1976 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Current project underway: This vehicle came to us as a driver-quality “survivor”. Its original 6.6 Liter 400 engine and TH350 transmission were fully functional. The customer asked us to install the TRANS AM decal package and then shine-up its factory paint. Being a ’76, it will still have to pass smog tests every two years. The owners of this vehicle wanted the improved drivability of EFI. Thanks to MSD recently acquiring a 50-State exemption order number for their “Atomic EFI” throttle-body fuel injection, one was installed, along with a re-manufactured distributor (big-cap HEI), replacement spark plug wires and spark plugs. The customer asked us to service the transmission and see what could be done about the extra-firm shifts. Due to a significant amount of metal shavings in the trans filter and pan, the client approved a re-manufactured transmission swap, replacing the TH350 with a TH200-4R, to gain a better first gear ratio / as well as the obvious freeway RPM reduction. We also installed the SHIFTWORKS conversion kit into the original console shifter; giving the appearance of a factory installation. The original brakes were freshened up at all four corners and the driveshaft was sent out for new U-joints and balance. For updated looks, handling and ride comfort, YEAR-ONE “snowflake” wheels in 17”x 9” size were installed with 255/45/17 tires.
UPDATE: This project has come along quite nicely. The MSD Atomic EFI performs exactly as advertised. The two hardest issues were really not as bad as we expected. The first was catalytic converter related. It was placed exactly where the transmission crossmember needed to be for the 200-4R transmission conversion. We ended up cutting off the converter, finishing the trans installation, and then having it re-installed as close as possible to the original location. The other issue was with the “shaker” hood scoop. The usual spacer/adapter was needed to put the square-bore throttle-body on the spread-bore intake manifold. However, that raised the air cleaner assembly ¾”. So, we had to get inventive to keep the scoop. After a few ideas, we ended up in the right location without having to cut anything.
TRC in Visalia did an excellent job building the trans. The owner specifically mentioned wanting smooth, comfortable shifts. It can sometimes be tricky to keep shifts as short as possible (to prevent wear) without becoming uncomfortably firm. This one has very quick shifts, but most of the time you can only tell it has shifted by the RPM drop. The lock-up converter is dialed in and is locking or unlocking at appropriate times. The steeper first gear works well with the original rear differential gearing. RPM at freeway speeds is just a touch on the low side, but the engine seems to pull the car along without any issues.
The paint detailing came out better than expected. We thoroughly cleaned the areas for decal application. It was all-hands-on-deck for the “screaming chicken” installation. It went on easier than we were planning for.
The 17”x 9” snowflake wheels are an excellent addition to this vehicle and it drives significantly better as well.
The next step is taking it to any of a few SMOG stations in the local area. We want to make sure the customers will not have any issues every two years when this step is required. I am quite certain the tailpipe emissions will be lower than with the worn-out Quadrajet, but we want to make sure it passes the visual test as well. There should not be any problem at all since the E.O. sticker is in place. Then one final detail and it goes back to the owners.