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Author Topic: What is the best carburetor for a Pontiac 400?  (Read 7650 times)
1979NiteRider
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« on: May 25, 2010, 03:44:09 PM »

I need to know what the best carb is for a Pontiac 400.  I have a 79 Trans Am, and right now it has a Holley on it.  I believe it's a 750 dual feed double pump.  My mechanic said it's too much carb for the car.  I believe this because it feels like it is flooding the motor.  We have tried adjusting it to the best we can, but only got a little better.  He recommended a 600 or 650 Holley with a electric choke.  But, what about a Rochester Quadrajet?  Any help is appreciated.

Also, I believe that my Pontiac 400 motor is not the original motor with the car.  Being my car is a 79, and it's an automatic, that means it would have had a 403 Olds, because only special edition Trans Ams in 79 with a standard, came with a Pontiac 400. (Just what I have been told.)  How do I find the year of my motor? 
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Grand73Am
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« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2010, 04:03:08 PM »

It didn't have to be an SE to get a 400. Any 79 TA with a 4 speed had a 400, other than the ones that had 301's with 4 speeds.

Most here will agree that the q-jet is the best way to go. 

Here's a page that shows where the date code for the block is: http://www.teufert.net/identify/identify.htm
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Steve F.
Phil G.
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« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2010, 05:57:20 PM »

Would also be helpful to know what has been done to the motor; i.e. does it have headers, more aggressive cam, what kind of heads, etc.

If stockish you mechanic is probably right.  Since you already have a holley set up you could go with a holley 670 street avenger (electric choke) or a factory spec 800 cfm q-jet.  
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Phil G.

1979 TATA w/built Olds 375
1979 Nocturne Blue (almost) 403/Auto
Rick
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« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2010, 05:58:44 PM »

The beauty of the Quadrajet is the the secondaries meter fuel to the engine based on engine vacuum.  A properly adjusted Qjet can't feed too much air/fuel to the engine for that very reason.  If the vacuum isn't there, the engine won't pull anything extra that it can't use.

You have to have a pretty hot combination with a lot steeper gearset than stock to need anything larger than a stock Qjet.  The biggest reason there are problems with them is because people don't understand how they work, or they've never taken the opportunity to learn.  Some guys, however, just prefer Hollys because that's what they know, but unless you know them very well it seems there are many with problems similar to what you describe.
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1979NiteRider
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« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2010, 06:27:40 PM »

Would also be helpful to know what has been done to the motor; i.e. does it have headers, more aggressive cam, what kind of heads, etc.

If stockish you mechanic is probably right.  Since you already have a holley set up you could go with a holley 670 street avenger (electric choke) or a factory spec 800 cfm q-jet. 

Here is what is all done to my car from what I have been told by the previous owner and what I discovered myself.

Built automatic tranny (3.73 gears and high stage torque converter)
Slightly bigger cam than stock
Motor was overhauled about 5 years ago
Headers
True dual exhaust (no restrictions; cats, etc)

With that being said, what kind of quadrajet do you think now?  I am still leaning toward a Rochester, maybe slightly modified or redone.

The beauty of the Quadrajet is the the secondaries meter fuel to the engine based on engine vacuum.  A properly adjusted Qjet can't feed too much air/fuel to the engine for that very reason.  If the vacuum isn't there, the engine won't pull anything extra that it can't use.

You have to have a pretty hot combination with a lot steeper gearset than stock to need anything larger than a stock Qjet.  The biggest reason there are problems with them is because people don't understand how they work, or they've never taken the opportunity to learn.  Some guys, however, just prefer Hollys because that's what they know, but unless you know them very well it seems there are many with problems similar to what you describe.

Thanks for the information.  I learned something today about a quadrajet haha.

It didn't have to be an SE to get a 400. Any 79 TA with a 4 speed had a 400, other than the ones that had 301's with 4 speeds.

Most here will agree that the q-jet is the best way to go. 

