1997 Pontiac Trans Am
Hi, my name is Dave (forum name American-Thunder, although lack of free time makes me a less than frequent visitor) and my wife Clare has just taken over the web editors role for the AACUK.
I have always been interested in American cars, probably from the great American TV series and Movies that dominated our TV screen in the 70ís and 80ís, but in particular I have always loved Firebirds and Trans-am.
In 1982 I used to spend most Saturdays in my local book shop reading a book called Firebird by Richard Carlyon until eventually for my 12th birthday later that year my parents bought me the book.
I spent countless hours reading, studying and drawing the cars in the book and I guess owning a Firebird of my own was destined to become a reality in these early years.
Fast forward to 1993, aged 22, the dream became a reality when I saved enough money to buy my first American Car. A 1974 Firebird with the 4.1L straight six found its way into my possession complete with hand painted bodywork! The guy who used to service my typical English cars at the time did not want to know so I bought myself some workshop manuals and got to work.
A top end engine rebuild, new shock absorbers and some body work later I was away and enjoying the new found American Car Scene. The car was never going to win any prizes compared to the cars I found at the shows but it was mine and I got much better MPG than the V8 boys I was hanging with. About this time I joined the now defunct Classic Trans-Am Register and Club which I later ran with another Firebird Compadre from the Swindon area.
In 1995 the bug for the V8 was too great for me too resist and the í74 was sold and replaced by a 1978 Firebird Esprit that had been converted to a Trans-Am clone by a previous owner. This car had a Pontiac 400ci engine from 1975 that had serious overheating issues until I found a plate missing from within the water pump. The Internet proved invaluable in diagnosing this (I have always worked in IT so had access to the Internet before many were even aware of its existence!) as none of the manuals showed the plate and unless you knew it was missing you would never know!
The Firebird stayed with me for 10 years during which time I undertook a massive restoration. It stayed a Trans-Am clone but there was virtually nothing I didnít do to the car and I am a massive believer that the aftermarket offers much better solutions than GM did originally. Certainly not cheap but it was fun and until I saw my current car the Ďbird was going nowhere.
I still have no idea what I was doing browsing the for sale section of American Car Imports web site. I was at work and should have been working after all. But the bright red 1997 Trans-Am with red leather and a 6 speed manual kept me staring at the screen. Some discussions with Clare later and the decision was made and 3weeks later the car came home in Feb 2003. This meant the í78 Firebird didnít get used too much in and in 2005 I finally sold it.
My new toy was a completely original Euro Spec 1997 Trans-Am with the LT1 engine and the 6 speed manual gearbox, red leather interior with t-tops.
I kept my car completely stock for a couple of years even paying other people to do work on it (the computer engine controls scaring me) but after a while the desire to replace worn-out bits with aftermarket became too strong.
Like most people I have had a go at drag-racing but I much prefer carving the corners and whilst the T/A handles far better than Jeremy Clarkson and Co. would have you believe, the modifications to mine make it even better.
The full list includes: SLP Cold Air Iintake, Throttle Body Airfoil, Custom Tune by PCMforless, MAC mid length headers and y-pipe with high flow cats, Borla Cat-back Exhaust, QTP electric cut-out, Richmond 3.73 gears, 1LE Aluminium Prop Shaft, SLP Stage 2 clutch, SLP Billet Steel Flywheel, Sam Strano hollow 35mm front sway bar and 22m rear sway bar with poly bushings, SLP Sub-frame connectors, Hawk pads & rotors front and rear, UMI adjustable panhard bar with poly/roto joints, UMI Lower control arms with poly/roto joints, Koni Single Adjustable Shock Absorbers and American Racing Torque Thrust II wheels with Kumho 275/45 17 tyres on all four corners.
I have also done a couple of minor appearance modifications.
The car spends Oct-April in the garage allowing me to clean and detail everything and make any further modifications along with rigorous maintenance. This winter has been uneventful for modifications as I have had to replace the rear main seal and clutch but I do hope to get my new BBK 52mm throttle body fitted before spring. Maybe next winter will see the heads and cam change that Iím saving up for.
Hope you have enjoyed reading my Firebird Trans-Am story and I hope to see you at a few shows this year.
- Dave Sharp