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Pontiac of the Month

31pontiac's 1959 Bonneville

2019 December
of the Month

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First Muscle Car + V8 Swap

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Hey guys! MY name is Jake. I'm 23. I'm from Delaware and currently live in Kentucky. A few weeks ago, I got my first muscle car.

A 1981 Pontiac Firebird Formula with a 301 V8 and a TH350.

I traded a 1982 Honda ATC 250R and a parts bike to this car. The body is spectacular for what you find in KY. The car has a lot of petina, but the metal is good. There is a spot on one door and rear panel that has some rust starting. Its nothing a little sanding and paint won't fix. The trunk is really good. It has a good bit of surface rust and one whole about the size of the top of a soda can. Fiberglass and paint, she'll be brand new!


Anyway, apparently the motor isn't locked up but its no where near running condition. My original plan was to get the 301 running and enjoy the car until I got the money to do a 350 swap.

I took the valve covers off to find the thing completely gunked up with crusty stuff. The distributor has been out of it for years, the carb needed rebuild, every vacume line was dry rotted and half the wiring wasn't connected to anything. And after doing some research, I found that the 301's don't have any performance potential, I decided to do the swap. Then I found a deal of a lifetime!

A young guy had taken apart a 78 SBC 350 and wanted $300 for it. I said I would think about it. A week later, he tells me I can come get it for $100. SOLD! All the pieces are there, its just in pieces. 2 cylinder walls need rust removed. I'm going to try Electroylsis to get all the rust off the walls and the light surface rust on the heads mating surface.

Then another week later I buy a complete TH350 with the Chevy bellhousing to fit the 350. $75 for it! I'm going to rebuild the transmission. I think the transmission in the car will work. I figure it'd be better to rebuild something while its out of the car, rather than putting it in just to take it back out because it doesn't work.


The interior is pretty good. All the seat material is rotted from sun damage. The entire back fabric area directly underneath the rear window is fried. It looks like someone set it on fire, but apparently it is just sun damage. Headliner is rotten, rear side panels are rotten, rug is rotten. The car doesn't seem to leak very much, if at all, which is a HUGE win. The dash and the center console are all in good condition, thank goodness.


I'm really excited for this project. It's going to be a lot of work, but it will be worth it in the end. I think for now, I'm going to clear coat the body and keep the original paint. Once its running, I'm going to paint it a deep blue with Black or Gold highlights.


I'll be removing the 301 in a week or 2 hopefully. I will eventually be selling the engine in whole or in pieces. Hopefully I can get something out of it to help fund the 350 build and my shop building fund.







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Sounds like a good project and you got some work cut out for you. Look forward to seeing more on your project and watch it continue!

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Welcome to FP.   Keep us up on your build....we LOVE pic's.    :pop_corn:

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I total agree with JUSTA....pics and progress reports please!

Hold on to the old tranny. Some Buick-Olds-Pontiac guy will likely buy it off you, or if you choose to put a Pontiac engine back in the car at some point down the road, you have a transmission that will bolt up.

I will say that the 301 has extremely limited performance potential. The ideal 301 starting point for any performance builds are the turbo 301 engines. I don't believe your is. So unless you have a strong desire to keep this a "numbers matching" car, getting rid of the 301 is the right choice since the aftermarket has never really embraced the 265-301 like the 326-455 enjoys. There are a lot of good reasons why too. I highly doubt you will get many takers for the 301. Unless someone is building a 301 that needs parts or they are building a V8-powered barstool, I suspect you will end up scraping it or giving it away since so few parts of the 301 interchange with the other Pontiac V8 family.

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