Here's a page that shows where the date code for the block is: http://www.teufert.net/identify/identify.htm

Thank you.  I want to find my motor year, because I know it wasn't the original motor with the car.
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ILLTA77
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« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2010, 10:07:13 AM »

Quadrajet is the best way to go. Nothing wrong with the original one..
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twov8sandat4
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« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2010, 11:17:42 AM »

I need to know what the best carb is for a Pontiac 400.  I have a 79 Trans Am, and right now it has a Holley on it.  I believe it's a 750 dual feed double pump.  My mechanic said it's too much carb for the car.  I believe this because it feels like it is flooding the motor.  We have tried adjusting it to the best we can, but only got a little better.  He recommended a 600 or 650 Holley with a electric choke.  But, what about a Rochester Quadrajet?  Any help is appreciated.

Also, I believe that my Pontiac 400 motor is not the original motor with the car.  Being my car is a 79, and it's an automatic, that means it would have had a 403 Olds, because only special edition Trans Ams in 79 with a standard, came with a Pontiac 400. (Just what I have been told.)  How do I find the year of my motor? 

It is flooding for other reasons not because it is too big  Confused.  I believe your mechanic is incorrect with his recommendation.  I started out with a 650DP on my 74 400.  I sent it out to Jeff (Shaker455 on PY,) and he upgraded it to a 750.  He then tuned it with a Wideband and vacuum gauge and determined that the motor needed more CFM.  The plan is to upgrade it to an 825.  My motor is close to yours with a mild cam, 3.42:1, headers, and 3" exhaust.  So I'd say your carb needs some attention, not a downgrade.
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Little Miss G Racing
Aus78Formula
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« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2010, 01:50:53 AM »

What they said...ignore the SE 400 thing and the Holley 600. A good rule of thumb is that you double cubic capacity for good idea of cfm. The original q-jets in these by 79 were 800's, find one of them which will improve the performance and keep original with use of shaker and electric choke if you still want it that way.
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Tman
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« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2010, 10:30:46 AM »

What intake manifold? Be aware that the Q-jet is a spread bore (smaller primary / Large secondary) and if your holley is a double pumper it will be a "squarebore". Some intakes will have bolt holes to accomidate either style carb, but some you have to use an adapter..
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1979NiteRider
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« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2010, 07:17:35 PM »

What intake manifold? Be aware that the Q-jet is a spread bore (smaller primary / Large secondary) and if your holley is a double pumper it will be a "squarebore". Some intakes will have bolt holes to accomidate either style carb, but some you have to use an adapter..

The intake manifold is stock.  That's all I know.  My carb has like a 1" square block beneath it. You know what I mean?  I have heard of guys saying invest in a block about 1 inch and put it between the motor and carb.
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70_71_78
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« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2010, 08:19:23 PM »

There are several makes of carbs. that have vacuum operated secondary throttle bores, and a Quadrajet operates in a similar fashion. The large blades over the secondary throttle bores will only open as far as the engine requires. This operation both restricts air flow and meters the fuel. Many performance carbs. have the secondary throttle blades operated by the position of the driver's right foot, they will be wide open as the throttle is floored. These carbs also have a large accelerator pump or two. With most vacuum operated secondary carbs, you can pretty much stomp the accelerator to the floor at any time and the engine will respond because the primary side is small enough to not cause a huge drop in engine vacuum. With the performance based, fully manually operated throttle, just stomping it to the floor could actually kill the engine, too much air flow can cause a loss of fuel metering if the engine can not gain RPM quickly enough, (this is one of the reason why a numerically high rear gear ratio is recommended). Does this mean that a larger carb will not work? NO. It means that you need to apply only enough throttle to meet the airflow demands, easing into full throttle as RPM climbs.
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1979NiteRider
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« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2010, 03:16:42 PM »

There are several makes of carbs. that have vacuum operated secondary throttle bores, and a Quadrajet operates in a similar fashion. The large blades over the secondary throttle bores will only open as far as the engine requires. This operation both restricts air flow and meters the fuel. Many performance carbs. have the secondary throttle blades operated by the position of the driver's right foot, they will be wide open as the throttle is floored. These carbs also have a large accelerator pump or two. With most vacuum operated secondary carbs, you can pretty much stomp the accelerator to the floor at any time and the engine will respond because the primary side is small enough to not cause a huge drop in engine vacuum. With the performance based, fully manually operated throttle, just stomping it to the floor could actually kill the engine, too much air flow can cause a loss of fuel metering if the engine can not gain RPM quickly enough, (this is one of the reason why a numerically high rear gear ratio is recommended). Does this mean that a larger carb will not work? NO. It means that you need to apply only enough throttle to meet the airflow demands, easing into full throttle as RPM climbs.

