79 Trans Am

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I recently purchased a 79' Trans Am 301 3-speed automatic with custom exhaust and a 2 barrel carburetor. I really want to get more than 150hp out of this thing and more around 300-400hp (won't complain if I end up with more). I would prefer to spend under 2k on an engine, if I do an engine swap. So im just curious what you guys would recommend. Im open to engine swaps, modifications, pretty much anything.

posted by  79TransAm

Spending under 2k on an engine that will give you 200-300 more hp will be hard. First it would have to be an engine that will fit your car and all the extra parts needed to put it all together like new bolts, wires which pretty much has to be a complete engine and you'll have a small chance looking for a used one that will work. Goodluck

posted by  nightroad

The first thing you need to do is pull the 301 and advertise it on eBay under boat anchor. The cheapest and easist swap for you is to drop in a small block Chevy. All the parts you need to do the conversion are readily available in like yeared Camaros, and junkyards are full of them. If you shop smart and do all the work yourself, you might be able to put together a car with cose to 300hp and stay under $2k.

Don't forget you also need to get a different transmission because the BOP bellhousing on yours won't bolt up to a Chevy. Even with the price of a used TH350 added, you'll probably still be in cheaper than converting to a BOP engine. A lot of it depends on what's available in your area.

posted by  vwhobo

The nice thing about the 301 is that the 400, 403, and 455s can bolt in with relatively little effort. I had the 403 in my '78, which takes little work (less than $300) to make into a engine that will motivate the T/A to 13s in the quarter, even with 2.43 rear gears. Has the added benefit of being cheap. My buddy's '79 had the 403 stock, and he swapped to an Olds 455 (since it's the same block, it's a literal bolt in swap).

posted by  ChrisV

i DEF agree on the 301, they dont even make good boat anchors....

some BOP th350s have a unibell trans. ive found them mostly in olds and caddys though...

posted by  adamc44

I probably should have done a better job at wording my post. I am not looking for an engine that will give me 300hp with no mods for under 2k. Im just looking for possibly a scrap engine that I could buy for around 2k and then I could spend extra money to modify it to get in that horsepower range. I have a family member that owns a scrap yard, so he can pretty much give me anything I want for free if he has it. Thanks for the responses. I've talked to a few different people about what engine would be best, and seems like most people recommend a 350, 455, 400, or the T/A 6.6. Would I run into any problems if I tried to install a 455 because the 301 that I would be taking out is a small block?

posted by  79TransAm

no problems, b/c it's still a BOP block... also IIRC, pontiacs didn't have any "big block/small block" designations, really... you might need to move the motor mounts, but i'm not sure. you might want to check out a second gen website for that info...

posted by  dodger65

Well, I found a guy that is selling his 79 Trans Am with a 455 in it, he had a 400 in it before. He has the 400 just stored away in his garage and it's not being used. Think I should buy the 400 from him?

posted by  79TransAm

Sure, you can get factory parts to put that engine in with (if the 301 stuff doesn't already work)

posted by  ChrisV

Everything works in the 301, but it could use a new starter and carburetor in the future. It just takes a few tries to get the engine to turn over if it has been sitting, nothing major. I took it for a drive today and I would drive it anywhere and not worry about it cutting out on me if I had a license plate on it, lol. I ran across a 77' formula at a scrap yard yesterday with a 400 in it. Looks like the engine on that might have caught fire, though, so scratch that one off the list. How hard would it be to get the 400 in the 300hp range (im guessing it would probably be around 225-230 in my car counting the exhaust).

posted by  79TransAm

I meant everything works, as in the motor mounts line up and tranny bolts up to the 400. it shoudl as they are both Pontiac engines.

It's pretty easy to get the 400 to work good. A recurve on the HEI distributor, carb tune up kit for the Quadrajet (with larger secondary jets), headers and true dual exhaust, and if you're adventurous, a good performance cam, like a Comp Cams 270H. You should find it more than adequate for street performance without spending a bunch of money.

posted by  ChrisV

Mine has an Olds 455. Its definitely on its last legs though.

posted by  PontiacFan27

hello, newbe here. Just want to say what a beauty your car is. Mine is a 79 a wish it looked that good. Same color though. lol weeser

posted by  weeser

I talked to the guy with the 400 and he said that he would sell it to me for 100 bucks. Apparently the person that he bought the car from took the 400 out and replaced it with a 455, so when he bought the car from that person, they gave him the 400 as well. He has never seen it run so he isnt positive that it would turn over, but he said that it isnt locked up and he thinks it would run, but the carburetor and distributor are gone so I would need to replace those. Think I should buy it and take my chances or not? It's only 100 bucks so I don't see that I have a lot to lose. Also, any idea around how much a shop would charge to swap the 301 out for the 400?

posted by  79TransAm

why take it to a shop? get some friends together and do it on the weekend. old cars are easy to work on. how else are you gonna learn?

posted by  glagon1979

I thought about that, would probably be a lot cheaper. I might do that, just depends on how much a shop would charge. I've never done an engine swap, though, so I don't want to mess anything up.

posted by  79TransAm

In this case, there isn't much of a "swap" happening. More like taking on eout, and putting another in it's place. Just mark all the wires and hoses and wher ethey go as you remove them, unbolt and pull out the old engine, bolt in the new one, reconnect the wires and hoses. it is labor intensive, but it's really about that simple.

A shop might charge anywhere from $1000-2000. Easily.

posted by  ChrisV

Exactly, but. The wild card here is the condition of the used engine going in. The time to find out that it's junk is not after it's dropped into the engine bay and the last wire is hooked up. If you don't know how to determine if the engine is in good mmechanical shape, it's well worth your money to pay someone for a partial teardown and inspection to assess it's condition.

posted by  vwhobo

I havent posted back here in a while. Anyway, I heard a few different things about my car from a few different people and most of them had no clue what they were talking about. Couple of people told me that I didnt have a 301 and that it was a 2 barrel, etc, but I went in there and looked through it myself and decoded the VIN. It's a 4 barrel 301 and a mechanic that took a look at it agreed with me. I told him about the 400 and he said that I would be crazy to swap it out since the 301 runs so well. Im thinking I might just buy the 400 since it's only 100 bucks, store it until I get a new paint job and a few knacks worked out in the car, then work on the 400 once I have nothing else to do on the car. I have a couple of problems, though. First, the dash lights are not coming on at all. I heard from some people that it could be a headlight switch, but I am not sure. When I try to use the left turn signal, the hazard lights come on, but the right turn signal works fine. My RPM gauge does not work and I have noticed that when I try to use the screwed-up left turn signal, the RPM needle moves up and down slightly. Next, the car usually does not want to turn over unless I pump the gas pedal a time or two before trying to crank it to give some gas to the carb. When it first starts to turn over, I give it some gas and it will idle fine usually, but sometimes it will not. When it doesnt idle, I press the gas and sometimes I will hear a pop sound and a puff of dust flies up into the air out of the carburetor and the car will idle with no problem after that. I only have those problems if the car has been sitting for about a day, though, and the car will crank up with no problems if I try to crank it up if it has only been sitting for a few hours. I already tried carburetor cleaner and it hasnt made any difference. Lastly, my power steering wasnt working at all when I bought the car. The power steering belt was loose, though, so I tightened it some (not fully, it started raining so I had to call it a day before it was fully tight) and now the power steering is working a lot better, but still not 100%. Im guessing that the power steering will work fine once I get the belt tight enough, but I guess I will find that out soon. Just wondering if you guys know what could be causing some of my problems.

posted by  79TransAm

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