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Thread: Mid-70s Survivors

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    Mid-70s Survivors

    Here's an online article about 2 survivors from what surely was the low point of performance cars, one of which is mine.

    http://www.pontiacsonline.com/Survived%20Since%2075.htm

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Here's an online article about 2 survivors from what surely was the low point of performance cars, one of which is mine.

    http://www.pontiacsonline.com/Survived%20Since%2075.htm
    Rick,

    Wonderful story!

    One of the best things, in my opinion, about these mid-late '70s "smog" TAs is how easy they were to wake up. Merely ditching the stock (and hugely restrictive) stock single exhaust/pellet converter with duals (even with cats), re-jetting the carb and dialing in a bit more ignition advance would make a stock L78 400 a pretty quick car, especially if it had a four speed (and thus, decent 3.08/3.23 rear gears; as you know, the automatic equipped cars were crippled with ridiculous 2.41 or thereabouts rear gears that just killed off-the-line acceleration).

    You could get a basically stock 4-speed 400/455 car solidly into the 14s without opening up the engine. With a mild cam and a bit more compression (from an earlier set of heads) it was simple to get into the mid-13s.

    That kind of performance is still solid, even today.

    And none of the new cars can touch the soul those old TAs had - and still have!
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Yes, Eric -- that's the "intangible" that's missing from today's cars. You could do a little work with some simple hand tools and achieve those results -- you didn't need expensive diagnostic tools and an engineering background (although I have that) to do the work. You also didn't have to report to the local smog station (in most locations) to have Big Brother double-check to make sure you hadn't done it in order to get your license plate.

    Ah, those WERE the days -- even if in the end the result wasn't as fast as many of today's production cars, you were still quicker than the pack and had the satisfaction of having made those improvements yourself...

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Yes, Eric -- that's the "intangible" that's missing from today's cars. You could do a little work with some simple hand tools and achieve those results -- you didn't need expensive diagnostic tools and an engineering background (although I have that) to do the work. You also didn't have to report to the local smog station (in most locations) to have Big Brother double-check to make sure you hadn't done it in order to get your license plate.

    Ah, those WERE the days -- even if in the end the result wasn't as fast as many of today's production cars, you were still quicker than the pack and had the satisfaction of having made those improvements yourself...
    Yep!

    The old cars also had a wildness about them - a "dangerousness" - that new cars haven't got. I mean, 455 (or 400!) cubes and 400-plus lbs.-ft. of torque meeting the pavement through 15x7 rims and 70-series radials, with no electronic traction/stability control... well, it took nerve and skill to deal with it.

    Also: As quick/fast as a modern EFI car may be, there is nothing like the sound of the Q-Jet's secondaries opening up through a functional shaker scoop!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    Yep! Also: As quick/fast as a modern EFI car may be, there is nothing like the sound of the Q-Jet's secondaries opening up through a functional shaker scoop!
    You mean like this?



    (Lousy microphone on old digital camera...)

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Yessss!

    I need to get a camera rig and do mine....

    I see you have the aftermarket flapper system on your shaker. Do you like it?

    The only thing I don't like is that the opening doesn't look stock. I've been thinking about trying to source/scrounge a "correct" early (1970-'72) functional TA shaker assembly (the guts) and install it onto my '76 scoop. I know the shells are basically the same, so it seems like it should be a question of installing the solenoids and so on to get it to work; basically a bolt-in.

    Do you have any experience/thoughts about that?

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    Well, what you see is a home-built opening, which explains why it's square. My objective was to avoid any permanent modification of the car, so to that end I just drilled out the 3 retaining rivets and removed the stock block-off plate. I still have the original piece in case I decide to return the car to 100% stock.

    The factory setup, as you note, was solenoid-controlled via a switch on the throttle -- when WOT occurred, the flap opened 100%. At less than WOT the shaker remained closed. My setup is vacuum-driven in that it opens only as far as needed by the carb. It's balanced so that when the car is not running it is closed (or nearly so -- I need a bit more tweaking to get it 100% closed all the time as it wants to "hang" open a bit).

