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Hitman's Pontiac Trans Am Page | 1978 Pontiac Trans Am
Now, there was never a Facotry "Bandit Edition" Trans Am, and everyone always asks me if their car is a True "Bandit Edition" Trans Am. I always tell them that there is no "Factory" Bandit Edition Trans Am which there wasn't. But, to be truthful, there WAS a Bandit Edition Trans Am. Below is an article from Motor Trand Magazine in June 1981 about a company called Trans Am Specialties who did make a "Bandit Edition" Trans Am. As you will se below, the cost of a Trans Am in 1981 was around $8,700 and this Bandit Edition cost around $30,000. Just to clairfy one more time......... There IS NO BANDIT EDITION TRANS AM BUILT BY PONTIAC ! !
An object lesson in big-bore intimidation
by Kevin Smith
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN GATES
Motor Trend Magazine June, 1981
Awesome and menacing, it glides through traffic. Law-abiding townsfolk, intimidated in their mere cars, look on its imposing ebony form as they would a black-clad stranger riding cooly down a dusty main street: they want to size it up but dare give no more than a furtive glance. It's the Bandit, and the citizens' apprehension is not unfounded. This particular stranger is actually first in a series of 200 specially equipped Trans Ams bearing the Bandit name. Universal Studios (producers of "Smokey and the Bandit," editions one, two and who knows how many more?) ranted rights to the name for that limited run to Trans Am Specialties, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where new Pontiacs become Burt Reynolds signature models. TA Spec has created a car with the mechanical ammunition to walk tall in any company, but its visual impact alone will keep most would-be challengers at bay. This car demonstrates why the Oakland Raiders chose solid black for their home jerseys: The color plays on fear, enlarges the threat and beats into submission with one look. Indeed, the low, bulbous Trans Am recalls a John Matuszak or a Gene Upshaw hunkering
down in a three-point stance, ready to explode into controlled mayhem. Bandits-to-be start as Trans Ams that come from Pontiac thoroughly optioned. The factory fits everything from T-top roof and power windows to lighted vanity mirror and remote trunk release. More importantly, the cars come with all the good hardware under the skin, including 4-wheel disc brakes and the WS-6 suspension with its high-rate springs and anti-roll bars front and rear. This performance equipment is a necessary and proper adjunct to the central element in TA Spec's makeover, a nofoolin' big-bore monster motor straight out of the power-crazed 1960s. The 455 Pontiac V-8 dumps truckloads of torque into a nice but hardly necessary close-ratio Doug Nash 5-speed gearbox. The Bandit transformation entails some welcomed lavishness in addition to Pontiac's factory amenities. Trans Am Specialties installs a pair of Recaro seats (upholstered to match the velour of the rear seat), a Blaupunkt 3001 4-speaker stereo, an Escort radar detector, a motion-sensitive theft alarm and the inevitable CB radio. Goodyear Eagle steel-belted radials in a chunky P255/60R15 size play a major role both visually and functionally. TA Spec mounts these on the factory-optional 15x8 inch alloy wheels. Gabriel Strider shocks, adjusted full firm, bolster the suspension. For identification, we are mercifully spared wildfowl hood decals and garish stripes. Yet the name Bandit is in no great danger of being overlooked, appearing as it does no fewer than eight times on or in the car. Airbrushed lettering displays the word immediately aft of each front wheel and across the tail; stick-on block letters spell it out along the top of the windshield; a small dash plaque directly in front of the driver serves as a constant reminder; and carpet mats with the name woven in a contrasting color lie in each front footwell and in the trunk. Despite all those Bandit labels, the car's real identifier is that 7.5-liter powerplant. It wraps the car in an aura of potency and sheer mechanical presence. Burbling smugly at idle, growling purposefully down the interstate, or thundering madly into the distance, the experience of the Bandit, for
both passengers and bystanders, is framed in the sound and fury of that engine. As performance engines go, particularly in the context of the big-block glory days a decade ago, the Bandit's 455 is far short of radical. It relies on lots of displacement and a mild state of tune to generate all that flexible power. That we were smitten by its strength partly reflects how we have acclimatized to modern new-car performance levels, but the car is plenty fleet in its own right. Quarter-mile runs in the low 14's at nearly 100 mph and 0-60 mph leaps in 6 seconds will activate most adrenal glands. Even more telling are the fast 40-60 and 50-70 splits, both about 3 seconds, which show what the engine's massive pulling ability can do when dramatic wheelspin is not a limiting factor. That power comes from a mid-'70's Pontiac 455 block bored ,030-inch oversize for a true displacement of 462 cubic inches. Forged aluminum pistons (9.0:1 compression), a mild hydraulic-lifter camshaft, an aftermarket aluminum intake manifold and tubular exhaust headers sharpen the performance. Trans Am Specialties uses a high-volume oil pump and baffled pan to guard against pressure losses while cornering. All engine internals get a proper balance and blueprint job. The engine carries full emissions equipment including a pair of catalytic converters. TA Spec assured us the Bandit could pass emission requirements for 1981, but somehow that didn't convince us it actually had passed a recognized laboratory test. So driving around in the car gave us a mildly lawless feeling that meshed with the Bandit's personality. The other thing driving around in it did was remind us that by the standards of the current marketplace this is an old car. The present Firebird body shape reaches all the way back to 1970, and the basic platform dates from the mid-'60's. The car's space utilization-not even a pertinent concept in 1970-now seems dismally inefficient, and a chorus of creaks and groans says all that must be said about chassis rigidity. But none of that matters one whit. The Bandit is a celebration of the big-bore American musclecar; and if it's something of an anachronism, well, that just adds to its charm. Dated or not, the car has unmistakable charisma that transforms anyone who puts it on-like a black jersey. "Putting on" the car is exactly the effect of the Recaro seats, so snugly do they cling to the occupants' bodies. Their support makes fast cornering infinitely easier and the harshness of the stiff shocks and springs less objectionable. The Bandit stays flat and stable through winding curves and starts to feel weighty and clumsy only in extremely hard cornering-the legacy of its near-4,000-pound mass, live axle/leaf spring rear end, and design roots in a less sophisticated era. The car is at its best in what we'd call a fast cruise, snaking over a mountain road, taking 35-mph bends at 50. It will get through them at 60, but that kind of scratching ruffles the car's composure and is definitely uncool. The tires stick well in corner-carving and, as big contact patches do, give a fine feeling of stability and security. We encountered significant detonation on West Coast pump gas, and future Bandits will incorporate standard water injection to control the problem. Otherwise, the car drove willingly and responsively. But not especially easily, if we take easy to mean anyone could hop in and motor away. The Doug Nash transmission's shift action was stiff and notchy, and the clutch was unduly heavy. Both controls were positive enough; they just demanded lots of muscle. This poses no problem for the right kind of driver, but it does mean the "right" driver will likely have 12-inch forearms and drink his bourbon straight. But that's consistent with the car's character. Driving the Bandit is clearly a masculine exercise, and if that sounds like blatant sexism, so be it. Some 200 buyers will wind up in a genuine, limited-series Bandit. The distinction will cost them approximately $30,000. Anyone thinking the mechanicals could be duplicated for less is correct; a good portion of that tab covers the rights to the name. And in this case, with that name comes an air of authenticity and exclusivity- and a 12- month/12,000- mile warranty from TA Spec. It's a pretty heady car, this Bandit by Trans Am Specialties (1514 Route 38, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034). Driving it is an experience in sensation and image. The look plays a part, as does the engine, the name, the price. They all add up to a distinct personality that no one fails to notice-and that flows like electricity through the Recaro cushions into whoever dons the mantle of the Bandit.