An AWD 1971 Pontiac Trans Am Does Exist and It’s Glorious

If you were to say Pontiac built a Trans Am with an all-wheel drive layout in the early 1970s, you might have needed your head examined. Enthusiasts snub their noses at the very idea. However, all that changed when a madman outfitted a 1971 Pontiac Trans Am with not only all-wheel drive but a supercharged V8. Hot rodding exists in many flavors, and in the midst of all the electrification happening around us recently, it’s nice to see someone stand up for the V8 and create a hot rod that Dr. Frankenstein would be proud of. 

This 1971 Pontiac Trans Am is the second of two

1971 Pontiac Trans Am parked trackside
1971 Pontiac Trans Am parked trackside | Larry Chen/Hoonigan

The man responsible for this all-wheel drive 197 Pontiac Trans Am is none other than Gregg Hamilton, Ken Block’s lead mechanic since 2005. One of his Trans Ams is from the late ‘70s and is the spitting image of the Bandit. It uses a twin-turbocharged 5.3-liter LS V 8, with Subaru 525cc injectors and many proprietary parts. 

The engine mates to a Corvette 6-speed transmission and delivers power to a 4.56 rear axle ratio. Gregg’s managed to preserve the integrity of late 1970s style, with modest touch-ups on the interior and gauges that blend in. He took quite a different approach to the AWD Trans Am.

Pontiac and Nissan forced together

Gregg found his 1971 Pontiac Trans Am in Nevada, and when he got it back home, he left no quarter to the paint. From then on, the project became all about the beauty within. More fabrication went into the ‘71 than his previous Trans Am. This time he used a 5.3-liter Chevrolet engine from a truck. Fitted with an upgraded crankshaft, rods, and heads, he decided it was ready for a Weiand supercharger. 

The engine sends power to all four wheels via a modified version of Nissan’s own ATTESA (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All-Terrain). The transmission and center differential come from an R32 Skyline, while the front differential comes from an Infiniti Q45, and the rear comes from a 300zx. Z06 brakes and Corvette suspension complete the car. 

As crazy as this Nissan drivetrain fusion sounds, it’s not uncommon. Many Nissan parts have been interchangeable over a few decades. Nissan S13 240sx owners will sometimes swap the differential with that of a Q45. As long as it all stays in the family, there shouldn’t be any issues. The parts aren’t costly, nor are they hard to find. The hard part was probably fabricating the undercarriage to fit everything nicely. Gregg calls his 1971 Pontiac Trans Am the “Formula 400 R”, as told by Holley.

Hot rodding is not dead

This ‘71 Trans Am is one of the ultimate examples of pure unadulterated hot rodding. The whole practice is moving toward electrification now, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be cheaper and more reliable, and an electric car can be a lot of fun to drive. It can also be loads faster than a gas-powered counterpart. For now, though, we’ll revel in the fact that we live in a time when the AWD Trans Am exists. 

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