factory chrome valve covers but someone added an Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold.

The W72 400 cubic inch engine was introduced in 1977 to replace the 455 cubic inch engine that was phased out in 1976. All W72 engines were unique because they were fitted with 93.78 cc 6X4 heads, a special camshaft, 800 CFM Quadrajet, baffled oil pan and high capacity 60 psi oil pump. From the factory, the W72 engine produced 220 horsepower  and generated 320 ft lbs of torque in 1978 but many thought this was underrated. The National Hot Road Association recorded figures of 260 to 280 horsepower from a W72 engine.  Car magazines published a quarter-mile e.t. of 14.6 seconds from the W72 powered Trans Am in 1978.

Like the body, the interior is worn out and needs restoration. The car was originally equipped with an automatic transmission, power windows, tilt steering and air conditioning. The body of the car is rusty. Just about every panel, including the hood and rear valance will need to be replaced or repaired. In 1978, a buyer could order the WS6 Handling Package which came with 15 x 8 snowflake aluminum wheels. This car is shod in the standard Rally II wheels.

So the good news is the Trans Am has a W72 engine and t-tops and the bad news is it has extensive body rot and a worn out interior. The seller states that he believes the paint to be mostly original. The problem is that the paint is so badly faded that most of it is gone! My brother, Barry, had a W72 black Trans Am in high school. It was powerful car that smoked just about any factory offering of the late 1970’s or 1980’s.  The Buick Grand National was the only car that could keep up with him. What are your stories?

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  1. Bmac777 Member

    The car that started it all for me
    12 years old watching the Bandit tear down those roads with the sound of the engine roaring in the theater.
    I was hooked!

  2. Vin_in_NJ

    Unfortunately, this car had the Hurst T-Tops, which were more prone to leaks than the Fisher T-Tops. Given the amount of rust outside, there’s probably a lot of moisture and rot inside.

  3. Chevy King

    WoW i bought this same car brand new and still have it . Mine has custom interior, cruise control, power windows.tilt wheel,air cond. T-Tops and wait for it $7998.50. Talk about a Chick Magnet ohhhh the stories i could tell…………and about the $7998.50 there wasnt that much money in the world at the time. Pontiac thanks for all the memories

  4. Da_Man

    my grandpa had one of these when he was in his 30s. he sold it to his brother for like 1500 bucks sometime in the late 80s. he says if he could change one thing about his life, he would’ve kept that car and frankly, I agree with him. If we’re going with movie and tv cars, the general lee is my personal favorite, and this and the delorean from back to the future are tied at a close second. (jurassic park jeep in third (in case you were wondering))

  5. Mulewright

    I have always wanted another ’78. I had the WS6 while in the Army. It was the most fun I could have with my knickers on. I was always jealous of the ones with the T-tops. Now if I could just find a ’78 WS6 T-top manual 6.6 I would probably cash in my kids college fund.

  6. Arby

    Perished poultry…

  7. JoeNYWF64

    Mite as well put Gothic t/a lettering on it if its repainted black.
    I would imagine the 14.6 quarter-mile e.t. was from a 4 speed car with no a/c or p/w. Wonder if the mag opened up the hood scoop & played with the ignition & even exhaust system.
    I wonder if the cam in this motor is the same as in the ’74 400
    with 225hp & 330 ft lbs.
    Actually this motor may be more powerful than the ’74 because its power is rated with ONE restrictive cat converter behind it.
    I think i heard in the the later ’70s, tho, pontiac went to a lower quality metal engine block on the 400.
    I was never crazy about the non chrome brushed metal look on the wheel trim rings started in ’73 – maybe pontiac wanted buyers to get the more expensive honeycombs or later snowflakes?
    I wonder if those white letters on the tires are from a home grown kit or are actual tires avail back then.
    Very odd there would be so much rust underneath in the extreme rear area & lot less elsewhere.
    I see rear leaf helper springs for that raked look.
    I guess steering wheel was replaced.
    Dash may be good too.
    I seen a few of these rectangular sealed beam headlites discolor with age, but oddly, never a 7″ round one. At least they are dirt cheap & ez to replace/upgrade.

    • Popawafox

      I have a 78 TA. That steering wheel looks like the same kind in my car. My 400 engines crank broke in two. I put an Olds 455 in it. 2.56 posi rear wouldn’t break loose with the 400. With the 455 it will turn tread into witches hair! Fisher t-tops, cruise, tilt, AC, and some rust. Ha!
      Had to pop rivet the shaker scoop to the hood because the engine didnt sit in exactly the same spot, but it still looks good. Blue paint with white interior. Snow flake wheels. Owned since 1992.

  8. John Oliveri

    I’m a lifelong Pontiac man, my father had a 65 Catalina when I was 6, and so on, so when the bandit zipped across our movie screens in 1977, I tormented all the Chevy guys and they’re 350 fake Z28s, anyway my first Pontiac was a 73 Luxury Lemans which I got in 78 when I was 17, it in 79 after high school was done I went over to the Pontiac dealer in my neighborhood in the Bronx called Prime Pontiac and sat behind the wheel of a 79 TA, oh the plans I had for that Pontiac, oh wait, it’s got a what? It’s got a 403 Oldsmobile motor? Hah, never!!! I didn’t want stick, so I had no other options, I bought the 2 tone blue 79 Grand Prix next to that , that Cross bred thing, and had a 301 Pontiac motor, no power, it a Pontiac

    • 455RAIV

      No 403 for me either – Friend had a late 70’s 400 4 spd T/A Would run circles around those 403’s

      • John Oliveri

        That 403 was a slug


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