Your Ride: 1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Back in 1985, Steve Ferrante was a senior in high school and had a ’77 Chevy Imapla. Maybe it was the ‘senior itch’ that pushed Ferrante to convince his father that he needed a muscle car. That’s when the Ferrantes purchased the 1979 Trans Am from the original owner. Every time Ferrante gets behind the wheel and drives his Trans Am he feel like he is 17 again. Ferrante said, “Both the exterior and interior of the car have not been restored since I've owned it, so it looks and feels virtually identical now, as it did back then.” BoldRide: What drew you to the Trans Am? Ferrante: The movie Smokey & The Bandit originally got me hooked on this style Trans Am. I knew this Trans Am was special at first sight. The original owner was an executive at DuPont and according to him “GM factory paint sucks”. He stripped the entire vehicle and had it re-sprayed in DuPont Imron for a significantly deeper, shinier black. It was repainted in 1983 and people still ask me if I recently had it painted. This Trans Am also has the highly desired WS6 suspension package with bigger sway bars and 4-wheel disc brakes. What do you love about it? The way it drives; it doesn’t feel like a 33 year-old car. For at least 10 years I’ve been considering selling it to buy a Corvette, but then I get behind the wheel and drive it and change my mind every time. It handles just great, even with the glass t-tops off. What's an inside fact about the Trans Am only an owner would know about? Most people assume they creak and rattle and drive like a bus. Everyone I take for a ride is amazed at how it drives in comparison to this generation (and earlier) muscle cars.
What have you done to make it a bolder ride?
It originally had a 403 Olds engine from the factory. In the late 80’s I blew a connecting rod clear through the oil pan. Instead of rebuilding, I decided to upgrade and purchased a complete 455 Olds engine from Racing Head Service. All the usual performance goodies are accounted for; ported heads, healthy comp cams, aluminum roller rockers, Edelbrock aluminum intake, Holley Street Avenger carburetor, D.U.I. performance distributor, etc. In 2000, the short-block was rebuilt with a larger cam and higher compression forged pistons. The horsepower is in the 440-450 range with torque around 500 ft-lbs. There are ceramic-coated Mondello custom headers into a MagnaFlow 3-inch exhaust all the way back. The original 350 Turbo transmission was upgraded to TCI Turbo 400 “Street Fighter” with “Breakaway” 10” torque converter. Additionally there are 3.42 posi rear gears, Desert Rat high-performance cooling radiator, welded-in sub-frame connectors, Koni shocks, Goodyear Eagles with Keystone Black-Star Mag Wheels and lightweight fiberglass cowl induction hood.
What would you change about it?
If I knew then what I know now, I would have replaced the blown 403 Olds engine with a proper 400 or 455 Pontiac powerplant. I’m always on the look out for a nice ‘68-‘72 Cutlass in need of engine, to swap mine in, so I may end up doing this someday. With the torque of the big block Olds motor, the automatic is probably the best match. If I were starting over I’d opt for a manual 5-speed transmission.
Dream accessory you'd love to get for it and why?
I would like to swap in Chevy LS7 6.2L/638HP supercharged engine and 6-sp
eed like the new ZR1 Corvette. Great blend modern technology and classic Firebird muscle!
What's your favorite memory of your car?
I have many fond memories but one that really stands out happened way back in 1987. My best buddy and I were coming back from cruising Hampton Beach on I-495, t-roofs off, cranking tunes and just having a grand ole time being teenagers in a real hot wheels car. All of a sudden, I notice a red ’77 or ’78 (they have the same nose) coming up fast behind us. Sure enough he pulls right up to my back bumper and makes a couple swerves to let me know he means business. At this time my Trans Am had the stock 2:56 rear- end “highway” gears and a top speed somewhere between NASCAR and warp speed. As the red baron made his way to where we could see his face in my passenger window, I nailed it and we left him in an ever-shrinking image in my rear-view mirror. It got better when, going entirely too fast, I realized we were coming up on a tractor trailer. Just as I’m about to overtake him in the fast lane he decides to go there too and I slammed on the brake just short of impact. We started to slide sideways and then circle all the way around in a giant screeching, smoking 360 that must have lasted a 1⁄4 mile. We ended up going straight again at about 60 mph and still in front of that other Trans Am! Stunned from what had just happened, my friend and I didn't speak a word to one another for about a half- hour after “the incident.”
Favorite and dream place to drive your Trans Am?
As a sunny day, weekend warrior vehicle, I don’t travel very far with it so driving is primarily limited to local “laps” around town. I’d love to drive Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills California. There are so many high-end luxury and exotic cars on the strip and driving in my ’79 Trans Am would be cool.
Model: Firebird Trans Am
Engine: 455 Olds
Horsepower: 440 - 450
Torque: 500 ft-lb.
Car Type: Muscle Car
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