1977This was the year the Trans Am became a star. The 50th Anniversary black-and-gold theme from the previous year became the SE package and was not a limited-production offering. Thanks to Hollywood's use of the SE TA in Smokey and the Bandit, suddenly there wasn't a cooler car to be had. The Honeycomb wheels were gone, replaced by aluminum 15x7 "snowflake" rims; they were standard with the SE with gold accent paint and optional on other Trans Ams. The 455 was now gone for good, but an optional 200hp 400 was available and just as (in)capable. The standard 400 remained at 180 hp. This was also the first year that engine callouts were displayed in terms of liters rather than cubic inches; the 6.6-Litre (dig the European spelling-that's class) was the base 400 while the TA 6.6 was the high-output version. California Trans Ams got an Olds 403 in place of the 400 Pontiac. The '77 also saw the introduction of rectangular headlamps as part of the "cat's eye" front end, and the header panel was now integrated into the bumper cover.
CamshaftsMeager cam timing on late-'70s TA engines also helped make what should have been brutish big-inch V-8s lame. The '76 455 is one of the more extreme examples. It's factory-rated 3,500-rpm redline is a dead giveaway. In fact, when we tested a '76 455 in the June '03 issue, we found that the engine wouldn't respond to exhaust and intake enhancements until the the cam was changed. There are too many cam grinds available to get very specific here, but as a general rule, resist the temptation to order the biggest cam you can find for your stock-bottom-end Pontiac. Stock Pontiac V-8s, particularly with some years and miles, aren't suited to high rpm. Try it and you're likely to spin some rod bearings or worse. Instead, work with the Pontiac's strength and make power on the low side of 5,000. Most Pontiac factory cams used very wide lobe separation angles (LSA), like 116 or so, so changing to even a mild modern performance grind with a 110-112 LSA and duration of 230-240 will go a long way to wake things up. Our 455 with a 230/236 cam on a 110-degree LSA and 0.500-inch lift peaked at only 4,800 rpm-we could have gone bigger and still had a relatively tame street engine. A recent development for Pontiacs is the availability of hydraulic-roller cams from Comp Cams, allowing more aggressive lift profiles without requiring excessively long duration-that means more power while maintaining idle quality.
More info:Comp CamsMemphis, TN800/999-0853compcams.com
Crane CamsDaytona Beach, FL386/252-1151cranecams.com
1978At a glance, the '78 appears as a total carry-over from the previous year, but there are subtle changes. The graphics are redesigned though the hood Bird remained the same, the grille pattern changed from honeycomb to a diamond grid, and the panel around the taillights was painted black regardless of car color. One of the more significant changes in equipment was the availability of the WS-6 handling package, which included a larger rear sway bar, special springs and shocks, and huge-for-the-time 15x8 snowflake wheels. The TA 6.6 now offered 220 hp, while the 6.6-Litre version stayed at 180.