The black and gold late 1970s Pontiac Trans AM SEs are some of the most recognizable American performance cars of all time. Of course, being the star of a huge Hollywood action film didn’t hurt, but these late 2nd gen Firebird Trans Ams had strong performance to match their movie star good looks.
Now you might not think 200 HP from the 1977 W72 400 cube Pontiac V8 sounds like much, but it did manage to churn up 325 ft. lbs. of torque at a time when performance was less than dismal thanks to the automaker’s scramble to improve fuel economy and emissions without the technology to make it happen. Detune was the call of the day, and the 1977 TA was definitely detuned.
But even so, the Y82 Special Edition package benefited from what was perhaps the best suspension system of the day, making these cars a blast to drive. Stiffer springs, tuned shocks, larger sway bars front and rear, and the “radial tuned” alignment specs all worked together to help these cars turn quickly and flatly in the corners. Is flatly a word?
Y82 cars also featured Hurst T-Tops, one of 2 t-top designs used in Firebirds, with the other being made by Fischer Body on later cars. The difference is that the Hurst tops are a bit narrower and don’t extend all the way to the door’s edge like the later Fisher versions, but they are still cool. The non T-Top Trans Am SE package was called the Y81.
Other Y81 and Y82 elements include Starlight Black paint with gold stripes, gold snowflake style 15 inch wheels, gold grille and headlight accents, and the legendary gold-toned firebird decal, with its head turned and breathing fire. Three engines were available, the code L78 Pontiac 400, the L80 Oldsmobile 403, and the most desirable W72 400, also known as the TA 6.6. A 3-speed automatic was standard with a 4-speed manual being a Trans Am only option.
Vinyl bucket seats, a gold-tinted engine turned dash panel, and a full complement of gauges were also part of the deal for ‘77. Of course, the required CB radio is a must for those looking to connect with their inner Bandits, and this one features air conditioning and a turbo 350 automatic transmission.
This particular car came to the V8 Speed & Resto Shop with it’s original W72 engine, but it has been treated to a performance rebuild with higher compression, a more aggressive camshaft, an aluminum intake manifold, and free-flowing dual exhaust. It’s also wearing a full Hotchkis suspension system to make it handle even better. Our team added a 2200 RPM stall torque converter, a Demon carburetor, a new radiator, and applied a performance tuneup to make it sing. We added some Pypes mufflers for a bit of growl along with 3.42:1 gears in a TruTrac differential to help it launch. We also took care of a few cosmetic items, like replacing the T-Top seals and a falling headliner, and repainted a damaged rear bumper cover.
But the biggest upgrade we performed was the install of a GearVendors overdrive unit, adding an automatic overdrive for faster highway cruising at a lower engine RPM. This also makes for a more capable chase car on your next bootleg run. Today, the car cruises at about 2100 RPM at 60 MPH. Nice.
This Y82 now performs better than the original issue 1977 version, but it still looks just as good. Just over 6000 ‘77 Trans Am SEs were built with the W72, and it’s always cool to see one. Oh yeah, the black and gold color scheme was introduced in 1976, a year before the Bandit cars, in commemoration of Pontiac’s 50th Golden Anniversary.
If you’ve got a Trans Am that needs some love, we’re happy to chat about it! You can reach us at www.v8speedshop.com today.
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