Why the 1977-1978 Pontiac Trans Am Is Now Immortalized

Pontiac may be long gone, but it most certainly produced many extraordinary cars during its long lifespan. One of its most legendary cars was the Trans Am which started off in 1969 as a limited production performance car with Pontiac producing only 697 examples by 1979 production had soared to 116,535 units. Though every single year of Trans Am in retrospect was a great car for its time, the second generation 1970-1981 Trans Am is the favorite among Trans Am fans. And at the top of the list is the 1977-1978 Trans Am.

The 1977-1978 Trans Am was the performance car that everyone wanted to drive back in the day, and even those who thought its styling which was accompanied by a shaker hood scoop, big hood bird decal, fender flares, and spoilers was too bold and outlandish, they still respected this car. During this time, with its Trans Am, Pontiac provided performance car fans a legitimate performance car package. It offered American performance car buyers European sports car type handling and large displacement V8 under the hood during an era when most American performance cars had medium to low displacement V8s. It was the same D-port 400 cubic-inch V8 that had powered some of Pontiac’s most legendary muscle cars during the golden era. Even though the 1977-1978 Trans Am’s 400 V8 had lower horsepower numbers due to emissions controls and a lower compression ratio when compared to the golden era 400 V8, however it still had more than enough power to keep the Trans Am at the top of the performance ladder during the late-1970s. Add to that the Trans Am’s great handling, precise steering, and much improved tires versus Pontiac’s golden era muscle cars and it’s easy to see why Pontiac dealerships were selling 1977-1978 Trans Ams as fast as Pontiac could produce them. Additionally Pontiac offered the WS6 handling package which had improved shocks and springs, better sway bars, a better steering box, etc. that gave the Trans Am world class handling and steering with a .80 g skidpad handling figure which was just as good as the best of the expensive European sports cars at the time.

The 1977-1978 Trans Am’s styling was extremely bold but it was beautiful. Pontiac had done a great job with periodically providing exterior updates to the front and rear of the second generation Trans Am. In fact it did such a great job that when the 1977 update occurred the second generation Trans Am was in its eighth model year which back then was ancient for a car platform, yet the 1977-1978 Trans Am was more modern looking than most 1977-1978 model year American cars. Its front styling had two stylish horizontal grille openings that housed four small square headlights. This really improved the already good looking exterior styling of the Trans Am.

The 1977-1978 Trans Am had three available engines. The base engine was the Pontiac 400 cubic-inch (6.6 liter) V8 which produced 180 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. It was mandatory with a 3-speed automatic transmission. Optional was the performance version of the 400 V8 which called the W72 performance package. For 1977 the W72 400 was factory rated at 200 horsepower and for 1978 at 220 horsepower. NHRA rated the W72 400 in stock form at 260 horsepower making it the most powerful American performance car engine of the late-1970s. On the average the 1977-1978 W72 Trans Am was good for 0-60 mph in around 6.7 seconds and the quarter mile in low-15 second range which was lightening quick in the late-1970s especially considering the Trans Am weighed in at a heavy 4,000 lbs with driver. The W72 400 was standard with a 4-speed manual transmission which had a Hurst shifter. Optional with the W72 400 was a 3-speed automatic transmission for 1977 and only the first few months of the 1978 model year. In the California and high altitude markets, the 1977-1978 Trans Am was only equipped with the 185 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque Oldsmobile 403 cubic inch (6.6 liter) small-block V8 and a 3-speed automatic transmission.

Another reason why the 1977-1978 Trans Am was so appealing to buyers was its laundry list of available options. There were numerous power and convenience options such as an upscale velour cloth seating option and the very popular removable T-Top roof panels option. The 1977-1978 Trans Am was offered in a limited production special edition black and gold trim package which is a car very sought after today by collectors. This black and gold special edition Trans Am had black exterior paint, gold pin-striping on the exterior panels, gold front grilles, a gold interior dash bezel, and other gold accents. For 1978, the Trans Am was also available with a gold special edition package which included a Solar Gold painted exterior with pin-striping, gold front grilles, a gold interior dash bezel, gold tinted T-tops, and other gold accents. Not surprising 1977-1978 Trans Ams are hot commodities on the classic car market with values continue to substantially rise however more importantly the 1977-1978 Trans Am is a great milestone of Pontiac’s glory days.


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