‘Birds in Flight

by Mark E. Neumann

Editor’s Note: this is the sixth in a series of columns about interesting stories connected with Firebirds and Trans Ams.

Winter Greetings from the American Southwest, where the timing of our car show events runs counter to our East Coast and Mid-Western ‘Bird fans. Whether it’s my home state of Arizona, or California or Nevada, the Sun Belt offers fabulous winter weather – great for beautiful sunsets and weekly car shows, cruising-in’s, classic car auctions, vintage car rallies, or just riding down the road in your Firebird or Trans-Am.

It’s always interesting to follow Facebook pages this time of year as Ponti-ackers get their cars ready for winter storage and we start enjoying our 70-degree days following a furnace-like summer. While the hardy ones with good A/C and cooling systems can head north to Flagstaff during the hot months, most of us wait it out until the fall.

Nothing like a Sunday drive during Thanksgiving weekend in you T/A after a hearty slice of pumpkin pie! Photo courtesy of Paul Albinger
Nothing like a Sunday drive during Thanksgiving weekend in your
T/A after a hearty slice of pumpkin pie! Photo courtesy of Paul Albinger.

With three main Pontiac clubs in Arizona – two chapters of Pontiac Oakland Club International and a chapter of the GTO Association of America – along with a separately-organized club for the last-gen GTOs and a Firebird/Trans Am group – we like to keep our ‘Birds at the front of the pack.

Some examples:

• In late October, Trans Ams, Firebirds, GTOs, and G8s took off for a three-day trip to San Diego from the Phoenix area and Tucson. The weather was perfect. We joined over 200 other Pontiacs along the bay front for a beautiful show.

Activities director Paul Albinger, his wife Barbara and their ’79 Trans Am in San Diego. Paul is coordinating our New Year’s Day cruise.  Photo courtesy of Paul Albinger.
Activities director Paul Albinger, his wife Barbara and their
’79 Trans Am in San Diego. Paul is coordinating our
New Year’s Day cruise. Photo courtesy of Paul Albinger.

• On November 18, we had a Pontiac club meeting in Mesa, AZ – outside on the patio. Great attendance as we planned activities for the winter months. Such as …

• For Dec. 4 and 5, we have had two car shows – including a Toyz for Totz run to Wickenburg, Arizona. A club after-Christmas party is in the planning stages for late January – also outside.

And just for kicks, activities director Paul Albinger, owner of a 1979 10h Anniversary Trans-Am, which he drives to car shows and took part in that 600-mile round-trip to San Diego, is organizing our first annual New Year’s Day Cruise.

Other plans call for working as drivers for the MAG auction in Scottsdale in March and our annual Buick-Olds-Pontiac-Cadillac Show in March.

When you put the parka hoods up, we’ll be putting the tops down. Stay warm!

To learn more about car shows in Arizona, check out CruisinArizona (https://sites.google.com/view/cruisinaz/home) Roddin’ and Racin (https://roddinaz.com/); and Arizona Car Shows (www.arizonacarshows.com/carshows.htm).

About the author: Mark is the second owner of a Buccaneer Red 1974 Pontiac Trans-Am and serves on the copyediting team for the Eagle.

2021 Pontiac Celebration in Warwick, Rhode Island

by Rick DiGiacomo and Larry Kummer

The 2021 “Pontiac Celebration” Eastern Regional Meet was a huge success, much welcomed after the year (2020) delay. Once again, our event continues to draw great Pontiacs showing, and many enthusiastic Pontiac hobbyists enjoying this special weekend gathering.

Not forgetting the purpose of this event– “Pontiacs with a Purpose”– many gave their time, energy, and contributions to our children’s cancer charities: Alex’s Lemonade Stand foundation for childhood cancer and The Tomorrow Fund helping children and families affected by cancer. To date we have donated over $60,000 from “A Pontiac Celebration” 2010 through 2021. All from of our generous Pontiac enthusiasts. Proving how great Pontiac people are!

While a few Pontiac lovers arrived as early as Thursday to help with the event, many more rolled in on Friday to participate in our area-wide “Teddy Bear Cruise” that evening. Music, food, and drink attracted many great looking cars of all types, makes, and models from throughout the local community cruising in for the fun and to help support our charities.

