National Coach Engineering of Michigan (1979 - 1982)
Other Custom Coach Convertibles
Steas Industries (1980-1981) - Custom Coachworks (1980) -
American Convertible Company (1980)
Con Tec (1981) - Elan (1981)
|In 1978 this
company began converting Firebirds to convertibles. Prices ranged from $19,995
to $24,995 in 1979. For some perspective the 10th Anniversary Trans
Am (Pontiac's most expensive standard offering for 1979) averaged
around $10k. The NCE dealer option added on average over $8,000 to
the factory invoice. Only T-Top Trans Ams were shipped to the NCE
facility for conversion. This was due primarily to the extra
rigidity built into the T-Top cars. NCE reinforced the frame and
pillars as part of the conversion process. They also re-located the
rear speakers and dome light. One interesting note is that a
roll bar option was offered by NCE but only for the 10th Anniversary
models. The convertible top and boot cover were made of vinyl and
were often poorly color matched with the interior. The boot cover
featured a thin foam padding and nickel plated snaps. A common
problem with the vinyl top was becoming pinched in the folding metal
frame. Because of this it often took two people to raise or lower
the top. In order to get an NCE convertible it had to be noted on
the order sheet.
Its believed, but not confirmed that NCE converted 250 Firebirds in
1979. We have no production number information for the other years
yet. Total production is rumored to number around 500 from 1979 to
The one question I am asked the most often from NCE owners is
if anyone is selling new convertible tops for these cars. Unfortunately
the original company has been out of business a long time. Sadly,
someone familiar with the company at the time tells me that dozens
of these tops were simply tossed into the dumpster. I am however,
working a few different angles to see if a pattern for a new top has
been developed or can be developed so that existing owners can have
a local upholstery shop fabricate one. If I can make any progress I
will certainly post that information here.
We have recently learned that NCE maintained an office in San Jose
California on Stevens Creek Blvd. This office, of course, has been
closed for a long time but if anyone worked at this location, please
contact me at
email@example.com (remove the "1" before sending).
Follow this link to read a great article on the industry concept of
Coach Convertibles, written by Robert Whitman:
1979 Motor Trend Magazine
Article on the NCE Conversions
Note: The images below are large to
make them easier to read.
this article in PDF format.
Feature Photos of the original NCE facility in Port Sanilac, Michigan
Note: According to the person who sent
me these photos the facility is now a storage facility.
I'd like to put more information here about this company and how these
cars were created. If someone can provide or point me to an article or simply
send me valid
information, I would be happy to include it here.
|1978 Trans Am
the front end is from a '73 bird and the back end is from a '79 bird this is
still a '78 Trans Am. In fact this car was originally a '78 Macho Trans Am
#97 built of 203. A convertible conversion was also added by NCE making it
an even more unique TA. You can see it in its original form over at the
Macho Lot#1. I chose to keep the
pictures purely for historical documentation. Paul took that car, applied
some imagination and customization and created this amazing looking bird.
"Wanted to send along some update pics. Last we
talked I was in the process of repainting and more importantly re-designing
the car. The '78 front end was replaced with a '73 along with the
corresponding '73 hood and a '79 back-end replaced the stock '78. I then
brought the back gas filler tube up through the middle of the trunk and
added a corvette gas cap, welded the trunk shut and fiberglass in the entire
rear end. A zipper sewn into the collapsible top area under the boot, still
provides me access to the trunk area for storage when traveling. Door
handles and front fender air scoops were also molded in. During the 1980's
an after market air dam kit was being sold through HPP Magazine. I purchase
it with the idea of adding it to the vehicle at some time and now was the
Rather then just bolt/screw the side and rear air dam kit on, I also molded
it on to the car had to complete that one piece molded look. The car has
been painted a bright red with corresponding early 70's T/A striping and has
also received a new black convertible top. A custom interior I had made
years before has also been installed. The car has the aggressive early 70's
muscle car look in the front but yet has the sleek and more modern look of
the late 70's rear end. The combination of these two styles along with the
convertible (which was not produced during that time period) continually
mystifies all who see. With just over 75K miles on the car now, I continue
to drive it daily during the warm summer months of New England.
I brought the car to the T/A Nationals in Dayton this past August and had
many great comments, the car was also pictured in High Performance Pontiac
in the January 2003 edition, page 38."
10th Anniversary Trans Am #5 of 250
|I was very surprised to receive this addition to the
site. I know NCE did most of their conversions from '79 to '81 but
the thought they may have done one of the Anniversary TAs never
crossed my mind. Here we have one though in the flesh so to speak.
