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      Your path: Home >> Wall-E's World >> Model Cars >> 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Manufacturer: Yat Ming
Release dates: Unknown
Catalog number: 1060
Date Purchased: November 2007
Date Completed: October 2009
Number in collection: 19

The Pontiac Firebird entered its eighth year of its second generation with new front styling that featured four rectangular head lights set inside a split grille design. The change proved instantly popular, and helped sales to increase by around 40%. The Trans Am was the biggest seller in of all Firebird models, and was once again available in a special edition that was black with gold stipes and accents to the wheels and front grilles. This was the version made popular by the Smokey and the Bandit film series.

This replica is made by Yat Ming, a company that I had not heard of prior working on this car. They made quite a few cars at, or near 1:64 scale. While I don't consider them quite up to the standards of more well known manufacturers, They did model subjects that were otherwise not available in this scale. I don't know exactly when it was first issued, but I suspect that it was sometime in the late 1970's, or early 1980's. The quality and realism of the major companies wasn't much to rave about, either. This particular car features opening doors, as well as the famous 'Thunder Chicken' hood decal.

I originally worked on this car long before I started photographing them. The 'before' pictures are not of my car, but ones I found on-line of cars that are in original condition, some in differences in wheels and markings. The 'after' pictures were of my car, but taken while I was originally writing this page.

Click to zoom Click to zoom
What I started with. Actual car I used for reference.


Pictures of car before any changes were made (click to enlarge)
Disassembly was done by drilling out a single body-to-chassis rivet at the rear of the car. The front is held in place by the front grilles that slip into corresponding holes in the body. The parts breakdown is as follows:
  • A die-cast metal chassis, with basic drive train detailing cast into it.
  • Two separate wheel/tire/axle assemblies, which are held in place to the chassis by a plastic strip. This strip is riveted to the chassis, and gives a slight spring effect to the axles, simulating suspension. I didn't remove the strip, as I didn't want to risk damaging either piece. The wheels have a design that isn't even close to the actual car, and one of several styles that I've seen on this replica.
  • A tan plastic one-piece interior with the dash and steering wheel molded to one half, the remainder on the other half, hinged at the front of the whole part. The seats and console resenble the actual car, but the same cannot be said for the dash.
  • The die-cast body and two removable doors which are held in place by a thin metal spring. All parts are painted black, and has a tampo printed hood decal.
  • A single piece blue-tinted clear window assembly.
  • A chrome plated plastic rear bumper and tail light assembly, that locates to a tab on the inside of the body. Somewhat odd, as these pieces were body color on the actual car.

Although The overall level of detail of this car isn't the greatest, I tried to add as much detail as I would to better quality cars. The body casting itself seems to have a rough surface. but I didn't want to strip. sand, and repaint it. If I had, it would have cost me the hood decal.

The following is a summary of the changes I made:
  • Wheels and tires: Sanded the tread surface with 220 grit sandpaper to simulate wear. Painted the raised part of the wheels Tamiya aluminum, and the inner areas Testors gold. Even though the wheels are not the correct design, I tried to get a stock look with what I had to work with.
  • Chassis: Painted entire piece Testors acrylic flat black. Engine, transmission, frame, suspension and exhaust system details were painted with Testors Model Master Pontiac engine blue, Tamiya metallic gray, aluminum, and semi-gloss black. The two front grille inserts were painted Testors acrylic flat black, with Testors silver used for the headlights.
  • Interior: Entire interior portion is a mix of Testors acrylic flat tan and flat white. A slightly darker shade of this mixture was used for the dashboard and floor. Everything except what would be carpeted on the actual car is coated with Testors acrylic semi-gloss clear. Remaining interior details were highlighted with appropriate colors, also using pictures of the actual car as a guide.
  • Windows: I left this piece unchanged.
  • Body: Painted inside of doors to match rest of interior. Painted rear bumper and tail light panel (except for the tail lights) Testors black. Painted side marker lights and front turn signals Testors silver to simulate a reflective backing. This was followed by Tamiya clear red, clear orange, and Testors flat white on the lights. In order to make it look more like the Special Edition model, I hand painted pinstripes with Testors gold.
Disassembled parts, before reassembly To the left is the car prior to re-assembly.

Assembly was completed by pressing the parts together, filling the old rivet hole with epoxy putty, and touching up the filled hole with paint to match the chassis plate.


Pictures of completed car (click to enlarge)


The proportions of the completed car look reasonably close to the actual car. The table below shows how close they are.

Actual car 
(mm / in)
Model
(mm / in)
Dimensions of actual car based on model scale
(mm / in)
Calculated scale based on model to actual car
Length 4999 / 196.8 76 / 2.99 4864 / 191.1 1:66
Wheelbase 2748 / 108.2 42 / 1.67 2688 / 107.0 1:65
Width 1864 / 73.4 28 / 1.12 1792 / 71.6 1:66
Height 1252 / 49.3 21 / .82 1344 / 52.3 1:60

I'm not familiar enough with Yat Ming to know what scale is generally used for their cars. I assume the target is 1:64, based on their size. No scale is shown anywhere on the car istelf. This one is a bit smaller, as my calculations show that it closer to 1:66. Height is noticably larger, but I suspect that this is because the 'suspension' feature built into the chassis makes the car sit a little higher than it should.

This is the first Yat Ming car in my collection. While I am somewhat pleased by the way it turned out, I don't see myself going too much out of the way to add more. Some people are put off by opening doors in this scale, but I don't mind them. Based on what I've seen in other collections, The accuracy of their small scale cars is inconsistant. Some are nice represenations of some unusual subjects, while others are just too 'toy-like' for my taste. Go ahead and say it, "They're ALL toys."



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