This led to the demise of muscle cars, which had played a prominent role with all manufacturers in attracting the 18- to 36-year-old gearheads and racing enthusiasts since the early 1960s. However, there was one last big push for factory hot rod pony cars by Ford with its Mustang and General Motors with the Camaro and Firebird.
John Morrow’s 1979 Pontiac Trans Am Bandit was the last of these cars that featured various options – and not only in terms of big engines and horsepower but also in sportiness. His car also represented the near end of multiple engine, suspension and sporting packages. Different engines were offered depending on the transmission selection, and different interior colors dictated different exterior accent colors. Additionally, the shape and styling of the seats were determined by whether they were leather, vinyl or cloth.
The 10th anniversary of the Trans Am was celebrated in 1979, when 116,535 with special packages were produced, making it the most ever sold in a model year. John’s car came with a GM TurboHydramatic 350 automatic transmission, which dictated that the car had an Oldsmobile 6.6 liter (403 cubic inches) engine producing 220 horsepower. Those that were equipped with the Borg Warner T10 4-speed manual transmission came with the Pontiac 6.6 litre (400 cubic inches). However, Pontiac stopped producing the 6.6 liter motor in 1978 but stock-piled them for 1979. Therefore, all 1979 4-speed Trans Ams actually came with a year-old engine as compared to the automatics coming with 6.6-liter engines.
John’s car is unique because it has a black exterior with a red interior – most came with a black interior. And on most Trans Ams, the color of the screaming Firebird hood decal usually corresponded with the color of the car’s interior. However, John’s car – while having a red interior – has a gold screaming Firebird. The car also came with leather seats, which dictated that the seats narrowed and squared off at the top, as opposed to the vinyl and cloth seats that were just rounded at the top.
John sought out this particular car from the onset in 1979 and hired an auto broker to find the exact style he wanted. His broker led him to a dealership in Detroit, where John flew to and bought the car, which has a sticker price of $8,700. He drove it back to Indy with the T-tops out.
The car, which has only 37,000 miles on it, was immediately taken to Ziebart but has never seen the road in winter or bad weather.
John took third-place honors in the 2008 Central Nine Career Center show. He likes driving his car to cruise-ins and The Suds in Greenwood.