    An original setup from a 70-72 car is E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E, as are other unique parts on those cars. However, there are a couple of aftermarket outfits that make reproductions now. Several of the guys over on Trans Am Country and 78TA have used them and are quite happy with them. They seem pretty simple to install, although they do require modification of the shaker assembly (obviously) to install them. I'll dig up the name of those outfits and pass them along.

    Incidentally, popular conception is that the EPA stopped all cold air induction in 1973 due to noise regulation. That's not true, as you could factory order the "ram air" induction system on D-port engine Forumlas up through the end of the 1974 model year. That was a surprise to me because the only way to get the premium 455 SD engine in a 73-74 Formula was to accept the TA-style CLOSED shaker on the engine. You'd think that if EPA regulations allowed a functional Formula-style hood it would certainly be offered with the SD engine, but it was not. I personally see this as a management decision by Pontiac/GM to cut their losses on performance engineering because of the changes in the industry resulting from the looming EPA reductions in emissions allowances. They had the SD program on the drawing board in 1972 and had completed the arduous emissions certification program, and likely further certification was needed to get the cold air induction system accepted. Believing that the end of the "muscle car" era was at hand Pontiac decided to let the SD program play itself out, and if they could get the 400 D-port engine qualified with a catalytic converter for 1975 they'd be lucky. When they got the 455 engine qualified with the Safari wagon somebody suggested it might work in an F-body, so it was brought back in the TA mid-year for 75 and throughout the 76 model year, but the new regs for the 77 model year made the 455 impractical. However, there were no funds for working out the cold air induction systems so those ended for ALL lines with the cessation of the 74 Formula production.

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    Here's the link to an outfit that sells the setup to make the shaker opening functional like the 70-72 factory option:

    http://pontiactransamshakers.homestead.com/

    If you want to see what one looks like on a user's car, check page 5 of Trans Am Country poster Bif1212's (Jason) restoration thread:

    http://transamcountry.com/community/...?topic=8223.60

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Well, what you see is a home-built opening, which explains why it's square. My objective was to avoid any permanent modification of the car, so to that end I just drilled out the 3 retaining rivets and removed the stock block-off plate. I still have the original piece in case I decide to return the car to 100% stock.

    The factory setup, as you note, was solenoid-controlled via a switch on the throttle -- when WOT occurred, the flap opened 100%. At less than WOT the shaker remained closed. My setup is vacuum-driven in that it opens only as far as needed by the carb. It's balanced so that when the car is not running it is closed (or nearly so -- I need a bit more tweaking to get it 100% closed all the time as it wants to "hang" open a bit).

    An original setup from a 70-72 car is E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E, as are other unique parts on those cars. However, there are a couple of aftermarket outfits that make reproductions now. Several of the guys over on Trans Am Country and 78TA have used them and are quite happy with them. They seem pretty simple to install, although they do require modification of the shaker assembly (obviously) to install them. I'll dig up the name of those outfits and pass them along.

    Incidentally, popular conception is that the EPA stopped all cold air induction in 1973 due to noise regulation. That's not true, as you could factory order the "ram air" induction system on D-port engine Forumlas up through the end of the 1974 model year. That was a surprise to me because the only way to get the premium 455 SD engine in a 73-74 Formula was to accept the TA-style CLOSED shaker on the engine. You'd think that if EPA regulations allowed a functional Formula-style hood it would certainly be offered with the SD engine, but it was not. I personally see this as a management decision by Pontiac/GM to cut their losses on performance engineering because of the changes in the industry resulting from the looming EPA reductions in emissions allowances. They had the SD program on the drawing board in 1972 and had completed the arduous emissions certification program, and likely further certification was needed to get the cold air induction system accepted. Believing that the end of the "muscle car" era was at hand Pontiac decided to let the SD program play itself out, and if they could get the 400 D-port engine qualified with a catalytic converter for 1975 they'd be lucky. When they got the 455 engine qualified with the Safari wagon somebody suggested it might work in an F-body, so it was brought back in the TA mid-year for 75 and throughout the 76 model year, but the new regs for the 77 model year made the 455 impractical. However, there were no funds for working out the cold air induction systems so those ended for ALL lines with the cessation of the 74 Formula production.
    Thanks for the input, Rick.