That could be part of the case.  It makes sense.  I still think, well I know, it's running to rich.  I am just a young guy, I never had any experience with carbs before.  I am learning as much as I can.  My carb needs a lot of attention.  My kickdown isn't hooked up.  Any of you know what that means?  That's what my mechanic told me.  He said being it isn't hooked up, I have to drop it in second to get more response as far as downshifting.  I think I am just going to buy a Rochester quadrajet and have an electric choke put in.  I want a carb and a tune that when I stomp on it, there is little to no hesitation and the power grows.

Do any of you recommend another intake manifold?  Like one from Edlebrock?  They say an Edlebrock intake fits real good like the stock manifold, but is more free flowing.
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Grand73Am
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« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2010, 04:30:40 PM »

As others will tell you, you won't gain anything with the Edelbrock Performer intake other than weight savings. The factory iron intake is very good as it is. So I suggest putting that money toward your new q-jet.

The kick-down is a cable from the transmission that's supposed to be connected to the lower end of the carb's throttle lever. When you floor the gas pedal, it would pull the kick-down cable, causing your transmission to downshift for extra acceleration. So, you would want that connected and adjusted properly. It's not hard to do if you have the parts installed.

Something that would help educate you on your car and how to work on it is to have a copy of the factory Pontiac Service manual. The 79 Service manual is a smaller supplement to the big 78 Service manual, since most info about 79's is the same as 78's. The 79 manual includes the changes made for 79's. Fortunately, you can buy both manual's on CDrom cheaply for your 79 here: http://www.78ta.com/store/product.php?productid=16170&cat=23&page=1
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Steve F.
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« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2010, 12:26:11 PM »

For whatever this is worth to you:
I sent my Rochester to Sean Murphy in California to be restored. It is a little pricey, but well worth the expense. He asks for quite a bit of information so that he may customize your carb to your specific needs.

Here's the contact info:  Sean Murphy Carburetors 714-8439169

Hope this helps you out!
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1977 Trans Am stroked 400 (468)
1989 Iroc-Z28 5.7 TPI 90K original miles
1987 Monte Carlo SS LS 2/4L60e swap in progress
1997 Silverado 5.7 Z71 Single Cab, Short box (daily driver)
1979NiteRider
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« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2010, 02:50:57 PM »

Thank you both for the information.  I think I am going with a Rochester Quadrajet.  Eveyone I have talked to said those carbs are made for the car and are easier to adjust and modify.

My next question is, should I get a carb for a ram-air system or just keep the open shaker scoop setup?  I was seriously considering ram-air.  What do you all think?
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Grand73Am
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« Reply #15 on: June 05, 2010, 03:06:30 PM »

The q-jet will be the same regardless of how you duct air to it. 76-79 q-jets are good ones to rebuild and modify for more performance.

I don't know how much of the original parts you have. You can put back the original plastic air ducts that take fresh air from the front driver side and thru an air duct hose to the snout of the air cleaner base. Those act like a ram-air setup. And then you can choose whether to open up the back of the scoop too for more cool air.
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Steve F.
Marty76T/A
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« Reply #16 on: June 05, 2010, 08:50:57 PM »

Well I guess I'm going to go against the grain with this but I have a 750 Holley DP on my stock 400 (76 T/A) with headers. It runs GREAT. I'm sure all the experts will contradict me on this but I don't think you can over carburate a Pontiac block, unless of course, you run an 850 or higher.

We all know Holley's are finicky but she runs 10 times better then she ever did with Rochester on.

BTW - my engine and heads still carry the original bores.
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Sleek, performant and a hell of a ride.... And that's just the driver.
1979NiteRider
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« Reply #17 on: June 06, 2010, 10:13:06 AM »

The q-jet will be the same regardless of how you duct air to it. 76-79 q-jets are good ones to rebuild and modify for more performance.