The big event was the All Pontiac Car Show on Saturday. Overcast and then sunny Fall weather made for a great day. We were happy to see 220 beautiful Pontiacs on the show field. Though down a small amount from our 2018 Celebration, it was a very positive sign of the support of our Pontiac community during these continued trying times. Once again many local and surrounding Pontiac Clubs came out in force to make our event a huge success. This Celebration the Long Island Pontiac Clubs took home the Club Participation Award. Every year they come out in force to support and enjoy the Pontiac Celebration. We thank everyone for their support.

The Saturday evening BBQ dinner spread was enjoyed by a hungry crowd after a full day of car show and activities. But the high point of the banquet was when the many awards were given out to all who worked so hard preparing their beautiful cars. Top award of the evening – People’s Choice – went to Frank Nolan with his beautiful 1978 Trans Am. Many other Specialty Trophies, some in memory of those who are no longer with us, but in our memories, were also presented.

Our PontiacRegistry.com trophy went to a beautiful 1970 Firebird Formula 400. Each Celebration, we select a Pontiac that we feel represents something special to our hobby. Often times it has been a car that may not be the best on the field, but yet captures something special about our great hobby and the special people who enjoy it. This year, we have to admit, it was the fact that this was not only a very gorgeous car, but that it stood alone (and thus stood out) as not-a-Trans Am. As such, we felt it was award-worthy as a Firebird that is so often overshadowed by the Trans Ams.

One of the last “awards” during our banquet was the drawing for the Vacation Raffle. This year saw a lucky winner heading off to a luxury condo vacation in the mountains of New Hampshire. It was especially delightful because the winner was a wonderful lady and her husband who have work tirelessly during all of our Celebrations to help make it bigger, better, and more enjoyable each year. A prize that was well deserved!

2021 Pontiac Celebration in Warwick, Rhode Island

1992 Firebird of Dave Kime

A National Firebird and Trans Am Club featured car is the 1992 Firebird of Dave Kime from Matthews, North Carolina. Here is his story:

Here are photos of my 1992 Firebird. It is a 305 TBI with an automatic transmission and a 2.73/1 gear.

I purchased the car new in April 1992 in Charlotte, North Carolina. It currently has 237,000 miles on it. It has been repainted once and had the interior reupholstered. I have done my best to maintain it meticulously. Other than the current dress-up items. The engine has never been opened up. It uses no oil and returns about 28 mpg on the highway. I have added Wilwood brakes, a strut tower brace, sub-frame connectors, and GTA wheels.

I have won numerous trophies but this car is no trailer queen, I drive it! A perfect Saturday is cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway with the tops out or driving a twisty North Carolina mountain road. Doing both is even better!

1992 Firebird of Dave Kime from Matthews, North Carolina
1992 Firebird of Dave Kime from Matthews, North Carolina
1992 Firebird of Dave Kime from Matthews, North Carolina
1992 Firebird of Dave Kime from Matthews, North Carolina

                 

‘Birds in Flight – Trans Am Worldwide


by Mark E. Neumann

Editor’s Note: this is the fifth in a series of columns about interesting stories connected with Firebirds and Trans Ams. See previous issues of the printed Eagle for the other columns.

When he was a teen, Tod Warmack and his brother Scott watched their dad pull up to the house one day in Tallahassee, Florida with a just-bought 1978 Gold Edition Pontiac Trans Am. “Of course, we knew we had to have one, too.” Warmack recalled in an interview with The Eagle.

Tod had seen a 1978 Martinque Blue edition pull into his high school parking lot one day and knew that was the one he wanted. He found one with T-tops and a four speed, and the W72/WS-6 handling package. Scott also found a Trans Am for himself. It was Trans Am fever, family style.

“My dad had Corvettes, Chevelles, Impalas, and then we got into GTOs,” Warmack said. “We were always around muscle cars.”

The last Trans Am was built in 2002, and Pontiac disappeared eight years later. But that love for the pony car never left the family.

Today, the brothers are owners of Trans Am Worldwide, which builds Trans Am conversions using the Chevy Camaro as the base model, and Trans Am Depot, which does restorations work on vintage Firebirds and other muscle cars.