    I have a spare shaker (from my old - wrecked - '76 LE) that I would not mind modifying, but like you, I'd prefer to keep my original scoop stock or at least not do anything to it that's not reversible.

    I like the set-up you've got, functionally speaking. Having the door open progressively, not just at WOT, seems ideal.

    I'm going to look into the aftermarket unit you mentioned (and which I've seen advertised in Ames and other Pontiac catalogs).

    When I get done with the basement remodel I'm dealing with (and a few other things the wife wants done ) I'll return to hoarding money toward my TA restoration fund.

    My car is in very good shape mechanically; near-perfect (original) interior but the exterior needs a trip to the "spa." The (mostly) original paint still has a decent shine and the car looks good from 20 yards but the original paint is spider-webbing and there are lots of minor imperfections, scratches, door dings, etc. No significant rust - just the usual little spot at the lower corners of the rear glass and some minor deterioration on the lower door skins that's barely visible at this point.

    The car is kept in an insulated garage, under cover, is never allowed to get rained on, etc., so the deterioration progresses very slowly.

    Still, I'd like to return her to what she was when I bought her back in '91. At the time, she was in nearly perfect factory original condition with only 48,000 miles.

    The one change I am contemplating is converting to a 4-speed. I absolutely love my TA but I miss changing gears for myself. My previous TA was a 455 4-speed; not nearly as nice overall but I loved the manual transmission.

    My car was originally an L78 400/auto. It now has a 455 (with the original 400's 6X heads, repro RA III cast iron exhaust headers, Edelbrock Performer and the stock but jetted Quadrajet). This is backed up by a 2004R from Phoenix Transmissions and 3.90s out back. The car moves out pretty nicely, barking the tires on the 1-2 and the 2-3 shifts. But I still miss the 4-speed.

    When I get enough money set aside for a serious cosmetic resto, I'm going to see what's involved in converting to a 4-speed. The only way I'd do it is if the end result appeared absolutely stock, so I know the car will require new/correct 4-speed floorpans plus some other bits.

    I rarely use the car on the highway for any extended period, so going up to a 5-speed (or six-speed) isn't something I'm especially eager to do. I'd like to have the car turned into what looks to be a stone stock 455 4-speed car (with 3.23 gears out back, replacing the 3.90s - which would be too much with no OD gearing).

    I intend to keep the 455 more or less as it is. Maybe some very mild updates here and there.
    It probably makes about 300-320 "honest" horsepower and though I've never track tested it, the car feels like a high 13 second car. That's good enough for me. (I have a sport bike if I want to do 10 second quarters!)

  10. #10
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Here's the link to an outfit that sells the setup to make the shaker opening functional like the 70-72 factory option:

    http://pontiactransamshakers.homestead.com/

    If you want to see what one looks like on a user's car, check page 5 of Trans Am Country poster Bif1212's (Jason) restoration thread:

    http://transamcountry.com/community/...?topic=8223.60
    Absolutely gorgeous!

    Hey, what's that black cylinder on the righthand hood hinge? A pre-luber?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    Absolutely gorgeous!

    Hey, what's that black cylinder on the righthand hood hinge? A pre-luber?
    Nah, that's one of those new-fangled fluorescent shop lights. Someday I'll pop for one of those, I suppose.

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    It sounds like you have a nice setup as is. Don't forget if you swap to a 4 speed that you'd need the "hump" on the tunnel and a 4 speed console in addition to the clutch parts -- not a big deal, just a few more line items on the list. BTW -- if you need the dimensions for installing the hump I can hook you up via TAC and/or 78TA. We have several posters who have done that swap.

