Welcome to wheels, Mark. That’s a lovely second generation Firebird Trans Am you’ve got there. Tell us about your Pontiac…
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to be featured. It’s a 1980 Trans Am, still with the original 305 (5.0-litre) V8 and mated to a three-speed automatic gearbox. It was originally a California car as they went with the smaller engines to meet the tight emission controls being introduced in that era where California was very strict.
I am still trying to track its history, but at some point, it was sent over to Japan and then came up here in the UAE.
What condition was it in when you bought it?
I took a risk by buying this one in an online sale, having only the chance to briefly look around it. Seems the risk paid off for me this time although when I went to pick her up and load it on a transporter, the front wheel fell off! The previous wheels were wrong for the car causing all the lug bolts to get damaged. I managed to get two bolts secure which was enough to move it around gently until the new wheels arrived.
Overall the body was straight, and it started relatively smoothly and went in and out of gear OK, but I wasn’t sure how long it had been idle or what the previous owner had started doing for its restoration either rightly or wrongly. I was quite alarmed by the quantity of parts it required when I took it to the garage for a full checkup but I managed to find a shop in Sharjah that deals in old GM parts and was shocked to walk out of there with 90 per cent of the parts for below Dh4,000 and that was including new shock absorbers all round.
Another nice surprise was that the engine was giving very impressive compression results. It’s nice to have a car again that I can plan to work on myself a little, not like all these modern cars that need electronic diagnostics.
We’re glad the risk paid off and well done for getting this classic back on the road! Now it’s up and running, how much fun is it proving to be?
I’m loving it, it’s my first proper classic car. I am still a bit apprehensive and taking it easy while it runs in. It’s the first car I have driven that I have not felt the need to go fast — it’s a real cruiser.
I was born in the same year Smokey and the Bandit was released and my birthday is 9th of November, so I have always been drawn to both the Trans Am and the Porsche 911’s and felt destined to own one of each at some time. In the early 2000’s I was lucky enough to own a 1986 911 with the full turbo body and whale tale but I had been loosely looking for a classic American muscle car for the last few years but never found anything that ticked the right boxes until this one came along.
I am really surprised at how smooth it drives, there is plenty of low-down torque, so she picks up speed nicely. It makes around 160 horsepower which seems very low by today’s standards but there is a lot more torque than you would expect with a modern car having 160 horses.
It would benefit from some engine performance mods over time but that won’t be happening immediately. It’s not as tight in corners as you would expect form a modern sportscar, but it goes round them perfectly.
Overall, I’m chuffed to bits with it and I’m just hoping she plans to treat me as well as I will treat her.
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From the huge decal on the bonnet, the big V8 to the thunderous exhaust note, there is so much to love about these cars — but what is it that you like best about your Trans Am, and why?
The T-Tops are great. I suppose it was probably the first comparable version to a modern folding hard top but without all the additional weight and strengthening required in convertibles. I’ve always liked open top cars which this effectively is, and the weather this time of year is perfect to enjoy it.
Are you used to all the attention that it gets?
I’m slowly getting there! Every time I stop somewhere someone will always comment or come for a chat, even on the roads people will wind down the window and wave or shout “nice car”. My family and friends have been very complimentary; my two boys love it but my wife doesn’t understand why I would want an almost 40 year old car — thankfully she is awesome and let me go for it!
We wish you years of happy motoring with it. Tell us how your passion for motoring began?
From a young age I was always fascinated by movies with lots of car chases, Smokey and the Bandit of course, as well as the Cannonball Run, Bullitt, even the Herbie Movies, and the Dukes of Hazzard show of course. I used to watch them over and over again. I started out on off-road motorbikes, I used to disappear for hours at a time, making stunt ramps and generally tearing the place up and have had a number of cars, bikes and boats since then.
What was your first car?
A 1992 Jeep Wrangler that I bought shortly after my 18th birthday. I still have a soft spot for Jeeps and expect I will be getting another one at some point.
I went through a phase of changing cars at less than two year intervals and in the past I have had five Wranglers, a BMW M5, Mercedes-Benz CLK Convertible, Mini Cooper, and a couple of Range Rovers but the best car I have ever driven is a Ferrari 612 at a track day experience that my wife got me for my birthday. After doing my best around the track which I thought was pretty good, the instructor — who was a works driver for Ascari — took me for a hot lap and I’ll never forget it! Watching car racing on the TV does not give justice to what it’s like when inside the car.
But the car that I have always wanted is a Morgan Aero8.
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