Car Feature: Trans Am Elite

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photos by: Grant Cox

A Trans Am Lover Discovers a One-Owner ’73 on eBay and Takes it to the Next Level

When Pontiac unveiled the Firebird in February of 1967, it was simply intended to be the pacifier to John DeLorean’s persistent desire to launch a sports car under the arrowhead brand. Being the Chief Engineer of Pontiac at the time, he had a strong influence on cars like the Grand Prix, the GTO and ultimately, the Firebird the would lead to the eventual Trans Am performance model. Being as it was the swinging sixties, the crowds had fallen in love with the phoenix-clad pony car.

Based on the same architecture as the Chevrolet Camaro, it was underneath and inside that made the Firebird stand out from its Chevrolet counterpart. Unique drivetrains, a reconfigured suspension and interior tim and color choices certainly put a Pontiac spin on an otherwise meat and potatoes sport coupe.

“…packing an honest-to-goodness Pontiac 455 under the hood. Nope, no LS swap here.”

As the years wore on, and with consumer needs and tastes changing, the Firebird was almost axed a few different times during the 1970s, including in 1972 when the infamous UAW strike put a stranglehold on production – even delaying some new models for up to two model years. Luckily, someone at Pontiac fought for the Firebird’s cause, leading us to this 1973 example we’re looking at here.

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Owned by Sriyantha Weerasuria (just call him S.W.), this ’73 T/A has had a compete overhaul during the last decade; still sporting its Buckeneer Red paint and get this, packing an honest-to-goodness Pontiac 455 under the hood. Nope, no LS swap here. S.W. is the owner of Elite Motorsports in Austin, Texas – a secondhand car dealer for high end exotics and topnotch classic musclecars. He’s had several second-generation Trans Ams over the years and always seems to have his eye on the next one.

He located this one-owner example on eBay roughly 15 years ago, in Southern California, after the late original owner’s daughter had listed it as a result of her father’s passing. The car was all original at the time, including its paint, but it did have the front air dam replaced at some point in its life. With the car, came a box of all records, receipts and several Poloraid photos from its history.

“Combine that [462ci.] short-block with a pair of ported Edelbrock aluminum heads and RPM intake manifold and you’d have a 557 hp powerplant on your hands…”

That’s not where the story ends however, oh no. Because while the ‘Bird does indeed have Poncho power under its hood, it has been pumped up significantly, thanks a 1972-spec block, bored to 462 cubic-inches and filled with TRW slugs. Connecting the pistons to the Eagle crankshaft are connecting rods also sourced from Eagle. Combine that short-block with a pair of ported Edelbrock aluminum heads and RPM intake manifold and you’d have a 557 hp powerplant on your hands with 10.7:1 compression.

Of course, in order to achieve that power (and its 600 lb-ft of torque) there are plenty of other details to go over with you. First, is the camshaft. Picked out by the crew at Butler Performance and installed by Precision Engine Service in Austin, the 462 Pontiac’s hydraulic roller bumpstick is spec’d at a 250/260 duration, with a .519/.524 lift and a 110 lobe-sepeation angle. The Edelbrock 2.11/1.66 valves dance inside the heads with the Pontiac 1.52 rocker arms.

A K&N air cleaner sits atop of the mill, while the engine’s ignition system was upgraded with components from MSD and NGK. To keep things well-lubed, modifications to the oiling system have been rather simple; a TRW pump resides where the factory unit used to be and an OEM pan is still bolted in place. That’s it.

A factory fuel pump feeds the Poncho 93-octane, while Doug’s long-tube headers, dual 3-inch piping and Flowmaster mufflers provide the musclecar growl that’s so important in a classic T/A. “Radio, who needs a radio?”

Sitting behind the engine is a Hurst-shifted Tremec TKO TR-600 5-speed gearbox with a Hays clutch and flywheel. Connecting the transmission to the GM 10-bolt out back is a 4-inch driveshaft. Inside the rearend sits a 3.73 gear set and Moser axles.

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Despite the power and solid drivetrain, this isn’t a drag car or even a street/strip car. It’s a street-driven pro-touring creation; which is why you’ll find Detroit Speed subframe connectors, rear sway bar and springs underneath, QA1 front coil-overs, Koni shocks out back and polyurethane bushings throughout the chassis and suspension.

A modest OEM front sway bar and a ’79 WS6 power steering box are also part of the recipe, as well as Detroit Speed mini-tubs in the rear that house 19×12 Fikse wheels. Up front, you’ll find an 18×10 version of the same wheel, with massive Baer brakes at all four corners.

“…the cosmetics of the Trans Am were left mostly stock-appearing, with Austin’s Collision and Custom Bodyworks laying down, count ’em, seven layers of PPG Buckeneer Red paint and reproduction factory decals.”

Otherwise, the cosmetics of the Trans Am were left mostly stock-appearing, with Austin’s Collision and Custom Bodyworks laying down, count ’em, seven layers of PPG Buckeneer Red paint and reproduction factory decals. Inside, the interior is all stock save for the aforementioned Hurst shifter. In fact, it’s mostly original other than the carper and the console being replaced.

For a car that was rebuilt almost twelve years ago, and driven regularly, we can’t help but respect how well the car has held up and how much S.W. maintains it. For a guy who lusted after Trans Ams since he was a kid, it just goes to show how passionate Pontiac owners can be.

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Rick Seitz

Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of AutoCentric Media, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.

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