1978 Trans Am

1978 Trans Am

1978 TRANS AM LARGELY CARRIED OVER. The ‘78 T/A was largely carried over from the ‘77, but with improvements, refinements, and some new engine options. There were some interior trim changes, and the Rally Gauge Cluster (with tach & clock) was no longer standard equipment, it was now optional at no cost. Instead, a new cluster with tachometer only became standard.

1978 TRANS AM EXTERIOR OPTIONS. Color choices for a Trans Am expanded to 8 (the 1977 had only 6). The “Smokey and the Bandit” Black-and-Gold Special Edition only came with T-Tops. Here the package splits up based upon where the car was assembled. The Y82 was built in Norwood OH and the Y84 in Van Nuys CA. Roughly 10 times as many Y82s were built thatn Y84s, making the latter rare and more sought-after by collectors. Norwood’s Y82s all came with Pontiac’s own 400 V8, while 210 of the Y84s built in Van Nuys came with the Olds 403 V8.

GOLD SPECIAL EDITION 1978 TRANS AM. A new Special Edition Trans Am came out mid-year designated Y88 or the “Gold Special Edition” and only came with Fisher T-Tops. The car pictured here is a Y88. The Y88 debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show in January 1978. The paint color is called Solar Gold, and the California-built cars, due to stricter environmental regulations governing paints, got water-based paint that didn’t look as lustrous, last as long or look as good as the laquer paints the Ohio plant was using. Many of the California cars left the factory with bodies that didn’t match the colors of the Endura front and rear facias. If touching up was ever needed later, it couldn’t be matched. Many dealers were forced to repaint entire cars under warranty.

1978 TRANS AM T-TOPS. There were also two types of T-Tops used, early cars using Hurst Hatch, and later ones improved versions made by Fisher. The Fisher T-Tops were larger and heavier than the Hurst units, expanding the opening in the roof farther back and closer to the centerline of the roof. This provided more glass area and more light. The easiest way to tell them apart…most of the time…is that Hurst T-Tops usually had chrome trim, while the Fishers had blacked-out trim. The Hurst T-Tops also tended to leak, which is why they were eventually phased out altogether.

1978 Trans Am INTERIORS

1978 Trans Am ENGINES

1978 TRANS AM ENGINE SELECTIONS. The engines pretty much carried over as is from the 1977 Trans Am other than some minor changes. The L78 400 V8 got a slight bump in compression to 7.7:1. With the W72 option, it gained 20 net horsepower, but lost 5 pound-feet of torque by increasing compression to 8.1:1. The Oldsmobile-derived 403ci L80 V8 had it’s compression reduced to 7.9:1, but it still made the same torque, 320 lb/ft, but at a lower 2,000 rpm.

1978 TRANS AM – THE LAST MUSCLE CAR. By 1978, performance was pretty much in the toilet. Federal smog, fuel economy and safety regulations forced car makers to emasculate their cars in an effort to meet the requirements. The technology in the 1970s simply wasn’t up to the job. Today, modern electronics handle it all, and because of it, we can have it all: great performance, perfect drivability and reliability, excellent fuel economy and near-zero emissions. The ’78 Trans Am, and the Chevy Corvette (which was technically a ‘sports car’, not a muscle car) were practically the only fast cars left. Pontiac accomplished this by being one of the only carmakers to continue to use big block V8s of 400 cubic inches or larger. And sales boomed because of it. There was literally almost no competition. And the movie “Smokey and the Bandit” which starred Burt Reynolds and a Black-and-Gold Special Edition 1977 Trans Am, didn’t hurt either. Suddenly everyone wanted a black and gold T/A. Altogether, 63,812 1978 Trans Ams were sold, more than any other single model designation within the 1978 Firebird line.

1978 Pontiac Trans Am VIN Decoder

In 1981, all vehicles sold in the US went to a 17-digit format. Prior to that, every manufacturer had their own system. GM used a 13-digit system for all GM cars & trucks from all Divisions.
1st DIGIT – GM Divison (2 = Pontiac)
2nd, 3rd & 4th DIGITS – Model (W87 = TransAm)
5th DIGITS – Engine (Z = 400; K = 403))
6th DIGIT – Year
7th DIGIT – Assembly Plant
Last 6 DIGITS – Serial Number of Car

1978 Pontiac Trans Am Production Numbers


TransAm Coupe w/400 V8 (L78)

TransAm Coupe w/400V8 (W72)

Trans Am Coupe w/403V8 (L80)

Y82 Black Special Edition w/L78

Y84 Black Special Edition w/L78

Y84 Black Special Edition w/L80

Y88 Gold Special Edition w/L78

Y88 Gold Special Editon w/L80