2001: the turnaround year.
So now with the knowledge of a 'little one' on the way before the end of the year, I took
the decision to keep this car and throw some effort into returning it to the glory it once
knew as a younger car at some point in its life. This decision came about after I gave the car's
exterior a thorough cleaning and followed it up with a thorough polish and wax job. I realized
I had a good car on which to build on, and if anything it would provide me with a much-needed
non-electronic hobby to take my mind off the stress of working in a high-tech industry.
So with the support of my understanding and very pregnant wife I committed to digging into
the old machine, beginning what will probably be a long and tedious rejuvenation of this
old chunk of 70's iron. Realizing that I wouldn't have the necessary funds for a repaint within
the foreseeable future, I decided to concentrate on the mechanicals. The drivetrain appeared solid
but I decided to begin with the obvious maintenance items and see where that led me. It was not
a pretty job, as the old 400 managed to leak oil out of almost every gasket imaginable. The
oil leakage probably contributed to the car's good undercarriage since it coated practically
every nook and cranny under the car.
Check out that vicious valve cover gasket leakage!
Examining the plugs confirmed the motor was burning cleanly but the engine had the occasional
miss audible in the exhaust note, which was most likely due to the original vacuum lines on the
old untouched 400.
Just soak in those horrible-looking vacuum hoses. You can almost feel exactly how hard and
brittle they had become, just by examining the photo. Since I knew nothing about vacuum
lines and their functions, I put off their replacements to a later date (turned out to be in
2002!) and focused on replacing all plugs, plug wires, and proceeded to spray a half-billion
gallons of carburetor cleaner on the dirt-encrusted old Quadrajet carburetor.
Speaking of carburetor, I noticed that the secondary lockout appeared to be preventing
operation of the large rear bores, even when the car was already fairly hot. Not wanting
to dig into the linkage too much, I simply removed the lockout function and for the first
time since I owned that car, I experienced the roar of 400 cubic inches
sucking wind through
all four throats of the carburetor.
Primary bores on the carburetor
Secondary bores on the carburetor, used for added power
At the same time, I continued to collect as much information on the Pontiac 400 engine as
well as the 2nd generation Firebird in general, to aid in my restoration efforts. With a
busy 2001 summer coming to a close, I decided it was time to just enjoy the old Trans Am for
the rest of the year and continue mechanical upgrades next season.