Bandit Engine Removal
By: Patrick Smith
Automotive Wisdom through the Ages

The first segment dealt with purchasing a Trans Am and discussing the weaknesses of the 1971-1981 cars. I examined and bought a 1980 Trans Am car and now that I have it at the shop, Iíll go further into checking out the car. I bought this one with the idea of getting it on the road quickly and performing an affordable street revival. It was a survivor car that was largely original. Since Team Hoghead and Brett ďHitmanĒ Campbell have such excellent resources available on cowl tags, I wonít bore you and go right to engine pulling.
I first made a list of faults with the engine, suspension and other mechanical items that needed to be repaired. Although the engine ran fine, the water pump was leaking fluid. I also detected a serious oil leak from the rear of the engine block. Removing the torque converter cover revealed a worn out rear main seal. The radiator shroud was damaged and the rad was losing some fins to rust. It was the factory original unit with YM tag. There were lots of worn parts on a 21-year old car, but Iíll focus on the engine for now.
On a Pontiac TA engine, replacing a water pump is a big deal. Half the front engine bay has to be stripped so I pulled the engine out and went over it. I scribe marked the hood hinges, removed the hood with help from a friend. Next I drained the rad fluid, unbolting the shroud, hoses, and trans cooler lines, undid the carb linkage and vacuum hose for transmission. Next were the turbo exhaust bolts leading into the turbine housing. The a/c compressor back hoses were disconnected. No drama there as it was completely empty. If your a/c is active, have a shop drain it.

Next up I unbolted the starter motor ground and hot leads, the torque converter to flywheel bolts, the exhaust manifold to down pipe studs. Oh, these were fun I tell you. Yeah, I busted two of them even with the torch. Theyíre fixable though. Next came the transmission to block bolts. This is why the hood came off early. I had to rest on top of the engine using a palm ratchet and box end wrench linked together to undo the top bolts of the trans. Pontiac puts the block right against the firewall for better weight distribution but itís tight especially with an HEI distributor. I got the top two, worked underneath for the bottom bolts and undid the fuel pump lines as well. Last off were the engine mount bolts facing the front of the car. I used an air ratchet on those two. After a check of all possible links to be sure the engine was free, I put in a wood buck to hold the transmission in place and hooked up the engine puller. I pull towards me at first to clear the engine away from the trans guideposts. Once it was free, I lifted straight up and slowly backed the stand away. The engine was out.

Here are some tech notes. I removed the water pump before the engine came out. This means the clutching fan and pulley had to come out. Clearance between shroud and fan is virtually non existent so the fan and shroud have to be lifted out together. The air pump stays in, just take off the pulley (three bolts). You can slide the pump low on the bracket and leave it there. The alternator can come out, nothing special holding it in place.
The water pump bolts vary in length with short ones at the top and longer ones that pass through air pump brackets, the water pump and timing cover. Consult a shop manual. You can slide the water pump from under the air pump bracket. Use a screwdriver to pull the bracket away from the pump so the baffle isnít damaged. You have to reuse that piece. Donít use a brass drift downward for same reason. To turn the converter and expose the bolts, use a large socket to turn the crank pulley. On a turbo engine, youíll need box end and open wrenches to work underneath since the stainless steel pipes are right on top of items and space is at a premium.

Removing the oil pan allowed me to check the bottom end bearing caps, the cylinder walls and piston undersides. The caps were free of bluing, the oil pickup screen was acceptably clean and the cylinder walls showed no scoring or sign of trauma. Undoing most of caps allowed me to remove the old rear main seal and position the upper half of new one using a pick and seal puller. Make sure itís not twisted. I checked the bearings on the rear three caps and they showed wear and a bit of dirt embedded into the babbitt of the last bearing. It looked like it happened when the car was fairly new.

This is why most performance cars used trimetal bearings. They forgive smaller particles of dirt more than the harder Moraine 400 series. Iíd rather lose a bearing than a crankshaft. The journal for that cap was fine. After torquing the main bearing caps and flexplate to specs, I installed the new water pump and started checking the engine for codes. Next time we do some suspension and major work to get it on the road.