by John Arends
I have been a member of the club for some years, but never really had a reason to send in an article about my 1978 Trans Am. By chance I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a 2002 35th anniversary collectorís addition (right time right place). I figured you might be interested in showing the results of this good fortune.
I have always purchased Pontiacs since the mid-sixties; however, I could never afford the muscle cars. In 1983 I had the opportunity to purchase a classic DeLorean and missed getting it by one day. I was very disappointed and while driving home from work, spotted a 1978 Trans Am on the front lawn, for sale. The car was owned by a collage student who had purchased the car used and drove it for a very short time. Going away to collage, he had garaged the car for three years and never used it, now his parents wanted it out of their garage. It had 55,000 original miles on it and I , coming down from the missed sale, bought it on the spot. He had only parked on the lawn ten minutes earlier. Now Iím glad it turned out this way.
I confess, I had no idea of the cars makeup and used it over the next eight years occasionally when a second car was needed. As we had just bought a house and had very little in the way of furniture, my wife at the time received a suggestion from a friend that we should use the car for a coffee table. My wife has been very understanding of my passion for cars.
I always wanted to restore the car to new but with a new family, restoration was out of the question. I joined the National Firebird and Trans Am club some years ago and through the expertise of John Witzke, found out that by accident I had acquired an early 1978 production model with the W72/WS6 option package. I knew when I was looking the car over that, if it had been an automatic, I would not have bought the car. In 1997, encouraged by what I had in this car, I started the restoration. I installed Recaro seats and had the inside and outside completely redone. After that, a restoration shop in Trenton NJ (Widmanís Garage) reworked the engine, frame and undercarriage. During that refinement I installed a High output distributor from Performance distributors, GTO cast headers from Ram Air in Texas, a Comp cam, recalibrated Q-jet and split the exhausts through 2 ĎA stainless steel pipes and Flowmaster Mufflers (no cat).
Last fall the car was complete and I have enjoyed it since. I realize that the Trans Am was set, by GM, to be put out to pasture, but didnít know when. I had always intended to call my friend Paul, an owner of Kemper Pontiac in Bridgewater, NJ and ask him if he had ever had one there, how did it look and what had it sold for. I spoke to a salesman (also an old friend, Jim) the day I finally remembered I wanted to call. I figured that whatever Pontiac had done for the last birds had been done already and I was just being curious. His first words to me were Just delivered one to us this afternoon and itís sitting right in front of me. Needless to say, I had to go and look at it. The next day Saturday, my wife Linda and I went and before I walked out the door of the showroom, committed to buying what I considered an exceptionally beautiful machine. After all, there were under 2000 made and as this bird was a six speed manual, I couldnít say no.
I was very glad I did as both Jim and Paul told me that the market for that car went crazy right after I purchased it. Paul told me that GM cannot even make more birds because the inventory of materials needed had run out.
I believe that although the W72 was introduced in 1977, the WS6 was in 1978 (I guess John Witzke could verify this). I thoroughly enjoy both cars and am especially grateful to have the first WS6 and the last. I plan to drive the 2002 very sparingly (under 600 miles a year) and keep it in new condition, covered and garaged. I have all the paper work, window stickers and even the key tags. Of course I welcome any questions or discussions. I love talking about this one of a kind car. I believe the Trans Am was and is the greatest American muscle car and I am very proud to own both these beautiful machines.
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