When it comes to restoring these cars, the reproduction parts supply is very good. You'll need to rely on donor cars for new roofs, full rear quarter panels and certain one year only pieces. As with any classic car, parts chasing is only part of the expense. Bodywork, paint and assembly are what consume all the money. While Special Edition Trans Ams and certain desirable models such as the 455 HO are worth restoring properly, a basket case car missing its drive line or with substantial rust should be passed over unless you don't mind doing the work yourself or writing the checks for someone else to do it. They made a lot of these cars, so be picky and find one that is in good shape.
Verification & Documentation: Pontiac fans are lucky when it comes to verifying their car's authenticity. It isn't that hard to do. The ideal find is a car with the original engine, transmission, rear axle, body and interior in good shape. Not many of these cars exist in that condition. These cars were hot rodded over the past 30 years, so a matching numbers drive train is a worthwhile plus. All the Trans Ams have a partial VIN number stamped on the engine block between the lower water pump hose and by pass outlets. The 1980-81turbo 4.9 engines have the serial numbers engraved in script style at the bottom of the block. A two letter suffix code stamped on the passenger side below the cylinder head indicates what type of engine is in your car. For a Chevrolet 305, the machined pad on the passenger side of block under the cylinder head contains the same info including the partial VIN. The Oldsmobile 403 engine has a partial VIN stamped in the same area but under the driver side cylinder head.
Look for engine code and VIN on the front in the water pump outlet hose area.
The casting date stamp is found next to the distributor hole on Pontiacs and Chevrolets with a two digit year followed by a letter- digit combination indicating month and date of manufacture.
The automatic transmission has a two letter code silkscreened on a metal plate attached to the modulator body with a production date stamped below it. The VIN number is stamped on the oil pan rail on the driver side of a TH400. You may have to use a hoist to see it on dual exhaust equipped cars. With the manual Borg Warner ST-10 transmissions, the partial VIN is stamped on the top of the gear case on a raised pad. On older 1970s era T-10s, the VIN can appear on the driver's side of the gear case near the date code. I've seen them stamped both ways. Sometimes the VIN appears alongside the date stamp beside the aluminum midplate joining the tail shaft to the gear case. The early seventies Trans Ams used Muncie gear boxes and the VIN stamp is found on a raised boss on the right forward side of the case near the production date.
Some Trans Ams you'll pay a premium for including Special Editions, 455 HO cars and tenth Anniversary Editions. Fortunately, the SE cars from Norwood, Ohio, usually have a code on the cowl tag indicating that option. Look for Y82 on 1977 to 1979 model and Y84 for 1980-1981 models. A gold Special Edition was made for about 9 months and it was coded Y88. The Tenth Anniversary Trans Am had its own VIN code, look for X87 in the VIN number. Sadly, with the value of SE cars rising, a number of replicas and fakes are being produced. It isn't that hard to do with cowl tags and VINs for sale on major websites.
It makes sense to protect yourself with a high dollar purchase such as a Super Duty 455, a 455HO, SE Trans Am or Pace Car by having the VIN number checked with PHS Online service. Pontiac Historical Services provides a sales invoice copy of the car with a list of options and selling dealer when the car was new. It will determine for sure whether that black and gold Trans Am is really an SE or just a replica. Jim Mattison has the files of Pontiac muscle cars produced and he worked for GM when the program was handled in house. When Pontiac decided to outsource this valuable function, Mattison negotiated the acquisition. It's money well worth spending to assure what you're buying. These tips will help you pick a high flying bird from a dodo.