I don't know how much of the original parts you have. You can put back the original plastic air ducts that take fresh air from the front driver side and thru an air duct hose to the snout of the air cleaner base. Those act like a ram-air setup. And then you can choose whether to open up the back of the scoop too for more cool air.

I see now.  I didn't know if a ram-air carb was different then a regular induction.  What threw me off was the fact that I have this Classic Industries catalog and was looking at Rochester Carbs and for a certain year it said for ram-air only.  But, if it doesn't matter, then I might get a ram-air setup down the road.  And I already opened up the back of my scoop  Smile.  Plus my driver and passenger side fender is vented with a duct.

Well I guess I'm going to go against the grain with this but I have a 750 Holley DP on my stock 400 (76 T/A) with headers. It runs GREAT. I'm sure all the experts will contradict me on this but I don't think you can over carburate a Pontiac block, unless of course, you run an 850 or higher.

We all know Holley's are finicky but she runs 10 times better then she ever did with Rochester on.

BTW - my engine and heads still carry the original bores.


Interesting.  I believe my motor still has orignal bores as well.  It's just that my carb is not setup right.  It doesn't have a kick down cable and the choke is wired open.  Plus my mechanic tried adjusting it, and he almost didn't have a clue.  It runs better than before.
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Marty76T/A
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« Reply #18 on: June 06, 2010, 07:09:40 PM »

Please note, every two years my carb (Holley) does start acting "funny". I have it torn apart, cleaned and reassembled. Sometimes I need to change some gaskets here and there but it's a must.

I've never gone over two seasons without having to tear the Holley apart.

I love the Rochester's but on a Pontiac, would stick with any mid range (750CFM) double pumper carb.

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Sleek, performant and a hell of a ride.... And that's just the driver.
red brew
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« Reply #19 on: June 09, 2010, 03:33:46 PM »

Keep the Q-jet and send it to Sean Murphy, or one of the guys here that rebuild them.  I had a Brad Urban rebuilt Q-jet installed on my 78 when i took it to the Philippines.  Car had a Cam Dynamics cam installed and headers, high perf ignition. Really woke it up and after initial tuning it never needed any other servicing. And it was running on some serious cat pee gasoline.
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sidheanwwyn
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« Reply #20 on: June 11, 2010, 07:07:25 AM »

find another mechanic, baby!  sounds like you have someone working on your car who knows next to nothing about carbs.  it's really common now.  20 years ago i could go to any mechanic, and they could adjust a carb, although most would shy away from rebuilding a rochester.  they are really a bitch to rebuild.  don't let ANYONE you aren't sure knows what they're doing mess with one!  they are really wonderful.. there's a good reason they were made for so long, and for so many applications.  i have tried holley and edelbrock and didn't like them nearly as well, although they are simpler.  a good pontiac motor will run well with a lot of different carbs, as long as it is adjusted right for the motor, so that's mostly personal preference.  if you don't know about carbs, you either need to learn, or find an old school mechanic who loves muscle cars to work on yours.  youngsters who grew up with fuel injection just don't know about or appreciate what you can do with a good carb.
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1979 TRANS AM
1979NiteRider
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« Reply #21 on: June 13, 2010, 11:20:51 AM »

I am getting a Rochester.  My mechanic knows nothing about Holleys.  He is knowledgable about old muscle.  He loves to work on old cars and hates new ones.  I have learned so much already about these cars, once again I am only 19 years old.

Also, I have no timing mark on my distributor.  I think it is out of time.  It seems slightly advanced.  Where do I start?
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sidheanwwyn
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« Reply #22 on: June 13, 2010, 04:38:24 PM »