“We started Trans Am Depot first as just a place to restore our own cars. But them we started getting customers and the business grew,” Warmack said. Later, after seeing renderings from designer Kevin Morgan in Hot Rod magazine showing how a Trans Am would look as a conversion at the debut of the fifth generation Camaro, Womack developed the idea of building a new Trans Am using the Camaro as a donor car. The look of the ’77-’78 Trans Am models were considered a base for the redesign.

“We get the CAD data of the Camaro from GM, and then we design the new body panels for the Trans Am from there,” Warmack said. Most of the body panels are carbon fiber now, and the company builds them in-house, along with most of the motor work.

The company’s 20 employees have churned out close to 200 of the Trans Am conversions, including the Super Duty, which offers up to 1,100 horsepower and a 9.3 second ET on the drag strip. The 50th Anniversary model and the Outlaw edition are also available.

One of the company’s signature cars was the Bandit edition – a tribute to the “Smokey and the Bandit” movie with a limited run of 77 cars to honor the year the movie came out. Burt Reynolds, who starred in the movie, was involved in promoting the car.

Where it started

Trans Am Worldwide debuted in 2010 with a car at the Trans Am Nationals. “It was a crude prototype,” Warmack recalls.

Pricing for the cars vary by customer-requested options. “When we first started the company, our entry level was $70,000” which included the donor car, Warmack said. “But we didn’t sell any of those. Most people ask for fully optioned cars, and that brings prices up to around $140,000.” That include added performance, paint, and custom interiors. “Prices of materials have gone up, as well as the cost for the donor cars, “Warmack said.

The customer base is generally older, but also is made up of folks who are big Pontiac fans. And the cars are appreciating in value. “We have seen Bandit edition models that sold for $130,000 to $165,000 now selling for $230,000 on some occasions in the secondary markets; Super Duty’s are selling in the mid-$200,000,” Warmack said.

One of the special cars that Tod and Scott worked on together was a gold Trans Am conversion in memory of their dad. Ted, who passed away in 2018. Tod’s son also helped with the development of the car. Then Tod had an Indian motorcycle customized with Trans Am paint and logos to match the car. “It’s a special car,” Warmack said. A YouTube video called “Gold Rush” details the building of the special gold Trans Am and the motorcycle. It includes Warmack talking about the founding of Trans Am Worldwide and the cars they have built. See it on the company’s website at https://transamworldwide.com/gold-rush-a-trans-am-documentary/ About the author: Mark is the second owner of a Buccaneer Red 1974 Trans Am and serves on the copyediting team for the Eagle.

2021 NJ Trans Am/All Pontiac Run


by Ben Deutschman

Edison, New Jersey to Watchung, New Jersey (Cinemark Theater)

July 10, 2021

While the early part of the day looked a bit uncertain in terms of the weather, the 2021 NJ Trans am/All Pontiac Run went on as scheduled, with the participants gathering in the usual staging area of the Parking Lot adjacent to the McDonalds on Rt. 1 and Prince St in Edison, New Jersey.

The iffy skies early on probably deterred a number of participants from coming out and joining our troop of Trans Ams, a Formula Firebird, and a Pontiac GTO. The departing vehicle count was 11 vehicles, with a twelfth vehicle, a Firebird convertible joining us at our destination in Watchung, New Jersey at the Cinemark Theater.

Once at the theater parking lot everyone settled in and then made a bee line for the cinema concession stand, somewhat overwhelming them a bit.

An unexpected, pleasant surprise was provided by the nearby Mexico Grill, who’s owner donated two small Pizza Boxes full of quesadillas, grilled cheese and chicken tortillas, and dipping sauce.

After everyone had a chance to eat, and relax a bit, the participants gathered by the theater, and I (Ben Deutschman), began a game of “guess what number I’m thinking of” to award the “giveaway items” graciously provided by the National Firebird and Trans Am Club.

Once the giveaway items had been won by the lucky ones who guessed the correct numbers I was thinking of, the “Best Trans Am” Trophy was awarded to the 1997 Black Trans Am Convertible, owned by Brian DeLuca. The best Pontiac went to Michelle Lopez’s silver 2006 GTO.

