The star of this week’s blog is a prime example of the eternally cool 1974 Pontiac Trans Am, which is currently being updated and upgraded by Jimmy Shine and his team at Shine Speedshop in Orange, California. This particularly clean features a Cameo White paint job, and, of course, the iconic black and blue “Screaming Chicken” on the hood.
ONE SWEET RIDE
Ron Sweet, the lucky owner of this 70’s legend, made an excellent choice when he trusted Shine Speedshop to enhance his Trans Am with some modern performance features. If Ron was merely wanting to look cool rolling down the street, then his car needed no improvement. However, he desires to do more with his Pontiac than just look cool. Ron loves track days, and he can often be found out at Willow Springs International Raceway making the most out of any opportunity to get some laps in.
Ron’s love for the Trans Am goes back to his college days when he owned a similar car, although it wasn’t the Super Duty version that he owns now. He met his current ride when it rolled across the block at a Barrett-Jackson auction with just under 55,000 miles on the odometer.
NO ORDINARY FIREBIRD
As any true GM fan knows, the Trans Am is a performance package that was available for the Pontiac Firebird starting in 1969, the last year of the car’s first generation. This beautiful ride is an immaculately maintained second generation. In fact, it’s also of the same vintage (albeit not the same trim) as the Firebird driven by James Garner’s Jim Rockford in the debut season of The Rockford Files.
The second-generation Firebird’s popularity is hardly limited to television, as its even more popular association with the silver screen makes obvious. Many gearheads and casual drivers alike remember this era of Firebird as the Bandit’s car in the 1977 classic, Smokey and the Bandit, where a 1977 Trans Am co-starred alongside Burt Reynolds.
People love their second gen Firebird Trans Ams for many reasons, whether for its television and TV fame, or simply because of the overflowing amount of personality the car has: big engine, “Screaming Chicken,” and all. Even for those who were born long after its debut (such as this writer), the classic Trans Ams of the 70s are impossible to witness rolling on by without eliciting sincere (and perhaps even jealous) grins of approval.
70’S STYLE WITH A 21ST CENTURY TOUCH
Ron’s 1974 Firebird Trans Am is certainly roadworthy and in great condition. However, given his love for hitting the track, this attention-grabbing coupe needed some upgrades to rip around the tarmac in a way that belies its nearly fifty years of age.
“Lower the altitude and increase the attitude.” -Jimmy Shine
As such, Jimmy Shine and the team at Shine Speedshop have been working to bring some modern performance to this veteran muscle car without messing with its epic aesthetics. One of the big aesthetic-preserving changes that Jimmy and the team have already made is installing a 2” lower spindle in the front 2” lowered springs in the rear to compensate for how the appearance of the vehicle might otherwise be affected by one of the team’s other upgrades: modern wheels and tires. In Jimmy’s words, these modifications “lower the altitude and increase the attitude.” The best part about the aluminum “Honeycomb” wheels by Year One that the team has installed is that they look almost exactly like the honeycomb-style wheels that were original to the car. This means that Ron’s Trans Am will have all the benefits of modern tire rubber without losing the awesome appearance of his stock wheels. The upgraded rubber in question is a set of 17” BF Goodrich 275/40-ZR17 tires. By going with lower profile sidewalls than stock, the modified proportions are now perfect for the updated tires and suspension setup.
One of the most iconic aspects of Ron’s Pontiac is the engine under the hood. His Trans Am rocks the massive 455 cubic inch Super Duty V8 (that’s nearly 7.5L!). This enormous engine puts out surprisingly low performance numbers for its size, however, that’s hardly the car’s fault. It fell victim to the emissions regulations which hampered virtually all vehicle performance in the 1970s. In the case of the ’74 Super Duty Trans Am, these factors lead to an underwhelming stock horsepower number of only 255. That’s simply not enough for a reworked muscle car that’s looking to head to the track. To remedy this, the team took the engine out and asked JMS in El Monte, California to find some more power where they could. In addition, ROSS Racing built 9:25:1 pistons to improve on the stock 8:1:1 compression ratio. A new Isky cam was installed and reground to reduce its profile and maintain overlap to retain a vacuum for other accessories, such as the brakes. C&J Engineering did a Quadrajet carb tune and installed a Pertronix ignition pick up.
The transmission is a ’74 Turbo 400 that has been modified by Westminster Performance Transmission to bypass a solenoid that controls ignition advance in order to allow the engine to pull harder in lower gears, whereas before the distributor only allowed ignition advance when in high gear. Now ignition advance occurs in first, second and third gear as well, thereby making the drivetrain’s available performance more useable.
To help get the most out of this behemoth V8, Jimmy reached out to MagnaFlow to build an exhaust system with optimal performance and sound. Because his ’74 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am never had a catalytic converter, we were able to install one of our crossmember-back complete exhaust kits. The kit is designed for Chevy Camaros of the period, but the similar layouts of the Camaro and Firebird meant that only some minor modifications were required. That’s why we customized the system by installing a transverse muffler. This allowed the 2.5” mandrel bent piping to follow what is essentially the original path of the stock exhaust system, thereby maintaining the Trans Am’s aesthetics. The car now produces a mighty 385 horsepower and 430 lb.-ft. of torque. It will be quite the experience to spot this reawakened beast roaring down the highway once again.
THE TEAM BEHIND THIS CHICKEN’S SCREAM
Ron has an awesome team bringing his dream Trans Am to life. It’s great to see how his Trans Am is evolving from a weathered champion of yesteryear into a roaring road warrior that will perform better than it ever did when new. Shine Speedshop have been friends and collaborators with MagnaFlow for years. We always love helping Jimmy Shine and his team create the best exhaust system for a given project and are excited to see what he reaches out to us about next.
Shine Speedshop is constantly turning out rides that are as beautiful as they are fast. At MagnaFlow, we love that quality craftsmen such as Shine and the team choose us as their go-to exhaust partner and have developed a relationship with us where they are able to call on our advice and expertise as they need it.
THE RIGHT EXHAUST
We can’t wait to see and hear Ron’s Trans Am when its finally ready! Are you in the process of restoring or upgrading a vehicle? Whether it’s a decades-old classic like Ron’s Trans Am or a modern vehicle, MagnaFlow offers exhaust systems designed specifically for your ride and custom builder parts to build your own. Find the exhaust parts your vehicle demands using our shop by vehicle search.
Have questions about our products? Give us a call at 1-800-990-0905 and we’d be happy to help.