1977 Pontiac Trans Am - Goldenrod Go-Getter
"What was that guy thinking when he ordered his car this way?" We've all said it one time or another as we've come upon a Pontiac with a very strange color or option combo. Of course, 99 times out of 100 we never found out because the original owner couldn't be located to answer our query. Not so with the '77 W72 400 Trans Am you see before you.
The combination of Goldenrod Yellow paint paired with Firethorn Red Lombardy velour interior is enough to stop you dead in your tracks, as it did me this past May during the YearOne Experience at Road Atlanta. At first, you raise a John Belushi-esque eyebrow as the thought crosses your mind that something here is amiss. Next, you realize that for how wrong it's supposed to be, it looks strangely alluring. Then comes the inevitable conclusion, "OK, it was a cool idea for someone to either repaint the car or redo the interior in this color combo."
Many would walk away at that point with the misplaced satisfaction that they had seen through the clever ruse of the owner who put together an interesting one-of-none combo and made it appear factory fresh. Your humble editor, however, was much more curious than that.
When I saw red overspray on the cowl gently fading to yellow overspray, I decided that no one would bother to replicate that with a non-original paint scheme, so a look at the cowl tag was in order. There it was plain as day: 51 51 for the Goldenrod Yellow body and 71B for Firethorn Red velour interior. This T/A was really a factory freak! I needed to know more.
After meeting up with owners Chris and Jessica Sullens, of Alto, Georgia, a few more details came to light. Chris related that the 76,000-mile T/A was special-ordered just as I saw it and that the original owner retained possession until about 2000. It then went through five more owners-one of whom was Chris' cousin-before the Sullens bought it.
The story got even more intriguing when I learned that the T/A was not only loaded with options such as the 200hp W72 400 and Hurst T-tops, but it was also meticulously maintained for all those years. The drivetrain has never been removed or rebuilt, the paint is about 70 percent original and the interior surfaces are 100 percent original.
Then came the question I was afraid to ask because I always seem to know the answer before I get it. "Do you know who the original owner is and can you locate him?" Chris, much to my surprise, replied that he did and he could. We were in business
Finally, we have a factory-freak Pontiac that we can get the inside scoop as to why and how it was ordered to quite possibly create a one-of-one combination. The icing on the editorial cake came when, just a few days after the shoot, Chris and Jessica e-mailed me the original owner's name and contact info. Within five minutes, another e-mail arrived from Steven Cayce-the original owner-who I first met when I photographed his '61 Ventura for the Nov. '02 cover of HPP. Small world!
So sit back, put your feet up, and relive the past through Steven as he relates the story of special-ordering his unique Trans Am, way back in 1977.
Our first order of business was to ask why this color combo was chosen. "For 1977, there weren't any blue Trans Ams, which is the color I really wanted, since I fell hard for the Lucerne Blue T/A when it came out in 1970," Steven relates. "Believe it or not, I didn't like the Bandit cars or silver, white, brown or red, so yellow was my color. Then I test drove a T/A that happened to have red velour interior, which I thought was striking and would be a great color combo-the yellow and red together.
The Order
The problem was ordering that color scheme. "At that time, nobody was cutting any kind of deal on T/As. We had seven dealerships in the area and the best I could do was a $550 discount at Jay Wolfe Pontiac in Kansas City, Kansas," Steven recalls. "So I sat down with salesman Hunter Puckett and ordered the car.
"Two days later, the order was kicked back by Pontiac. The dealer was informed that they don't build that color combo and the codes must have been entered in error. Puckett explained that it was correct and the way I wanted it and pushed the order through. Then the Norwood plant bounced the order back for the same reason. So once again, the salesman had to call and explain that it was what I wanted. Finally, it was stated plainly, 'Do you make Goldenrod Yellow Trans Ams?' 'Yes.' 'Do you make red velour interior?' 'Yes.' 'Then please put them together and build the car.'"
Jay Wolfe Pontiac got a bit nervous about the color combo after PMD kicked it out the first time, so they came back to Steven requiring a $1,000 deposit after he already secured the deal with a $100 down payment. They didn't want to get stuck with an unsellable color combo should he back out of the deal. Surprisingly, even with all the hassles, the T/A took six weeks to build just like any other Pontiac ordered at that time.
