1981 Pontiac Trans Am

Any questions or suggestions regarding restorations
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Picard
Posts: 140
Joined: Mon 26 Sep 2011, 10:12

1981 Pontiac Trans Am

Post by Picard » Mon 25 Aug 2014, 23:50

I've been posting up my restoration of my Trans Am on other sites, and figured I should probably post it up here on African Muscle Cars too. Hope you don't mind me copying across my posts so that you all can see what I've been up to for the last year and a bit. :)
Just as a quick intro, I bought my Trans Am around 2005...eventually ran bearings on the Chevy 350 and rebuilt it. About a year later I ran into a problem where the oil pickup fell off. Instead of just pulling the sump off and refitting it, after a bit of garage talk with the boys, the decision was made to rebuild the motor as a 383, which made a huge difference to the performance of the car!
About 2 years back, I did the Durban Dash with her and after a trouble free trip, I decided it was time to fix her up as the paint job was really starting to look tired. At the same time, I decided it was also time to modernize it. So, after a bit of garage talk with the boys :) the decision was made to do a full restore on her but this time round to update the Brakes, Engine and Drive Train.
So here to follow is the story of my Trans Am up to where I am currently with my project.

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Picard
Posts: 140
Joined: Mon 26 Sep 2011, 10:12

Re: 1981 Pontiac Trans Am

Post by Picard » Mon 25 Aug 2014, 23:55

The time has come. My Trans Am has had its final drive with a 383ci motor to the workshop where it will over the next few months. It will be receiving a little heart surgery. The 383 has been sold off to a good friend who will be using it in his 36 Chevy and in its place my Trans Am will have a 6.0l LS2 motor.

Last night I started removing everything for the motor to be pulled on Saturday morning.
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Since the conversion from 350 to 383 a few years back, I have had no issues with the motor. It's ran without skipping a beat. I’ve managed to cover about 12k km with it in the last 4 or 5 years. The 383 was a HUGE step up from the old 350. The difference the torque made to the drivability of the car was immense, and suited the car perfectly. The only thing I hated was the 3 Speed Auto. Once upon a time I decided it would be a great idea to have a shift kit fitted to it. This turned out to be a bad idea as shifting from 1st to 2nd was so hard it felt like you dropped the diff and snapped your neck every single time it changed up. It was great for when you were giving it some stick but when just cruising it was a royal pain in the neck.

On a recent trip down to Durbs with it, I had the bright idea that the 3speed auto needed to be chucked out as sitting on the highway at 120kph the motor was spinning at almost 3500rpm which killed fuel consumption and made it quite uncomfortable. Long story short, I sat with the boys at the workshop discussing fitting a gearbox with an overdrive that I had purchased and somehow am now doing a LS2 with a 6 Speed Manual gearbox project! :)

So…the plan at the end of the day, with a very tight and limited budget, is to have my Trans Am kitted out with slightly more modern technology. A more Pro-Street version of a Trans Am. From the outside, I want to make it look as standard as possible but underneath it must be slightly more up to date with the times. I have already purchased a LS2 and a brand new 6 Speed Lumina gearbox.

The LS2 will be fitted with fuel injection. I still need to source coil packs. It came with a Spitronics management system, but I’ve been told to rather try source an original GM system. I’m importing a set of wheels for it from the States, made by a company called Year One. They are a modern version of my original “snowflake” wheel, but just in 17x9 inch exactly the same as below.
From this
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To this
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This will allow me to fit a proper brake system to the car. I haven’t decided what brake setup to go with yet, but it will include a new booster, master cylinder, rotors up front and I will be doing a disc conversion on the rear axle too. The diff will be redone. It’s currently an open diff, which will be converted to a LS diff. Suspension wise, at the end of the day I would like to dump the leaf springs at the rear and have a proper coil over setup installed. This however…..at the moment is still in the “dream” part of the build as is the air con, but I’m hoping to eventually get this done.

Converting it to a manual is also going to be lots of fun. I’m going to need to source a pedal box and do something with the centre console. From what I’ve read on the web, it doesn’t seem I will need to do any sort of cutting to get the box to fit. Interior wise I may need to do some cutting on the centre console, but will tackle it when I get there. I’ve already sourced a Centre Force clutch for it, which apparently is quite decent.

The plan is also to have the car painted. I will be doing a lot of the prep work myself, slowly over the next few months to save on cost for the paint job. A friend of mine has his own paint booth and will be helping me out with the spray. The car will be kept black and gold, but this time, it will have the budgie on the bonnet :D

This is going to take a while, but I’m pretty amped for it. I’m going to miss not having my toy for now, and am frightened as to how much work and money is going to into this…..but I do love my TA and the end result will be worth it.

Wish me luck!
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Picard
Posts: 140
Joined: Mon 26 Sep 2011, 10:12

Re: 1981 Pontiac Trans Am

Post by Picard » Mon 25 Aug 2014, 23:55

Saturday the motor came out, nice and easy and the cars back home.