    I am in the process of planning Engine #4 now. There's nothing wrong with my current 400, but it's not what it could be and given that it was assembled with cast rods (race-prepared, but still cast), an old-school cam, and 2 piece stock valves on a 500557 casting (the lighter late 75-75 block) it's just not all it could be. I have a earlier 481988 block and a set of 6X-4 and a set of 6X-8 heads. I am looking at using this heavier block bored out to between 0.040" and 0.060" and a stroker crank with 6.8" Chevy rods for maximum displacement. The 3.000" journals will allow higher RPM than the 3.250" journals found in the 428-455 blocks, and the "long" rods will make more torque. The rods will be forged, as for the price of those these days you can't afford to NOT use them. For a cam I'd like to use a solid roller lifter grind that has a profile equivalent to the Comp XE series hydraulic cams -- I don't want the wild grind normally associated with solid llifters, but rather I'm doing an end run on the EPA. As you know they persuaded the automakers to switch to oils that don't contain ZDDP, an essential component for flat tappet cam/lifter combinations. As of this point if you are running a flat tappet cam you are dependent upon the ZDDP additives on the market. The fly in the ointment is that ZDDP shortens the life of catalytic converters, and if an additive is on the market then it's possible that any Billy-Bob could put it in his new car. That would screw up the converter, dirtying the air, so I expect that the EPA will remedy this problem shortly by outlawing manufacture and import of ZDDP -- just like they did DDT, R-12, and any number of other compounds. If that happens, all the muscle cars using flat tappet cams will be 1 oil change from extinction -- which is really been an EPA agenda item all along. By going to a roller cam I'll just miss that whole unpleasantness and happily continue consuming hydrocarbon resources well into this new century...

    Best of all, when assembled and in the car, you won't be able to tell the difference between it and a vintage stock 400...

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    It sounds like you have a nice setup as is. Don't forget if you swap to a 4 speed that you'd need the "hump" on the tunnel and a 4 speed console in addition to the clutch parts -- not a big deal, just a few more line items on the list. BTW -- if you need the dimensions for installing the hump I can hook you up via TAC and/or 78TA. We have several posters who have done that swap.

    I am in the process of planning Engine #4 now. There's nothing wrong with my current 400, but it's not what it could be and given that it was assembled with cast rods (race-prepared, but still cast), an old-school cam, and 2 piece stock valves on a 500557 casting (the lighter late 75-75 block) it's just not all it could be. I have a earlier 481988 block and a set of 6X-4 and a set of 6X-8 heads. I am looking at using this heavier block bored out to between 0.040" and 0.060" and a stroker crank with 6.8" Chevy rods for maximum displacement. The 3.000" journals will allow higher RPM than the 3.250" journals found in the 428-455 blocks, and the "long" rods will make more torque. The rods will be forged, as for the price of those these days you can't afford to NOT use them. For a cam I'd like to use a solid roller lifter grind that has a profile equivalent to the Comp XE series hydraulic cams -- I don't want the wild grind normally associated with solid llifters, but rather I'm doing an end run on the EPA. As you know they persuaded the automakers to switch to oils that don't contain ZDDP, an essential component for flat tappet cam/lifter combinations. As of this point if you are running a flat tappet cam you are dependent upon the ZDDP additives on the market. The fly in the ointment is that ZDDP shortens the life of catalytic converters, and if an additive is on the market then it's possible that any Billy-Bob could put it in his new car. That would screw up the converter, dirtying the air, so I expect that the EPA will remedy this problem shortly by outlawing manufacture and import of ZDDP -- just like they did DDT, R-12, and any number of other compounds. If that happens, all the muscle cars using flat tappet cams will be 1 oil change from extinction -- which is really been an EPA agenda item all along. By going to a roller cam I'll just miss that whole unpleasantness and happily continue consuming hydrocarbon resources well into this new century...

    Best of all, when assembled and in the car, you won't be able to tell the difference between it and a vintage stock 400...
    Good advice, Rick - thanks!

    Your proposed build sounds like the ticket. The ZDDP issue has been bothering me, also. I have a case of it, but as you say, when the well dries up... .