This is a very rare and unique Trans Am. Not only is it one of the
Special Edition 10th Anniversary Trans Ams, this one also underwent
a conversion by National Coach Engineering to a convertible. Very
few 2nd gen convertibles were made and of those many there's not
telling how many were '79 Anniversary TAs. This may be the only one.
Graeme Annetts from the UK owns this one and writes:
"Hi there, not sure what area my
Firebird should go. I will leave it to you guys so here goes. Its a genuine 1979
10th Anniversay T/A, 100% stock. I got it earlier this year from a friend who had it for 17 years; but it has sat in his garage
for the last 12 years. It has the 403 motor with 44,000 miles on it.
With the car I got the build sheet, owners hand book, and
various service/warranty papers. Most importantly I got the air freight invoice from
California to Michigan to National Coach Engineering for the roof
conversion. I have searched the net many times for information on these conversions and your site is about the only one with N.C.E on
it. I would like you to add my T/A and my e-mail to your site. I live in the
UK, there are many f-bodies around but not enough web sites. I hope you find my
T/A interesting and I look forward to seeing it on your Firebird
Previous to this addition the most sections one car qualified
for on the site was two. The record is now three. You can see this
one here as well as the International Lots and the Anniversary Lots.
10th Anniversary Trans Am #8 of 250
|With the addition of this Trans Am we can now verify
that NCE did convert more than one 10th Anniversary Trans Am however
we may never know how many were converted. Mike Sarcona from
Classic Cars West submitted these pics and information to me and
he is advertising on his site that it is believed that only 10 TATA
cars were converted by NCE. This may or may not be true,
unfortunately we cannot lend anything to the validity of this claim.
It still qualifies as a rare car since only 250 were converted in
1979 and we know the majority of those were probably not TATA cars.
CCW is selling the TA on consignment for the owner so if you're
interested you may want to follow the link above and contact Mike.
This particular TATA came equipped with the 400c.i. engine mated to
a 4-speed transmission and the car retains its numbers matching
engine. Its also had a new top installed recently.
1979 Trans Am #44 of 250
|owner: Ross Cameron
|Ross Cameron, hailing from Canada, owns this NCE
conversion Trans Am. Ross writes:
"Hi, I just bought an NCE TA, #44 OF 250. This car
is factory Nocturne Blue with a blue interior. 36,770 original
kilometers. It has been in storage since 1992 (heated) 403 auto. She
runs and drives like a new car. Sorry about the pics, I'm in Canada
and its snowing so they were not that bright, but the paint is
spectacular! I do need some rubbers for my convertible, if you of
anywhere I could get them, I'd appreciate the help! Great site by
1979 Trans Am #68 of 250
Eliott Henderson has been working to restore this '79 Convertible
Trans Am. Eliot writes:
"Hi Jimmy, I took these pictures as we went through
the car and restored it. It is #068 and turned out great. We ended
up making the top and did it as original as possible off of what was
left of the old top. Chris (owner) found four TA wheels at a junk
yard and we refurbished them. The body and paint was left alone for
now, the owner likes it as original as possible."
Webmaster's Note: I am always asked for help finding a
new top. In all cases, at least for now, I advise people to check
with local custom shops to see if someone can fabricate one from the
existing top. That's exactly what Eliot did and seems to have had
good success with it.
1979 Trans Am
#80 of 250
|This is a great looking black on black NCE conversion
Trans Am. Martha writes:
"This is my '79 TA, authenticated by Pontiac
Historical Society. Thinking about selling. Have all new interior
pieces and custom made dual exhaust tips. It is an NCE auto however,
it is my understanding that it was ordered from the dealership(
Pontiac). I have also seen ads in '79 and '80 car and Driver (Ii
have a copy somewhere) that offered it as a special order GM. The
original owner, the man I bought the car from was a Pontiac sales
manager in Florida. He ordered the car for is first wife. As it
happens they divorced, he moved to Virginia and brought the car here
to keep for his son. He remarried and bought #2 a caddy and the T/A
went out to the tennis court in 1992 (the last time it had been
registered) where it sat until I bought it from him about 4-5 years
ago. His son got into trouble in school, his father said he wasn't
getting the car. When I first researched the car I found a man named
Ken Boughton, I think on the web, from Texas who owns a '79 camaro
convertible done by NCE. He told me that there were 100 T/As made in
'79 and 200 Camaros. It was also my understanding that NCE did the
stretch limos for GM (caddy) and that was the GM connection.
The car didn't run. The top was rotted, the exhaust was rusted, and
the carb was not working. I had the car towed home, drained and
cleaned everything, changed the plugs, wires, etc... I took the
orig. carb off, and put a Buick Rochester on it and it started. I
wound up cutting off the exhaust and put 2.5" pipes with an X pipe.