Though Steven got exactly what he asked for regarding color, interior, T-tops, and the hi-po engine, the automatic trans and A/C were not his ideas. He wanted the hottest T/A he could get, which meant a stick and no A/C. The four-speed was squashed when the insurance company realized that he was just 19 years old and had a few tickets at 16. It flat-out refused to insure the Bird with a four-speed. Then, during the ordering process, Steven's father insisted he get A/C for the resale value. I'm sure at the time he had no idea his son would keep the Trans Am for the next 23 years.
The Arrival
In June 1977, Steven's freshly-built Trans Am was on its way to Jay Wolfe Pontiac. "We actually saw it coming in on the car hauler," he recalls. "As soon as it came off the trailer, another customer said he wanted it." Since the paperwork didn't arrive with the Pontiac, Steven had to wait four days before it got there and he could take delivery. In that time, the T/A drew so much positive attention on the lot that it ended up in the showroom-not bad for a color combo that Pontiac didn't want to build.
The First Impression
If you're wondering whether or not they still build them like they used to, read this. "I was disappointed with the factory paint application when I first saw the T/A," Steven laments. "There were lots of runs on the rockers and you could see gray primer on the rear quarters at the pinch welds. The body side moldings that are on the car now, I didn't want. When the driver unloaded my T/A from the transporter, it already had two dings in the door. The dealer offered to fix them, but I was worried about paint match and durability problems associated with having them redo the doors, so I decided to cover the dings by installing the body side moldings."
Over The Year
"I certainly bought it at the right time. The car caught my wife Juli's eye, too. Six months after I got it, I met her because she noticed and liked the T/A. We've been married for 28 years. We enjoyed it a great deal, and took it on our honeymoon, to Florida and to California."
Soon after purchase, Steven dug into his Y6-code 400. He replaced the 274/298-degree, 0.364/0.364 lift, 549112 cam with an 068 stick featuring 288/302-degree duration and 0.414/0.413 lift and swapped in a 455 H.O. intake in place of the cast-iron stocker. Ram Air exhaust manifolds and a '73 dual system back to the crossflow muffler with stock tails and splitters enhanced the evacuation of spent combustion remains. Untouched were the Turbo 350 trans and 3.23 Safe-T-Track.
When the WS6 package came out in '78, Steven decided to upgrade his suspension as well. By 1979, he had installed a WS6 steering box, 15x8 Snowflake wheels and a larger 0.812-inch rear sway bar (WS6 was 0.75 inch).
Preservation Tactics
The car was always garage-kept and rain was avoided. Steven recognized that his Trans Am was special since day one and he treated it as such. It was a daily driver for just a few years, then it was used for pleasure much like a collector car of today. He actually started showing the T/A around 1981. The daily driver beater he replaced it with? A '67 GTO 400 H.O. four-speed he picked up for $300. Who says the early '80s was a bad time for cars?
Even when the T/A was in storage, Steven started it on a regular basis to keep it in working order. He also kept up on maintenance, replacing belts and hoses and other wear items with GM parts as needed. He polished the Pontiac periodically to protect the paint.
The Sullens' Ownership
Chris and Jessica were in the market for a clean, low-mileage Trans Am and it just so happened that Chris' cousin had once owned this one. Throw in the unique color combo and it was too good to pass up. A deal was struck and he bought it in April 2007. After having one owner for 23 years and then five more before Chris in just seven years, the T/A was still in excellent condition.
Though Steven upgraded the exhaust system just two months after purchase, one of the later owners returned it to the stock y-pipe set up, leaving the Ram Air manifolds as the only exhaust mod.
Chris' preservation plan includes simply driving, showing, and enjoying the Bird, albeit sparingly and continuing with proper maintenance. Owning an Indy Pace Car for two years makes him no stranger to the care and feeding of Second-Gen T/As. Since the '77 needs very little, Chris has just started on a '7011/42 R/A III T/A project.
Thirty-one years after it was born, this '77 Trans Am still "draws a crowd wherever it goes," according to its current owner, Chris Sullens. The fact that it can do that with mostly factory paint and interior is a testament to the foresight of its original owner to equip the Pontiac as he did, and to the preservation habits of all of the owners who were smart enough to realize how precious this T/A is. Most importantly, we took a ride in the time machine and we finally know, "why the guy ordered it that way."

Photo Gallery: 1977 Pontiac Trans Am - Goldenrod Go-Getter - High Performance Pontiac

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