After the “giveaway” items and Trophy presentations were done, I thanked the Cinemark Theater Manager for allowing us to gather in the theater parking Lot, and visited Mexico Grill to thank the manager there for the food donation, and discussed congregating by the Mexico Grill as our 2022 NJ Trans Am/All Pontiac Run destination.

1. National Firebird Trans Am Club T-Shirt winner-Bert Fernandez

2. National Firebird Trans Am Club “Technical Articles CD” winner Joyce McMullen.

3. National Firebird Trans Am Club “Membership Certificate” winner’ Mike McMullen.

4. Print copies of National Firebird Trans Am Club Eagle Magazine distributed to all participants.

2021 NJ Trans Am/All Pontiac Run
2021 NJ Trans Am/All Pontiac Run
2021 NJ Trans Am/All Pontiac Run
2021 NJ Trans Am/All Pontiac Run

2000 Trans Am of Robert W Nelson

This issue’s featured car is the 2000 Trans Am WS-6 of Robert W Nelson from Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. Here is the story:

My first car in high school was a rusted out red ‘73 Firebird and I have always had a weak spot for them my whole life.  I owned this very model in 2000 but only for about 2 years before something else caught my eye.  So when I came across this beauty I had to have it and will keep it in my family for a nice heirloom to be passed down to my son and hopefully grandson.  I do intend on driving it though!!

As I was waiting for them to deliver it, I felt like a kid waiting on Santa!

2000 Trans Am WS-6 of Robert W Nelson from Ft. Walton Beach, Florida
2000 Trans Am WS-6 of Robert W Nelson from Ft. Walton Beach, Florida
2000 Trans Am WS-6 of Robert W Nelson from Ft. Walton Beach, Florida
2000 Trans Am WS-6 of Robert W Nelson from Ft. Walton Beach, Florida

Firebird and Trans Am Gallery

‘98 Trans Am WS-6 of Roger Johnson from Kensington, Maryland
‘98 Trans Am WS-6 of Roger Johnson from Kensington, Maryland
‘68 Firebird convertible of James Harper from Palatine, Illinois
‘68 Firebird convertible of James Harper from Palatine, Illinois
‘91 Trans Am of Richard Pierro from Bayville, New York
‘91 Trans Am of Richard Pierro from Bayville, New York
‘78 Trans Am WS-6 of Chuck Adams from Senatobia, Mississippi
‘78 Trans Am WS-6 of Chuck Adams from Senatobia, Mississippi

‘77 Formula of Jim Elick from Sharpsburg, Georgia

Posted by Kim Klimas from On All Cylinders, an Automotive Blog

In 1977, 18-year-old Jim Elick needed a car for his first shore duty with the U.S. Navy. Inspired by the recent release of “Smokey and the Bandit” and the flashy gold and black Pontiac Firebird Trans Am cruising across the big screen, the Indianapolis, Indiana native headed to Don Sisk Pontiac with his dad to try his luck securing his own getaway car.

“I kind of knew what I wanted, but could never afford a $5,000 car at 18-years-old,” Elick said. “With my motocross bike to trade and $300 in hand, I somehow landed a Nautilus Blue Firebird Formula for $98 dollars a month, and off to California I went.” His dad co-signed for the deal with neither of them knowing just how significant the car would become.

“I bought the 1977 Formula with all the Trans Am equipment—no birds, no stickers, no fluff, no snap-on plastic air dams—just a straight, raw, very rare Firebird,” Elick said.

Affectionately nicknamed “Blue Goose,” the Formula proved a pricey ride for the novice sailor. Elick spent all but a few dollars of his military stipend on the monthly payment, gas, and insurance.

“There were times I had no idea how I got home, it was almost like she had autopilot,” Elick said. The car accompanied him on every adventure, even serving as the “escape vehicle” at his wedding, he said.

Elick returned home in 1980, working for ATA, Delta Air Lines, UPS Air, Gulfstream Aerospace, and later the FAA, while the car sat idle. “I literally threw a blanket over the car for the next 35 years. I towed Blue Goose from garage to garage, starting her only occasionally to pressurize the lubrication system,” he said.