I sent the orig carb to Jet performance to be rebuilt with Stage 2
specs. The car runs great. Flowmaster made mufflers for me that are
wide but narrow . They don't bottom out. The car is a 403 auto. In
1979 articles were written on spicing them up (H-O enterprises in
California). I have spoken to him several times but I have avoided
doing anything anymore to the car besides the exhaust, timing,
disconnecting the A.I.R... just little stuff. I believe the engine
(Olds) is the orphan of the '79 engines. I have looked into it with
Mondello Olds. At one point I bought 350 olds heads, but never put
them on. The car has power windows, door locks, posi, etc... but has
front discs. Again it is my understanding that Pontiac ran out of
rear disc late in the production year as they did the 400 engines.
The car has the deluxe interior and exterior moldings. There was no
rust problem with the car except for surface bubbling on the
passenger door. I had custom dual tips made for the car but haven't
gotten around to putting them on either. The car has air too. I had
a custom top made but as you might know there are no patterns to be
found. I am not happy with or the rubber. If you know of someone who
had the top redone well and might have a pattern, I would like to
talk to him. I used material from Hirschfeld in NY Mercedes canvas.
I think it is also partially a top frame adjustment as the long bolt
that supports the top frame is spring held and I may need to replace
them. Of course the top is manual. The car came with original paint
whose clear coat was crazing so I had the car sanded and repainted.
Not a bad job at all but the pinstripes should have been applied
much better. Fortunately the bird went on beautifully. The engine
bay has not been professionally detailed, but maintained.
I have a kick down set up for the hood scoop but haven't installed
that. My parts sit in my dining room and living room. A few years
ago I saw a white "80" NCE on ebay the car was owned by a dealer (orig)
in Punta Gorda, Florida. He wanted 20k for the car and then they got
hit by a hurricane. I didn't want the car anymore. The red conv that
you have had posted as unknown was also on ebay, around the same
time. It was owned by a young woman who knew absolutely nothing
about the origins of the car (history). There was also a guy in
Florida who had a black one with a Pontiac 455 engine in it. I know
he lost his home in the same hurricane. Don't know what happened to
Trans Am #120 of 250
|owner: Dave Folk
|Dave owns this brown '79 Trans Am. Dave writes:
"Howdy Jimmy; thanks for putting my T/A convertible
in the Gallery. I bought this car in December of 1980 at Sherpard
Pontiac in Concord, California (now a Honda dealership). The
dealership had a total of six dealer option NCE Firebirds, T/As and
one 10th Anniversary edition. Being the original owner I have all
the paper work. The NCE Pontiacs had prices ranging from $19,995 to
$24,500. The NCE dealer option cost $8500 for my 6.6 Liter ( 403
Olds) WS6 Trans Am.
The car has been in the rain one time and that was when I drove it
home 5 miles from the dealership. The Olds engine has a Dave Smith
cam & adjustable valve train, Doug Thorley headers, Edelbrock
manifold, Holley carb, Mallory distributor and true dual exhaust.
The TH350 has been upgraded with a deep pan and B&M shift kit. The
shifter is also a B&M ratchet shifter. The convertible top and cover
material are the same as the 1984 Mercedes 450 SL. The Firebird door
emblems are Harley/Davidson Eagles.
Nothing was done to the car that
can't be returned to stock.
Additional frame braces were added to the front & rear, plus a drive
shaft loop in addition to those added for the convertible
conversion. All NCE F body cars were originally 'T' top cars because
of the extra rigidity of 'T' top cars over hard tops. I did my
research with the NCE representative office in Los Gatos,
California. Interesting note is that the 10th Anniversary models had
the OPTION of a roll bar that was not offered on any other NCE F
body. Not sure why. The car is very stable at high speed ( I got a
ticket in 1983 from the CHP for speeds of 125 mph on I-5 just before
the 'grapevine', ooouch!!) This was with the 2:73 differential gear
ratio. The car now has 3:50 gears. This car has been in several
shows i.e. Oakland Roadster Show, Rod & Custom in San Fransico. The
paint and interior is all original. The paint was color sanded to
remove the factory 'orange peel'. Jimmy, did I mention that I have
11,000 miles on the car and that it was in bagged/ humidity/
temperature controled storage for 16 years?
The original convertible top and boot cover was a poorly designed
vinyl material (similar, but poorly matched color to the interior).
The boot cover had a thin foam padding and nickle plated snaps. The
dealership had replaced one top before I bought the car because the
top material would pinch in the folding top frame. This was a common
problem and normally took two persons to 'drop' a top.
