PONTIAC Firebird Trans Am

The body was completely restyled for 1979, featuring a new aerodynamic front end, revised rear end spoiler, bulkier flares for the Trans Am, and a revised connected single taillight assembly design that would remain consistent for the rest of the Firebirds design. The grilles had been repositioned to the lower section of the front bumper to allow more cold air to travel directly to the lower part of the radiator and engine bay. The interior remained mostly unchanged from the previous model year, however, the deluxe cloth interior had now changed from velour to a Hobnail pattern. The hood decal from the Y88 SE and Solar Gold cars from 1978 became the standard design across the entire Trans Am line and now came in a variety of colors. The Formula steering wheel that was optional in the lower models and standard in the Trans Am now came color coded to the interior.

For 1979, there were three possible engine options. The L80 Oldsmobile 403 engine became the standard option and was only available with the Turbo Hydramatic 350 3-speed automatic. The W72 Pontiac 400 was available for a short period and in limited supply. This was the last of the line for the Pontiac large displacement V8 engines, and only available with the Borg-Warner Super T-10, while also requiring the WS6 handling package as mandatory equipment in conjunction with this driveline choice. A credit option with a four-speed transmission was the smaller displacement L37 Pontiac 301 and it could come with either the Super T-10 or Turbo Hydramatic 350.

The Formula received some revisions for the 1979 model year, where the two-tone W50 colored stripe decal now became the standard look for the Formula, however, the W50 package was still available and it added the “Formula” lettering along the bottom of the doors and rear deck spoiler. The dashboard bezel now wore the same machined swirl aluminum bezel as the Trans Am. As the Pontiac 301 had now ramped up production as the Pontiac 400 production had ceased, it became the standard engine for the Formula. The WS6 package had now been renamed from the “Trans Am Mk IV Special Handling Package” to the “Special Handling Package” as it was now available for the Firebird Formula. Due to significant popularity and demand for the option to receive 4 wheel disc brakes in the WS6 handling package, some WS6 equipped cars were shipped without the option of rear disc brakes and were instead coded WS7, but still received all other equipment included in the WS6 package.

A limited-edition anniversary package to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 1969 Firebird Trans Am was made available. It featured platinum silver paint with charcoal gray upper paint accents, mirrored T-tops, a special interior featuring silver leather seats with custom-embroidered Firebird emblems, and aircraft-inspired red lighting for the gauges. The colloquially known as the “TATA” (Tenth Anniversary Trans Am, RPO Y89), it featured every single available production option on the Firebird, however, cruise control was not compatible with the manual transmission resulting in the being credited on the window sticker for the 4-speed equipped TATAs. The TATA also featured special 10th-anniversary decals, including a Firebird hood decal that extended off of the hood and onto the front fenders. Pontiac produced 7,500 Y89 TATAs, of which 1,817 were equipped with the high-output Pontiac T/A 6.6 W72 400 engine. The remainder all featured the Oldsmobile 403. Two TATAs were the actual pace cars for the 1979 Daytona 500, which has been called the race that made NASCAR.

Car and Driver magazine named the Trans Am with the WS6 performance package the best handling car of 1979. During period dyno testing, the National Hot Rod Association rated the “T/A 6.6” W72 Pontiac 400 engine at 260–280 net horsepower, which was significantly higher than Pontiac’s conservative rating of 220 hp. In 1979 Pontiac sold 116,535 Trans Ams, the highest sold in a year.

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