Then five years ago, Elick and his wife Sabrina, made the decision to “restore-the-roar” and get the road-worthy car into show-ready condition.” She was already in great shape, mind you—with matching numbers, no corrosion, and an abundance of factory equipment installed,” Elick said.

“After quite humbly winning so many local car shows and watching people’s reactions, you can imagine my confusion—because this Pontiac was so familiar to me I never thought of it as anything but normal,” Elick says with a grin.

Confused, but enjoying the growing list of victories, Elick decided to up the stakes. He entered the GM F-Body Southern Regional against 200 competitors and won “Best Bird.”

At the Trans Am Dayton Nationals the Blue Goose placed second in its class (five modifications or less) against 490 Firebirds—385 of them Trans Ams. It was an exciting win, but the bigger thrill of Dayton was a chance meeting with the original General Motors engineers who developed the Pontiac Formula in the 1970s—Herb Adams, John Shinwell, and Bill Davis.

Shinwell, Adams, and Davis were the Chief Engineers of Product Development and Design on Project Firebird/Trans Am at General Motors in the late-1960s, and it was Shinwell that fought GM to get Nautilus Blue approved and onto the assembly line.

The color was nixed before production began, but a few Formulas snuck through unnoticed—one of them Elick’s Blue Goose. “[Shinwell] actually sought us out after spotting the vehicle on the show field, recalling the negotiations for this type of paint (29L – Nautilus Blue), and the prototype interior seating intended for the Sky Bird introduced six months later,” Elick said. “The paint was cancelled just after production began in 1977, but the Blue Goose somehow slipped through—just the way she always has.”

“They all agreed it was probably one of no more than six existing VIN numbers and cowl plates. Who knew that at 18-years old?!” Elick said.

Elick had them sign his trunk lid and walked them through the modifications—all done to preserve and restore the car’s authenticity. He and his team of enthusiasts rebuilt the car, focusing on the important stuff.

“This was the first Pontiac production car ever in history to offer square headlights. To accommodate those, they made a Endura bumper for the front end but it doesn’t fit the metal doghouses of the car, it just doesn’t,” he said.

Elick finished restoring the 1977 Pontiac Firebird Formula 400 in November of 2016. Still new to the show arena, but more than able to hold its own, Elick’s Formula 400 is the recipient of over two dozen awards and trophies, with six Best of Shows earned.

Special thanks to: In special honor of Elick’s father, who passed away a few years after helping his son purchase the Formula. He is a man much missed and the reason for Elick’s ongoing reluctance to part with the car. Additional thanks to Sabrina Elick, Brian Trevena, Brian’s Paint & Body Shop staff, Jodie, Johnny, Chris, and Tim and Scottie at Coweta Car Care.

The Definitive Firebird & Trans Am Guide: 1970 1/2 – 1981

Definitive Firebird and Trans Am Guide

Pontiac expert and historian Rocky Rotella examines each production year of the second generation of Firebirds. Complementing the data and year-by-year analysis is a combination of archival photography from the development of these cars as well as beautiful color photos of original and restored examples today.

After the extremely successful debut of the first-generation Firebirds and Camaros, General Motors had a tall task ahead: create an equally popular yet radically different version of the ground breaking pony car it was replacing. Enthusiasts picked up on the radically different part as soon as they saw these cars. Over time, we have come to appreciate how successful these second-generation cars were. They include the early models that had an emphasis on performance along with the continued development of the Trans Am, the 455 Super Duty cars of 1973 and 1974, and the lightning-in-a-bottle popularity of the Smokey and the Bandit editions. During their production run, these Firebirds and Trans Ams were truly the only real performance cars out of Detroit, and for many of the model years, they eclipsed even the mighty Corvette.

This book tells the entire story of these immensely popular cars, whether you are into the second generation of F-Body regular models, Formula 400 performance models, the Super Duty Trans Ams, or the cars of Smokey and the Bandit fame. It is an excellent addition to any pony car, muscle car, or any enthusiast’s library.

Available on Amazon.com

National Firebird and Trans Am Club – For owners of all year Pontiac Firebirds, Trans Ams, GTAs and Firehawks

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