I hated the 'cheap' vinyl look and feel. I had the top and boot made
by Armondo's Upholstery in Walnut Creek, California (cost was $600
for the top and $200 for the boot in 1984). They used the OEM top
and boot as a pattern. They used brass snaps instead of the cheap
looking nickle. I think I mentioned that the new top and boot
material was German canvas, same as from the Mercedes 450 SL. I like
the darker color as well as the quality of the material, much nicer.
The clear vinyl rear window was replaced with a two piece (folding
glass window of the exact dimensions). Any qualified upholsterer can
fabricate a convertible top. But to my knowledge, there is not any
one who produces a top or boot for the DIY person. Each car is a
custom fabrication to some degree. I recently changed the light tan
carpets to the darker brown (also the bottom carpet on the doors as
well). Again just personal taste. I have not taken pictures of that
The NCE office was in San Jose on Stevens Creek Blvd ( according to
the wife) but is gone now . It was on the main drag, auto row off
highway17 in San Jose. The address may be in the paper work. I
recall that we dealt with the Pontiac dealership but had questions
they could not answer, so we drove an hour from the East Bay to the
South Bay area to San Jose to talk with the NCE reps, (sorry but
hard to recall all details on a car that I bought 28 years ago).
I mentioned that the Pontiac dealer in Concord had 6 Firebirds/ T/As
and one 10th Anniversary models total. I have met all but one of the
onwers . Sad to say I never kept in touch, since my interest was
mainly Corvettes. Most if not all the NCE cars from that dealership
are trashed (the 10th Anniversary was for sale 15 years ago for
$5000), I almost bought it but it needed a total restoration and as
I said before I wished that I had foresight concerning these cars.
Who would have thought that a 180-210 hp T/A would have any value 30
years later? I won't go into the '65 GTO or the '70 Judge that we
10th Anniversary Trans Am #124 of 250
|owner: Dan Hall
|Dan owns this rare NCE conversion convertible 10th
Anniversary Trans Am. Yes I said 10th Anniversary TA. Only the
second 10th Anniversary NCE conversion on the site and frankly I was
surprised to get the first one. Dan writes:
"Hello Pontiac fans, so glad to find this N.C.E. website.
Here it is, a diamond in the rough, '79 10th Anniversary Trans Am,
N.C.E. conversion No.124, with a 400/4-speed, and 46000 miles.
Traded a Ninja motorcycle for it. A 17-year old bought it off of the
original owner. He put a new carb on it and a loose fuel line caused
an under hood fire. Burnt all in-dash contents. Bought a donor Trans
Am and replaced all. In the process of restoring paint & interior.
The kid had it painted red. I like the paint but not original? I
think the original owner put Ram Air heads on it. Heads have an S.D.
on the side??? The kid was going to junk it. Not on my watch! Sure
is fun to drive."
1979 Trans Am #145 of 250
|owner: Terry Heacock
|Terry Heacock owns this spectacular NCE convertible
Trans Am. Terry lives in the UK only 20 miles from another NCE
member of the site, Graeme Annetts. Terry writes:
I have been visiting your site for the past ten months since I
bought my TA and have been meaning to send a few pics in.
Unfortunately I never got around to take some nice ones before
putting the car away before winter so I have attached a few snap
The car is a '79 NCE convertible in Heritage Brown. It has an Olds 403
and what is rare for a TA in this country is that it is totally
stock with all of the plumbing. It is NCE number 145. The car is
generally in good shape and I intend to keep driving it through this
year before we start any real restoration. I have had a few Trans
Ams in the past but was delighted to get hold of one of these rare
birds. I think you will agree that it looks nice in this color
scheme. All I have done is had a new roof made, which I had made to
compliment the body color.
I have been in touch with Graham who has the 10th Anniversary
convertible, he live about 20miles from me...spooky.
Last summer I met a guy in a gas station some 50 miles from home who
was driving a blue '79 NCE convertible. Unfortunately I didn't have a
camera but it was great to see two of them together. I hope to be
able to get all three of the UK convertibles together for a photo
shoot this summer. If I do I will send you a pic. Great
Terry recently sent me two new pics of the car (first two) and writes:
"Hi! It has been a while since I sent some images of
my 79 convertible TA. Since then it has had some WS6 wheels with new
BFG tyres all round and some new (second hand) seats. The car is still
a daily driver. I bought the wheels from Graham who has the Tenth
Anniversary convertible and had them refurbished. They have
transformed the car. I had a couple of photo shoots in the summer, I
will send some more pics later. I drove to Belgium for a big european
car show, some 2500 American cars over the weekend and my convertible
was a real show stopper, certainly the only one there. Great site, I
hope you enjoy the new pics."