your timing mark is on the harmonic balancer, i believe.  you hook the timing light up, and aim it at the balancer, then turn the distributor till you get it lined up.  on the balancer is a clip with notches on it, and the wheel next to it has a hash mark on it.  you line them up to set the timing.  good to hear you have an old school mechanic.  just about anyone who knows about old cars hates working on new ones.  old cars were built to last.  new cars are designed to break before they are paid for.  they are also made with individual parts which often require that the mechanic get special tools to work on them.  old cars had universal parts, and one part would fit many different cars, which is why an interchange guide is so helpful when you are getting parts for them.  the same starter that goes on a firebird, will often be cheaper if you get the part number and check which other cars share it.  if you get the same part for a grand prix it might be cheaper.  new cars are also designed to be hard to work on, so it's expensive, and beyond the scope of what the average car owner can do.  it wasn't that uncommon to see an engine hanging from a tree in someone's front yard 20 years ago, but when was the last time you saw that?  i share your mechanic's opinion.  i HATE new cars.  i hate how much they cost, how cheap made they are, how i can't even change the oil in one. 
ii don't feel safe in one either.  i'm a paramedic, and i can tell you that the hype about new cars being safer is a huge load of bs.  it depends on the type of accident.  very few instances occur where you would be safer in a new car.  the safety ratings and crash tests are made to see what would happen if a new car got hit BY ANOTHER NEW CAR, not a 2 1/2 ton monster.  picture a toyota getting hit by a 77 grand prix.  which do you think would win?  answer:  the toyota would be a speed bump for the grand prix.  air bags are dangerous, and crumple zones just mean  that your car totals easier.  i want a car that's not made out of plastic, fiberglass, and recycled pepsi cans!  i like that there's more than 9 feet of steel between me and anything that hits me head on.  funny story:  about ten years ago, i saw and old guy driving a 76 lincoln rear-end a cavalier at low speed.  the cavalier was toast, and  the girl in it was freaking out.  old guy gets out to check his car, points to the bumper, and says, "you scratched my bumper!"  you had to look close to see it.  all i could think was, "you coulda had a v8!"

anyway, the rochester is what goes on the car, just make sure you get one big enough for your application.  funny story, but sad:  went in carquest to order a new carb for my car, and got a blank look form the guy behind the counter.  he said, "we don't sell THOSE."  looked at me like i had just grown another head, or like he thought i wasn't quite right...  screw 'im  i went a block away to o'reilly and gave them my money.
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1979 TRANS AM
1979NiteRider
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« Reply #23 on: June 14, 2010, 01:38:23 PM »

your timing mark is on the harmonic balancer, i believe.  you hook the timing light up, and aim it at the balancer, then turn the distributor till you get it lined up.  on the balancer is a clip with notches on it, and the wheel next to it has a hash mark on it.  you line them up to set the timing.  good to hear you have an old school mechanic.  just about anyone who knows about old cars hates working on new ones.  old cars were built to last.  new cars are designed to break before they are paid for.  they are also made with individual parts which often require that the mechanic get special tools to work on them.  old cars had universal parts, and one part would fit many different cars, which is why an interchange guide is so helpful when you are getting parts for them.  the same starter that goes on a firebird, will often be cheaper if you get the part number and check which other cars share it.  if you get the same part for a grand prix it might be cheaper.  new cars are also designed to be hard to work on, so it's expensive, and beyond the scope of what the average car owner can do.  it wasn't that uncommon to see an engine hanging from a tree in someone's front yard 20 years ago, but when was the last time you saw that?  i share your mechanic's opinion.  i HATE new cars.  i hate how much they cost, how cheap made they are, how i can't even change the oil in one. 
ii don't feel safe in one either.  i'm a paramedic, and i can tell you that the hype about new cars being safer is a huge load of bs.  it depends on the type of accident.  very few instances occur where you would be safer in a new car.  the safety ratings and crash tests are made to see what would happen if a new car got hit BY ANOTHER NEW CAR, not a 2 1/2 ton monster.  picture a toyota getting hit by a 77 grand prix.  which do you think would win?  answer:  the toyota would be a speed bump for the grand prix.  air bags are dangerous, and crumple zones just mean  that your car totals easier.  i want a car that's not made out of plastic, fiberglass, and recycled pepsi cans!  i like that there's more than 9 feet of steel between me and anything that hits me head on.  funny story:  about ten years ago, i saw and old guy driving a 76 lincoln rear-end a cavalier at low speed.  the cavalier was toast, and  the girl in it was freaking out.  old guy gets out to check his car, points to the bumper, and says, "you scratched my bumper!"  you had to look close to see it.  all i could think was, "you coulda had a v8!"

anyway, the rochester is what goes on the car, just make sure you get one big enough for your application.  funny story, but sad:  went in carquest to order a new carb for my car, and got a blank look form the guy behind the counter.  he said, "we don't sell THOSE."  looked at me like i had just grown another head, or like he thought i wasn't quite right...  screw 'im  i went a block away to o'reilly and gave them my money.

