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Unrestored 52K Mile Driver: 1979 Pontiac Trans Am

Car & Driver rated the 1979 Pontiac Trans Am equipped with the WS6 suspension option to be the best-handling American car. This example is a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is listed for sale here on eBay with 19 days remaining. The Buy It Now Price is $17,900 and there is also an option to make an offer. There are a lot of pictures in the eBay ad but the description is limited. What we do know is that the seller has had the car for a year and the odometer is reading 52,235. The seller is the fifth owner and states that the odometer reflects the original mileage since new.

The interior indicates that this Trans Am is equipped with air conditioning and the deluxe interior option. The car does not have power windows or T-Tops. The tan hobnail bucket seats are worn but both Legend Interiors and PUI make the replacement covers. The dash is covered up so that means it is probably cracked if it has spent much time in the New Mexico sun and heat. Al Knoch Interiors will completely restore a dash like this to the correct color for about $800. I have had two dashes restored by them and they do a great job.

The base engine for the 1979 Trans Am was the L80 403 cubic inch V8 engine that was rated at 185 horsepower which is how this car is equipped. It was only available with an automatic transmission but produced a respectable amount of torque. If an owner upgrades the rear gearing to a 3:8 or 3:23 rear end, the car is a lot more fun to drive around town. The top-performing engine option was the W72 Pontiac 400 cubic inch V8 engine. This engine was rated at 220 horsepower and was only available with a 4-speed manual transmission. For a $50 credit, a buyer could opt for the L37 Pontiac 301 cubic inch V8 engine that was rated at only 155 horsepower. The L37 engine was available with either an automatic or 4-speed manual transmission.

The WS6 handling option was first available in 1978. In 1979, it was improved to include four-wheel disk brakes. If a buyer opted for the W72 engine option, it required the WS6 suspension. This car has 15×8 snowflake wheels that came with the WS6 option so, while a build sheet is not presented, this car most likely has the better handling suspension. This car was for sale last month for $3,000 more so the seller has reduced the price substantially. It appears to be a nice driver that is said to run well.


  1. Bick Banter

    The 403 is a bit unfortunate. It was an oversquare Olds small block with the bores very close together (overheating and head gasket issues) and a pretty weak bottom end with webbed main journals.

    Generally, if you rev them over 4,000 with any frequency you’re asking for trouble. Not that it was a VTEC style terror with its restrictive heads. It was good in the Olds 98s and Custom Cruisers it was designed for, but kind of.questionable in this application.

    The buying public sure did not mind though. This was the record sales year for the T/A and most had this motor. And there are ways to beef them up, but it might make sense just to go with a different engine if you want real performance.

    Like 3
  2. Stan

    Good write up,
    Bick, the 403 and weezy 4.9 only highlighted even more, the good fortune of those select folks, that chose 400ci option.🏁

    Like 3
    • JustPassinThru

      The Pontiac 400 was a limited-availability option in 1979. The engine was discontinued in manufacture during the summer of 1978; and it was only inventory that enabled some 1979s to be built with the 400.

      The Olds 403 was a quick substitute for the balance of the year – until the 1980 Turbo Trans-Am was supposed to fix everything.

      Unfortunately, that one broke everything. They could only make it driveable and meet emissions with an automatic.

      Too bad about the engine in there.

      Like 4
  3. Bick Banter

    If anyone is interested, about 102,000 of the 117,000 1979 Trans Ams had the L80 403. An incredible number. Only about 8,600 had the W72 400. Another 5,000 or so had the 301. The W72 was limited availability. I believe they were all engines that were left over from 1978.


    Like 2
  4. Michael Berkemeier

    I would be embarrassed to own a T/A with an Oldsmobile engine. This car would never have a place in my garage and, the only way I would buy it is if it was dirt-cheap enough to turn a healthy profit on.

    Like 1
    • Bick Banter

      Well, it’s really not so much that it has an Oldsmobile engine. I mean bleep, later Trans Ams had Chevrolet engines (305/350). it’s just that this particular Olds engine is not very good. It’s a low revver with a weak bottom end and a propensity to overheat.

      Like 3
  5. David Bowers

    My dad bought one new in 1979 which he let me drive in high school and college. He had worke done on the quadrajet and had long tube headers with no cats, that thing was a roll race monster regularly beat stock 5.0s and IROCs. Miss that car!!

    Like 2
  6. Chris Cornetto

    I bought a 79 in dark blue from the original owner in 2002. A Trans Am, so I thought. He told me he had had an accident with it when it was 6 years old and the shop fixed it with a front exactly the same color. Looked good to me, a 400 4 speed, four wheel disc and so on. Great driving car, little rust here and there, nothing horrible. A real nice old fully functional unit. A guy pestered me about selling it and I agreed and when he checked the numbers the car was a Formula not a TA. Yup body shop walked a TA front on the car. A 6 year old car in reality is worthless in 1985 but the original owner was ofcourse pleased then but fast forward 22 years and no one is pleased. I drove it until I lost interest and it now lies in my to be junked collection. I can’t complain as I paid peanuts for it and did nothing to it for nearly 7 years.

    Like 3

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