|‘98 Trans Am WS-6 of Roger Johnson from Kensington, Maryland|
|‘68 Firebird convertible of James Harper from Palatine, Illinois|
|‘91 Trans Am of Richard Pierro from Bayville, New York|
|‘78 Trans Am WS-6 of Chuck Adams from Senatobia, Mississippi|
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.
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
This is the final Rick McLaughlin update. On a publicly broadcast court hearing, Rick McLaughlin was remanded to federal prison in handcuffs for the next 7.3 years. No probation no exceptions! He was sentenced for scamming $1.2 million over the past 3 years.
Bringing this criminal to justice was only made possible through the efforts and contributions of the online Trans Am community. Due to your efforts, enough people where able to come together and as a group make their concerns known to law enforcement.
The effort is not over, we will now refocus our efforts to bring his conspirators to justice and to try to recoup some of the money for the victims ….. but for now the Mission is complete.
A National Firebird and Trans Am Club featured car is the ’67 Firebird of Bob Schneider. Here is the story:
PONTIAC FIREBIRD 400, OUT OF WICHITA, KANSAS TURNED 53 YEARS OLD IN MAY 2020
A company transfer landed me in Wichita in the spring of 1967. After seeing several great ads on TV for the new Pontiac Firebird Series, I went to Scholfield Brother’s Pontiac dealership in Wichita, Kansas. This was a new dealership. After looking at several cars on the showroom floor, the salesman and I went out to the lot and I spotted a new ‘67 Pontiac Firebird 400 4-speed white top convertible, red on red, with red line tires and dog-dish hubcaps. I was stricken!! After test driving this beauty, I knew this was the car for me. She was sleek, fast and responsive. No decision here!! I made a deal on the spot and drove her home!
Fast forward to 2020: Our BABY is still in great condition, garaged and happy. She is original, with approximately 92,000 miles. She has quite a track record for travel and has been driven from Kansas to Nebraska, then to Missouri, over to Georgia, then up the coast to New Jersey and back to Nebraska, ending up in California in the mid 70’s. These travels were connected to my being drafted into the Army, serving as an MP in Vietnam. I did my MP training in Augusta, Georgia and my wife, Diana, drove the Bird from Nebraska to Georgia. I met her in Topeka, Kansas after my company transferred me there. I proposed to her in the Bird, on our first date. We will celebrated our 53rd wedding anniversary in December 2020. She loves this car as much or more than I do. After our four children were born, she would load them in the car and take them to school. (Back in the day when no seat belts were required) Today they are all in their 40’s, and they are happy we have the little red convertible they remember from their childhoods, riding with Mom with the top down and going to Dairy Queen for ice cream cones.
We lived in Colorado Springs when I returned from Vietnam and our beauty loved the snow and loved going up Pikes Peak. With three feet of snow on the ground and the top down on the car, we would take friends and family members visiting to the top of the Peak, having a grand old time. The road up was always open in the winter months. We also enjoyed racing up in the summer months.
We also have a garage buddy, a 2004 red on red Corvette convertible. These two red rubies sit next to each other, under car covers, and we drive them on Sundays to various events and car shows. It’s been a fast and fun 50 years. Having maintained this Firebird in perfect running condition through the years has been a joy to us, as well as family and friends. I hope you have enjoyed reading about
our “JEWEL”. She is 100% all original bone stock GM Pontiac, with ALL matching numbers!! I am also sending pictures for you to view. Warm Regards,
Bob Schneider & Family, Sacramento, California.
|‘78 Trans Am SE Y88 of Michael Hastava from Manhasset New York|
|‘89 Trans Am GTA SE Indy Pace Car of Alan Darr from Lakeland, Florida|
|’70 Trans Am Ram Air III of Dennis Fernandes from Ludlow, Massachusetts|
|‘95 Firebird of Ron Davenport from Irving, Texas|
Rick McLaughlin / McLaughlin Trans Am Museum / McLaughlin Motor Cars Update
Yes we all thought it was over but not yet. There are still a few details that have come to light and we need some assistance in putting Rick and his band of merry accomplices behind bars.
Updates to the story. Rick was charged and found guilty of wire fraud in January. His sentencing will be in the last week of April. Charges carry up to 20 years. Part of the agreement was that Rick would try to make restitution until he reports to jail through liquidation of assets and any “legal” work
Well as it turns out good old Rick has not been living up to the agreement. Rick was just ordered by the Federal court to turn over a beautiful chocolate brown Trans Am that he had stolen 3 years ago! It is now safely back in the hands of Mike Fresca in Georgia!
