1995 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 5.7L OHV V8 from North America
A true muscle car for the enthusiast and mechanically inclined
- Head gasket at 133,000 miles.
- Ignition control module.
- Minor rusting on the quarter panels.
- Rag joint.
- Ball joints.
- Sagging driver's door hinge.
- Broken door handle rod clip inside the driver's door.
- Both rear brake calipers failed.
This is a car strictly for enthusiasts who enjoy working on their own vehicle. When I purchased this vehicle, it had had the engine rebuilt from bottom to top and many of the sensors and components replaced. This is because the previous owner decided to have the entire engine rebuilt after it had overheated from head gasket failure. It appears that head gasket failure is very common around 130,000 - 150,000 miles. I am guessing that it is because the LT1 engine is iron and the cylinder heads are aluminum.
This vehicle has its faults. Such as the clunky, infamous rattling interior. The interior quality is very disappointing. However, the cloth seats are much more durable over the leather seat option. The auto transmission sounds like a turbo on a diesel truck, but shifts very firm in performance mode where it will snap your head back.
The car did leave me stranded (in my driveway) once. I traced it down to the ignition control module, which I replaced with a Dyna ignition control module from Summit. This was a good investment over the generic units that cost around the same price that tend to fail. The ignition control module (ICM) is located on the driver's side cylinder head and is fastened to a bracket with the ignition coil. I would suggest relocating this module by extending the wiring, because it tends to get extremely hot and fail.
The 1995 Firebird Trans Am is OBD1, but requires a special OBD2 style plug that is about $60 just to scan the computer. This is somewhat of a hassle, but car enthusiasts seem to like the OBD1 system over the 1996 OBD2 system due to the flexibility of this particular OBD1 system.
I had to drive the car through 1/4" of snow once to get it home. Boy, did that turn out to be a not-so-good idea. I barely accelerated around a slight corner and I spun around facing oncoming traffic on the other side of the road in the ditch. I am careful when driving on wet roads also. The rear tires are brand new 255s and like to spin on wet roads. This is a car that I would suggest you do not buy as a first car for your child.
The handling is about average. It is definitely not a rally car by any means. I replaced everything in the entire front end with Moog components (including the springs). The car leans about 1" to the right, which I am unable to understand. However, there are many others who have the exact same problem. The steering was very sloppy until I replaced the rag joint with a metal rag joint. The car's steering radius is that of a semi-truck.
The electrical wiring to some sensors is very thin and fragile. The wiring has been fixed in many areas.
The brake system is a complete disappointment. I would suggest ditching the ABS system and bypassing the ABS block. I flushed the entire system and replaced the pads and calipers. The brakes can barely hold the engine down at idle. Rear caliper failure seems very common.
The optical sensor under the water pump is another at-fault part that GM used to replace the standard distributor. If you wash underneath your LT1 or drive through a car wash that sprays underneath, there's a chance this optical sensor will get hit with water and cause the car to stumble or completely stall. This part ranges anywhere from $250-$600 if failure occurs.
I had to adjust the idle via the throttle body and modify the throttle position sensor to get the idle between 650 and 750 RPM. It was previously idling at 1,000-1200 RPM, and would spin the tires when shifting into drive, even with the brakes applied. Keep in mind that my engine has a larger than stock camshaft.
Like I first mentioned, this car is clearly for the enthusiast. I love my car and I plan to keep it as a second driver. It has been very reliable for me. If you are looking at purchasing an LT1 Firebird or Camaro, please read over these issues and keep in mind the common problems that might occur.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 14th October, 2014