1979 Trans Am- HPP Magazine

HPP Magazine 1979 Trans Am Restore a Muscle Car Auto Restoration1979 Pontiac Trans Am- Old School

An Atypical '79 Special Edition T/A That Packs A Unique 403 Punch

June, 2007
By Rocky Rotella
Photography by Rocky Rotella

The Search

"I started searching and in 1998 found this '79 S/E T/A in San Rafael, California, on the Internet. The original black paint was faded, but the car was otherwise very clean and the 403 ran well. I bought it for $5,000 and drove it 22 hours back to Lincoln."

Building The 403 Olds

"Very few owners build 403 engines for their Trans Ams, and I wanted to be different," says Craig. "I was looking for 350-400 hp and really didn't know what was available for the Olds engine. The guys at Trans Am Country (www.transamcountry.com) mentioned Terry Fritsch at FCR Performance in Omaha, and since he was only a few miles away I gave him a call. He had all kinds of great ideas for building a high-horsepower 403, so I dropped off the engine at his shop that summer."

The Body

"The engine was already in Terry's hands, but the bodywork was very time-consuming," says Craig. "I really didn't have the time to finish it and began looking for someone who could. I knew Dave Hall through the hobby, and he had just started Restore A Muscle Car, so I turned the project over to him."

The Assembly

With the body and its panels freshly painted, Dave and his team began assembling the front subframe so Terry could install the engine and fit several other components before final assembly. "The subframe and associated suspension and engine components were sandblasted and powdercoated semigloss black. We installed urethane bushings from Kanter Auto Products, while Inline Tube supplied new stainless steel brake and fuel lines. All of the original bolts, the power brake booster, master-cylinder cap, and several miscellaneous pieces were refinished in their respective original zinc, cadmium, or phosphate coating by Industrial Plating in Omaha," says Dave.

"Living With The Results"

Dave says the T/A was very well received at the T/A Nationals, adding, "We got compliments from everybody." Craig too: "The car came from Dave's shop better than I ever expected. Those guys are just awesome," he exclaims. "The motor got a little out of hand with all of Terry's great ideas, but I couldn't be happier with the end result. It's one of the most responsive cars I have ever driven. It seems to wind like a small-block Chevy. And it's definitely a tire smoker! Everybody builds a Pontiac engine to replace the Olds, and nobody expects to see what's under this T/A's hood. It's just a fun car to take places and to be different.

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Click HERE to see pictures of the restoration process of this car!