Thanks for the timing help.  I will see what I can do.  I believe that's part of my hesitation when I hit the throttle.  After that 1 second hesitation, boy does it come to life though.  However, it should be little to no hesitation if tuned right (carb, timing, etc).  I am starting to get things figured out. 

And yeah old cars never die.  They were built to last.  I got into many arguments with tuner kids.  They always bring up the stupid argument of being so light.  They just don't know how to drive a real car like a Trans Am.  And really in my opinion, a Trans Am isn't that heavy.  Besides it's how much power you can put out in the end.  What's the fastest car in the world?  It sure isn't a turbo 4 banger.  The fastest car in the world (whatever it is) got it's reputation for it's displacement!  No sub for cubic inches.  As long as you can balance your weight on your ride, then you are good.

You hit it on the nose about new cars.  New cars are just a bunch of plastic.  And they have no REAL power.  Plus they just cost more to fix, manage, and mod.  I rub it in my friend's faces that I bought a performance MOOG front end rebuild for roughly 500 bucks with shipping haha.   

At any rate, my goal is to make my car a monster and one of the fastest cars around where I live.  I won't rest until I achieve my goal.  I have a lot of cocky tuners around that I want to show up.  I can show up a lot of cars around now even new muscle, but I want to beat this 525 RWHP Audi and modded STI. 
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sidheanwwyn
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« Reply #24 on: June 14, 2010, 08:10:33 PM »

tires and suspension make a big difference too.  most of the older rides had too much weight up front, and the stock tires just want to spin for the most part.  i'm not a fan of the whole huge rims/skinny tires thing.  it just looks funny to me.  i have seen new cars with what looks like chrome wagon wheels on them.  too funny, makes them look like toys, or like someone took an old wagon bed, chromed it, and mounted a car on it.  not a huge fan of lots of chrome either, just looks cheap and cheezy. 

there's a couple of other issues here though.  love your awesome ride for what it is: an antique piece of automotive artwork that just happens to growl and have really huge balls.  you simply can't compare it to the new stuff that's out there.  our rides are in a whole nother class.  they HAVE class, which is something you don't see much of in the automotive industry anymore, because they are no longer interested in turning out fabulous rides.  they just want to squeeze as much money out of people as they can.  our cars have tons of personality, and they really stand out in a crowd.  as pitiful as mine is running right now, many people are still jealous of me for having it.  new cars don't have the same sweet, flowing lines that are nothing but bada$$ sexy.  (too bad it's almost impossible to get laid in one, unless you are a dwarf.)  new cars are either bubbles or boxes on wheels, and they all look the same.  look at how popular the new dodge chargers and challengers are, because THEY LOOK MORE LIKE THE OLD ONES. 

i like what a guy named henry has as his tag line, "a camaro looks like it wants to kick your a$$. a trans am looks like it's coming over to do it."  try to take pride in your ride, because she deserves it.  do not get sucked into all the testosterone inspired posturing about whose car is better.  if the others weren't intimidated by yours, there would be no discussion.  all of them would love the bragging rights they would get from beating a trans am, because of its reputation.  you are too young to remember what The Fonz said, "if you TRY to be cool, you are not cool.  it has to just flow out of you without trying."  don't worry about that crap.  enjoy your baby, and bask in the certain knowledge that the guys you know who don't have something like it are jealous.  probably would deny it, but  they wish their crappy, cheap-made, generic cars got the looks, attention, and appreciation yours does.  can you think of even one four cylinder car that gives people whiplash when it goes by, because they are trying to get a better look at it?  how many toyota owners have random folks follow them till they stop, just to ask about the car?  happens to me a lot.  YOU DON'T HAVE A darn THING TO PROVE. 
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