1979 Pontiac Firebird
Armen Hareyan's picture

Reunited with my long lost Pontiac Firebird from 20 years ago

One of the previous owners of this 1979 Pontiac Firebird put thousands of dollars in the drivetrain, but when the motor broke, just left it go and put it up for sale.
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I owned this Pontiac Firebird back in 1993. It was silver when I had it with a tan interior. I performed my first engine swap in the back parking lot of a small apartment complex outside replacing the original and anemic 301 Pontiac motor with a strong 350 Chevy motor. I also converted from power window to manual windows because both motors were shot, but left the switch in the console to fill the hole. A B&M console shifter was installed by me in the early 90s to make driving more fun. I was young and in college and sold that car to pay bills for my education. Last I remember, it stayed in Ohio for a while then was sold and went to Georgia. That is when I lost track of it.

Fast forward 20 years and I am scrolling through web forums and Firebird-for-sale sites and stumble upon an interior picture of the console and shifter. It was like deja-vu. I did my homework and sure enough, It was my car.

My Pontiac Firebird had changed quite a bit. The interior was now black and the exterior was painted newer Trans Am sunset orange metallic with pearl. It no longer had the 350 Chevy motor I put in. It had a 468 Big Block Chevy that had nitrous oxide run through it at 1 point in its life. The motor was hurt and rattled, but I struck a deal over the phone and drove to Wisconsin to make the purchase and bring the old girl back home.

It leaked every fluid known to man after unloading it off the trailer and getting it into my shop. Someone had used bath-tub caulk instead of gaskets on motor, trans, and rear end. I had to use a putty knife to remove the burnt rubber residue from the rear fender wells. I knew at that point it was a drag car at one stage of its life. Then I was worried that I was looking at a catastrophic rebuild from scratch due to it being abused, over-reved, or the motor leaned out while spraying nitrous.

Thus, the repairs of my 1979 Pontiac began.

Me and friends tore into that drivetrain like men possessed. We found bent and undersized pushrods and lots of problems. We cracked open a valve cover and found a Crane gold rocker detached and laying loose in the valve cover. Cam timing was off, wrong undersized carb and was an electrical nitmare. We cracked the motor, transmission, and rear end open and found tons of top-shelf performance parts. Somebody put thousands of dollars in the drivetrain, but when the motor broke, just left it go and put it up for sale.

Whoever built the motor either didn't know or cut a lot of corners on the build. After getting everything put back together the right way and going through everything on the car front to rear at my small shop, we crossed our fingers and fired it up. Now it sounds and runs as it should. The large cam and Pete Jackson gear drive are music to a gear-heads ears. It pulls really hard through all gears the way a built big block Chevy should. I am guessing it should be close to 500 horsepower at the crank based on my experience over the years. It was late in the year and getting close to snow season, so I ran out of time to actually get to a track and shake her down.

I have reinstalled a 150 shot of nitrous and am eager to spray the old girl come spring. I just want to see what she has in her but will not abuse it. It will be mostly a street car and will frequent car shows and cruise spots.

I am super excited to have found the 2nd Firebird I have ever owned and have her sitting back in my garage 20 years later. I have owned over 30 F-bodys over the years, but this one is definitely a keeper. Its now exactly as I would have built the car 20 years ago had I had the extra money or means to do so. It is nice to say I wont be doing a midnight parking lot engine swap anytime soon.

I am also looking for information on my 1980 Pontiac Trans Am Indy Pace car I owned and sold around 1996. It was low mileage and I had installed a early Pontiac 455 with aluminum intake, griffin aluminum radiator, and blue anodized valve covers. I had it at the 1995 Trans Am Nationals in Dayton, Ohio and any info on it, I would appreciate. Please email me at [email protected]

Written by Joe & Danielle Fargo of St. Marys, Ohio


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