1976 Pontiac Trans Am – Road Test
Cairns June 2011- by Rob Healey
I’ve always admired the Trans Am for its style, and wanted to drive one for a long time. After the combined club run to the Esplanade in June, Robert Hall invited me to take his gleaming Black & Gold 1976 Trans Am for a test drive.
This Trans Am recently won Best of Class Trans Am 1970-1976 at the Pontiac Nationals at Warwick – something for Robert & Jacinta, and our club, to be really proud of. It was driven there and back to Cairns, not trailered, another credit.
Being a 50th anniversary car there are a lot of gold accents throughout. Gold bezel dash, gold spoke steering wheel, gold honeycomb rims, gold stripes – gold everywhere.
I climbed into the comfortable driving seat and Robert showed me where the important controls were. Everything was well set up, simple but functional. A nice touch is the clock embedded in the rev counter.
It was a beautiful, blue sky, winters day in Cairns and the Targa tops were off. I let the engine warm up for a minute then put the Auto Trans into drive & released the foot parking brake. We were parked on the grass at the Esplanade and I gently feathered the brakes and drove onto the walkway and carefully entered the Esplanade road.
The first thing I noticed was the steering; it was direct, light and perfect. The exhaust note was really good as I accelerated down the road. I haven’t driven a LH Drive car for a long time, yet it felt quite normal, except that I wanted to drive round every bump and manhole cover as they came towards me, because they were on my side!!
Once on Sheridan St we headed into town, I had several opportunities to apply some power, perhaps to half throttle. The accelerator was light and smooth and the engine was very responsive. The big V8 had an excellent exhaust note without being extreme. The speedo showed MPH & KPH and the needle was steady. The auto Trans shifted very smoothly.
As we braked for some lights I noticed the initial brake bite was like a new car, but then they needed more pressure. It was like a combination of Discs and Drums, which I found out is exactly what this Trans Am has.
We drove up the Southern Access Rd and along Aumuller St. Robert warned me that roundabouts can be tricky with LH Drive and I noticed as we crossed a roundabout how easy it could be to cut too close to the center island.
With the Targa Tops off there was very little turbulence. I’ve had convertible sports cars & I like that freedom of not having a roof, but don’t like the constant buffeting. For me the removable Targa roof is an ideal solution.
Every time we stopped I could see the Shaker Scoop rocking and I assumed the car had a hot cam in it, but apparently it was just the natural idle of the 400ci engine.
By the time we were heading back down Mulgrave Rd I had a good feel of the car and only a long drive or owning it would make me feel more at home. The 6.6 litre engine has a generous 75 litre fuel tank and a recent Cairns to Townsville fuel bill shows that it’s no thirstier than other carbureted V8’s.
Under the hood everything was clean and organized, with gleaming black paint everywhere. The Rochester Quadra jet Carby, capped by a large band of Gold paint around the base of the air cleaner, sits majestically above the L78 big block. Most of the wiring is hidden; even the battery has side terminals to hide the cable.
I really enjoyed driving this car, it made a big impression on me. The sound and power of the engine, the comfort, the ride quality and steering were all excellent. It’s impressive to look at and feels great to drive. It would be easy to take on long trips and it’s a car I would like to own. Thanks to Robert for trusting me with his prize winning Trans Am.Share