1974 Pontiac Trans Am - This Cruiser's No Snoozer
Pontiacs come and go in our busy lives, and for some hobbyists, half the fun is buying and selling them on a regular basis. But what of the hobbyist who holds onto his prized Pontiac through life's highs and lows, racing victories and blown engines, show trophies and rusty quarters? What of he who perseveres and actually accomplishes what many of us hope to do someday-get your old Pontiac completely restomodded to street/strip/show condition?
It just so happens that Dave Clark is one of those people. Now a Fairview Park, Ohio, resident, back in his younger days in Illinois, Dave was fueled by Smokey and the Bandit big-screen imagery. Like so many of us, he too decided to embark on his search for the Second-Gen T/A of his dreams. It was 1977; he was just 16.
By 1979 he had found one. "At Sullivan Pontiac in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, there it was, a '74 Admiralty Blue Trans Am with a bad transmission in the beater row of the dealership," he says. After cutting a deal trading in his Jeep and having the dealer fix the T/A's wounded slush box, he drove his new Pontiac home. Despite it being only five years old at the time, Dave says, "The Trans Am had body damage, three missing spoilers, rust, Montgomery Ward whitewall tires, and 90,000 miles, but for $1,945 it was MY Trans Am."
After a few upgrades, Dave sowed his adolescent oats over the next two years driving his T/A. He delivered pizzas, met his future wife, Teri, and annoyed the neighbors with his loud exhaust. His exploits behind the wheel even earned a nine-month suspension of his driving privilege.
By 1982, the T/A was really showing its age. A street resto that included rust repair, two used replacement doors, new fenders and spoilers, and fresh paint brought it back to life, and the Pontiac was back on the road each summer, with another 90,000 miles accrued by 1987. A few engine swaps over the next two years led to losing the original 400 powerplant, and by 1989 the deteriorated state of the T/A once again forced a decision. Dave would restore and modify the tired F-body, leaving no bolt unturned, and the result would be a fun street/strip/show car that looked stock and which he and his family could enjoy.
The recipe for Dave's sleeper T/A stew went beyond restoration to include modifications geared toward straight-line performance. What better place to begin than under the hood with a four-bolt main 400 engine comprised of No. 12 Ram Air III heads and fitted with a Ram Air IV intake and a big carb, all assembled by his friend Jim Kruszewski at GPV Performance in Garfield Heights, Ohio.
Beginning its tour of duty in a '69 GP, the block was machined for the four-bolt main caps and bored 0.030 over before receiving its stock crank (cut 0.010/0.010), refurbished stock rods, and TRW forged pistons wrapped in Hastings rings. A high-volume oil pump draws from a stock pan via a welded-in-place pickup. With an advertised duration of 302/302 degrees and lift of 0.517/0.517 thanks to Harland Sharp 1.65:1 roller rockers, the Erson hydraulic cam commands the actions of the valvetrain. The No. 12 heads were ported and received a three-angle valve job before being fitted with 2.11/1.77 stainless steel valves and Erson valvesprings. Pushrods are from H-O racing.
With compression checking in at 10.25:1, Dave operates his T/A on a steady diet of 93/102-octane fuel mix, which is delivered from a Holley pump and then mixed with air via an 800-cfm Q-jet and a Ram Air IV aluminum intake manifold with crossover. Mallory ignition components light the spark via Taylor wires and AC R45S plugs. Evacuation of the chambers is left to Hedman Hedders ceramic-coated, 1.625-inch primaries with 3-inch collectors that dump into a Dr. Gas 3-2.5-inch X-pipe and then connect to 2.5-inch pipes and Straightline mufflers. It would seem that Dave still likes his exhaust loud-and shiny, as the system is powdercoated. If all this isn't enough to scratch Dave's go-fast itch, an adjustable Edelbrock nitrous system is on board.
Mixing the gears to deliver the engine torque rearward is a '70 Turbo 400 trans with a shift kit and external cooler, and a 2,800-stall Vega converter. The trans was performance built by the late John "Cash" Lawrence.