Today there are still 4 high end older Trans Ams in the chop shop that have not found their owners. Please if you know anyone who has been taken advantage of by Rick McLaughlin, even if years ago contact Detective James Hart at 304- 580-1078 and/or Michele Wentz, West Virginia prosecutor at 304-347-3319. Also, if you have ever been told that your case is a civil case, contact them as well.
In other news, Rick has changed his business model and now goes by McLaughlin Museum where he is specializing in older trucks. Yes that is right older trucks please see the info below. I ask everyone to share this with any classic truck site or friends.
Finally … Rick has been selling “authentic” Burt Reynolds autographs! However, these have been only signed by Rick’s partner in crime, his ex-wife! If you have any of these let me know the Burt Reynolds foundation would like to know.
Recap for those joining the conversation late: 1 year ago, I purchased a 1989 Trans Am Turbo from Rick McLaughlin, after a lengthy battle my car arrived minus ownership papers and keys. I waited and begged Rick McLaughlin for the items and finally an envelop arrived with a forged MSO and other documents… During that time the West Virginia police and owner had contacted me, informing me Rick McLaughlin had stolen the car and my 50K dollars! Since then thanks to the online community we have located many other victims of Ricks scams including suspected insurance fraud, title fraud and grand theft auto and a host of other federal crimes.
3 other people have been able to retrieve their cars from his chop shop in West Virginia. Jeff, Dennis and Jay are now reunited with their cars and one long term lawsuit was finally settled retuning a restored truck to Mark in Canada!
The federal case against Rick McLaughlin is coming to a close and with a plea bargain and or jail time likely. Hopefully all of the victims (including myself) will eventually be paid or Mr. McLaughlin will have a new address, some new friends and time to reflect on his crimes. We are still searching for some Trans Ams that Rick has sold illegally which are listed below.
If you know anyone who has been taken advantage of or owed money by Rick McLaughlin, please reach out and I will put you in touch with the authorities.
As always thanks and message me if you have any info. Without Facebook, Rick would be still on the street taking advantage of people!
Ben Kenion Editor’s Note: Ben Kenion can be contacted on our Facebook group (www.facebook.com/groups/firebirdclub) by searching for his posts.
A National Firebird and Trans Am Club featured car is the ‘86 Trans Am of Mark Goldman from Endicott, New York. Here is the story:
In 1995 I purchased my 1986 Trans Am. It was the pace car at one of our local tracks. It was dark blue metallic with silver ground effects and was decked out in NASCAR vinyl stickers. I started the transformation by removing the stock hood, removing the stock 305 and having a complete engine out paint job performed. She was painted ice blue with pearl dust in the clear and ghost flames were added on both sides. The flames became her theme. The 305 was replaced by a built Corvette 350 Engine that was dynoed at 440 HP and a 600HP 700R4 transmission purchased from Monster Transmission in Florida was installed and a custom dual muffler system with Mazda dual exhaust tips. Then a fiberglass ram air hood was painted and installed. A BCool radiator and flamed radiator cap, flamed valve covers and breathers were added, a lowering kit was installed and air shocks were added to the rear. American Eagle (flamed) wheels and P245/50ZR16 Sumitomo tires replaced the stock Trans Am wheels and existing tires. Every flame on was painted with the same color paint as on the car, as well as the brake calipers.
The interior is stock except for firebird’s embroidered on the headrests, Panasonic stereo and BM Ratchet Shifter. A dual custom sub box, painted with the same paint as the car, dual MTX speakers and a Kicker Amp was installed in the rear well.
In 2010 a very good friend of mine helped me tuck all the engine wires into the sub frame and I added a March Performance Serpentine Chromed Front End, Taylor Wires, Flamed Spark Plug Wire Looms, and Lokar Transmission and Oil Dip Sticks.
Finally, in 2016 I had a local artist paint an eagle on the underside of my ram air hood.
In its present state it is true value insured for $50,000 through Collectors Insurance.
It has won several honors, but none as important as the 1st place it took in 2010 and 2012 out of all the 3rd Gen’s entered at the “Firebird’s On The Lawn” in Saratoga Springs, NY. Unfortunately they stopped having this car show.
Mark Goldman, In the Spirit of the Sport, USA Veterans Championship Wrestling Team Leader
Photos of club members’ cars.
|2002 WS6 of Paul Perry from Springville, Alabama|
|’70 1/2 Trans Am of Peter Winther Munch from Copenhagen Denmark|
|‘67 Firebird of Marshall Jordan from Toccoa, Georgia|
|‘83 Trans Am of Kenneth Tucker from Irene, South Dakota|