    I've read oils formulated for diesels such as Shell Rotella T are a viable option but I prefer to use only high-quality synthetics. And of course the other argument in favor of the roller is you can squeeze a bit more power out of your combo with a cam that doesn't behave quite as aggressively.

    I only put about 1,000 miles on my TA per year (if that) so I won't need to rebuild the 455 for some time. But "need" is not what it's all about, right?

    PS: Do you know a guy named Jack Loria in Northern Va?

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Hey Rick,

    Got an issue with my TA and thought you might have an idea...

    Sometimes (not always) when under WOT the RPMs will suddenly drop (not a little flat spot, the engine seems to almost turn off, as if someone pulled the coil wire). If I back off the gas, the engine recovers. Other than this, it runs perfectly.

    I have set the secondary air valve to the stock tension (1/4-/12 turn). The float level is correct. I updated the car a long time ago with larger diameter fuel lines, and a high-volume (mechanical) pump, so I don't think the problem is related to fuel delivery.

    I've been fiddling with it for awhile and so far haven't been able to find/fix it.

    Any thoughts?

    Combo as follows:

    455 w/Q-jet and Performer intake; 2004R trans, 3.90 gears...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    Hey Rick,

    Got an issue with my TA and thought you might have an idea...

    Sometimes (not always) when under WOT the RPMs will suddenly drop (not a little flat spot, the engine seems to almost turn off, as if someone pulled the coil wire). If I back off the gas, the engine recovers. Other than this, it runs perfectly.

    I have set the secondary air valve to the stock tension (1/4-/12 turn). The float level is correct. I updated the car a long time ago with larger diameter fuel lines, and a high-volume (mechanical) pump, so I don't think the problem is related to fuel delivery.

    I've been fiddling with it for awhile and so far haven't been able to find/fix it.

    Any thoughts?

    Combo as follows:

    455 w/Q-jet and Performer intake; 2004R trans, 3.90 gears...
    Might be worthwhile to check your gas tank breather isn't blocked or partly blocked, Eric. Especially if it is the pinhole in the tank cap type.

    Ken.
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    Ken.
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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken View Post
    Might be worthwhile to check your gas tank breather isn't blocked or partly blocked, Eric. Especially if it is the pinhole in the tank cap type.

    Ken.
    That is something I hadn't thought of - will do it today!

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    Jack Loria? Not by full name, but I might by his forum handle or Internet ID. Any idea of what he goes by/where?

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    I've got a similar problem right now with my 400/4 speed, but I haven't had time to do much troubleshooting on it. Ken has an idea with checking the fuel tank venting, but I know that's not it with mine because I just recently went through the vapor canister setup when I replaced some of the hoses. I'm going to double-check the timing before looking into the fuel pump as mine has been on the car for a while. If I get any ideas I'll certainly pass them along, but looking at the "to do" list for other stuff it might be a while (see what happens when you leave town for only a lousy week?).

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Jack Loria? Not by full name, but I might by his forum handle or Internet ID. Any idea of what he goes by/where?
    It's been a few years since I've talked to him... he's in McLean, Va. And he owns a '70 Formula 400 RA III with a three speed on the floor and literally nothing else. No gauge package, no console, no radio - not even 15 inch rims. It has the original 14s with dog dish hub caps. Basically a stripped/base 'Bird with the TA's drivetrain (less the 4-speed)!

  20. #20
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    I've got a similar problem right now with my 400/4 speed, but I haven't had time to do much troubleshooting on it. Ken has an idea with checking the fuel tank venting, but I know that's not it with mine because I just recently went through the vapor canister setup when I replaced some of the hoses. I'm going to double-check the timing before looking into the fuel pump as mine has been on the car for a while. If I get any ideas I'll certainly pass them along, but looking at the "to do" list for other stuff it might be a while (see what happens when you leave town for only a lousy week?).
    I think Ken has saved the day!

    I disconnected the lines from the tank to the vapor canister - problem gone.

    It's something that just never occurred to me. I suppose the canister/filter is clogged. The truth is I haven't touched it in years.

    So, there you go... you may have the same issue!

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