Adding an extra measure of durability out back in anticipation of the power up front, a 12-bolt posi rear with 3.55 gears was rebuilt inside, restored outside, and installed. But before this potent drivetrain could find a home, the chassis had to be worked out.
Jim Kruszewski took on those chores as well. To provide weight transfer on the strip, weight was taken off the nose by relocating the battery to the trunk, removing the entire heating system, and lightening the front bumper and its brackets. Adding rigidity and correcting geometry, the subframe was dialed in by straightening it to factory spec and by grinding and rewelding all of its seams (before painting it and other chassis components Centari Pitch Black).
Giving up some cornering performance in the name of straight-line thrust, six-cylinder springs were installed to get the nose up on launch. Adjustable drag shocks from Summit that can be set for 90/10, 70/30, or 50/50 were mounted up front with 50/50 shocks in the rear. Urethane bushings reduce deflection, the welded-in Lakewood subframe connectors stiffen the structure so as not to waste motion twisting the body, and Lakewood traction bars plant the tires.
To maintain some of the T/A's cornering prowess despite the soft front springs, the factory 1.25-inch front and 0.812-inch rear stabilizer bars were retained. Braking is handled by the factory 11-inch disc/9.5-inch drum setup, and the 15x7 Honeycomb wheels wear 215/65R15 and 245/60R15 BFGs front and rear.
Of course, all the performance chassis work would mean nothing if the body wasn't done right. Problem was, the body needed serious help. To that end, Al Meyers, owner of Ken's Auto Body in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, took on the job, deciding that the rear section of the shell needed nothing short of a full replacement clip. A donor was located, and Al went about the task of grafting in the new section.
Once Dave and Jim got the T/A back, undercoating was stripped from the rest of the shell, body repairs were made where needed, and the entire shell was sandblasted and DP40 epoxy primed. Then the floors were painted body color. Once the subframe, suspension, and drivetrain were installed, Bob Gernhard prepared the body for paint. Dave says, "All the bolt-on body panels were media stripped and epoxy primed like the shell and then primed with four coats of DuPont and blocked. The panels were trimmed with color, the body was assembled, and the panels were aligned. More blocking followed."
After an exhausting search, Dave found Frank Amos at National Auto Body in Cleveland to paint the T/A. Most of the bolt-on body pieces were removed and painted separately from the shell, all of which received Pontiac code 29 Admiralty Blue using PPG's base/clear system. Three coats of base were followed three coats of clear, then came wet-sanding and polishing.
To maintain a stock restored and fresh look, N.O.S. items and good, used, original pieces were hunted down, from the grilles to the marker lights, nose emblem, spoilers, and decals, and even a functional hoodscoop from a '72 T/A. Despite the time, effort, and obstacles to overcome with the body, the interior provided its own issues.
The quandary that Dave faced was that his car's interior came from the factory as light blue but the only replacement parts available were medium blue. For that reason, the interior had to take on a two-tone appearance with POC seat covers, headliner, console, lower door panels, sail panels, and back seat panels in medium blue and the original dashpad, replacement carpet, and original upper door panels in light blue. Even so, the cabin looks great and is a comfortable place to spend time.
Speaking of time, when HPP caught up with Dave and Teri and their T/A at the '05 Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals, it had been completed for just a short while and was certainly fresh. So much so that Dave was rewarded for his efforts by winning the HPP Editor's Choice award and the Best Firebird award. He plans to show the car a bit more before hitting the strip seriously. We guess we can afford him the right to enjoy his T/A in its pristine state given the fact it took 27 years of ownership and 16 years of restoration and modification to get it this way. Now Dave can say proudly that he did rebuild that old Pontiac he bought so many years ago and kept, which puts him a few steps ahead of many of us.
Special Thanks: Dave wants to thank his friend Jim Kruszewski, citing "his years of friendship, dedication, and many special talents that made this restoration so successful."

Photo Gallery: 1974 Pontiac Trans Am - High Performance Pontiac

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