The weather held out and we quickly pulled it outside. Wilson had to get in on the shot. :D
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Motor and gearbox were pulled out in one go. This motor treated me well.
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You can see just how big that lump with the gearbox is in this picture.
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We hooked it up onto the trailer and dropped it off back home. Like this it will be out of the way while I move onto working on the LS2 and getting it all ready.
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Here's just a little video of what it kinda sounded like with the 383 and Auto gearbox. Not sure if you can hear just how violent that 1st to 2nd gearchange was...and that wasn't even flat out.
Trans Am Changing from 1st to 2nd

Picard
Posts: 140
Joined: Mon 26 Sep 2011, 10:12

Re: 1981 Pontiac Trans Am

Post by Picard » Mon 25 Aug 2014, 23:56

Just a quick update. This weekend I spent some time stripping off the nose cone, front spoiler and front fender. Stripping is always easy, hopefully I know how to put this all together again. :)
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Picard
Posts: 140
Joined: Mon 26 Sep 2011, 10:12

Re: 1981 Pontiac Trans Am

Post by Picard » Mon 25 Aug 2014, 23:57

So this weekend the strip down continued.
I managed to finally get the car looking like this.
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Passenger fender is off as is the whole front end of the car. Spent quite a bit of time stripping all the clips, rubbers etc of the frame. Also tried my best to get all the wiring labelled and pulled back. This is one area I’m going to need to focus on redoing. Luckily when I rebuilt the motor to 383 I wired up the headlights and fans etc all with nice proper silicone cabling. All the relays etc were also neatly packaged into water proof boxes, but some of the original cabling still exists.

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The fenders are in good shape. Only the passenger fender seems to have had some damage to the bottom of it, but it’s not to bad. I stripped off the side lamps as well as the heat extractors.
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The wheel arches are in good nick. I’ll be covering up some of the unnecessary holes, just for a neater finish.
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The nose cone was also disassembled. Basically it’s just a cover. Remove a couple of screws and a few brackets and it all comes apart. This I will need to do some proper research for when it comes to painting, as it’s very flexible and needs to be done right because it was always prone to cracking. I once spoke to Barry who mentioned that with today’s paint technology, paint has become a lot more flexible.
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The rear spoilers were removed next.
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Some body putty was found on the driver’s side rear fender. Can’t wait to find out whats underneath there.
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The rear lights were removed. These came off easily. A few nuts and the pop right off.
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I need to make some space to store all the parts. It’s amazing how quickly it all starts adding up. Next up I want to remove the mirrors, but I think to do that I need to remove door panels to.

Picard
Posts: 140
Joined: Mon 26 Sep 2011, 10:12

Re: 1981 Pontiac Trans Am

Post by Picard » Mon 25 Aug 2014, 23:57

I've been a bit lazy with the TA and now with winter coming, evenings in the garage are probably gonna be at a minimum.

Not much has happened other than me finally ordering my wheels.

I am so freaking excited :D

17' by 9 Year One Snowflakes
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Shipping is a bitch though. Import duties and customs etc is going to probably work out close to what I paid for them in the USA, if not more.

Picard
Posts: 140
Joined: Mon 26 Sep 2011, 10:12

Re: 1981 Pontiac Trans Am

Post by Picard » Mon 25 Aug 2014, 23:58

Thought I'd quickly post up some progress...
My Year One wheels finally arrived. Man, that that took a big chunk out of my wallet. It's worth every cent though as they're absolutely stunning!

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Along with the wheels I've received my Dirty Dingo engine mounts and Energy Suspension body mounts.
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I had the car at my place while I waited for some space at the workshop. Finally I managed to get a spot back at the workshop, and off the car went.

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Once back at the workshop, I carried on taking things apart.
The doors are now off
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And slowly the interior has mostly come out. The Trans Am hand brake is a foot brake. What a mission that was to get off.
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Picard
Posts: 140
Joined: Mon 26 Sep 2011, 10:12

Re: 1981 Pontiac Trans Am

Post by Picard » Mon 25 Aug 2014, 23:59

The floorpan is in good condition. No rust here.
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Roof lining also came out...all fairly easily....lets see how easy it's gonna be to put it all back in :)
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The old horrible exhaust needed to come out to. This has always been something I wanted changed, and now it will finally get done. Looking forward to seeing some proper Stainless pipes under there.
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I started removing some of the paint off the doors. I was quite surprised to find quite a lot of damage on the passenger door. Who knows what happened there, but lots of body putty was used. Yes, that's my door! ;)
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The driver's door also has a little damage on it, but this was the nasty bit.
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I'm going to have to get that rust cut out and the door repaired. Shouldn't be to hard. Luckily, my one of my friends is a master at metal work and will help me get this sorted.

Picard
Posts: 140
Joined: Mon 26 Sep 2011, 10:12

Re: 1981 Pontiac Trans Am

Post by Picard » Tue 26 Aug 2014, 00:01

So, next up, before I start removing the subframe etc...I need to get the LS2 and the manual box lined up. We quickly did a test fit of the motor and gearbox and here you can see how the "Lumina" oil pan won't clear the cross member on the Trans Am.
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So, to sort this out, I had to import a new Oil pan for it. You don't even want to know how much this cost to get it here. I had a couple of different options, including a Hummer oil pan that fits, but from what I've read on the web it hangs to low, so I ended up ordering a 1998 - 2002 Camaro/Trans Am oil pan which has also arrived. It's a genuine GM pan and includes the windage tray, pickup and dipstick.
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So now that this has arrived, I want to do another test fit. This should now clear the cross member. I will need to do some cutting to get the gear lever to come into the car. At the same time, I'll be doing the gearbox mount and measuring up the prop shaft etc...

Here's a crappy pic of where the gearshift is trying to poke a hole into the cabin.
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Picard
Posts: 140
Joined: Mon 26 Sep 2011, 10:12

Re: 1981 Pontiac Trans Am

Post by Picard » Tue 26 Aug 2014, 00:01

I sent the two front fenders, bumpers and bootlid in to my friend who is going to be painting the car for me. Here's some photo's he sent me with some progress.
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