In these days of crossover vehicles, it's hard to tell where a vehicle's roots lie. Is it a wagon? Is it a sedan? Is it an SUV? Who knows really? But one thing is for sure; there's no mistaking the heritage of Jon Wacholtz's '71 LeMans wagon.
A native of Austin, Minnesota, Wacholtz is no stranger to Pontiacs. He is the judge staff coordinator for the GTO Association of America, owns a rare '70 two-tone Ram Air IV Judge and runs a 455-powered, '72 LeMans in the NHRA F/Stock Automatic ranks. He happened to come across an original, 68,000-mile LeMans wagon with the pristine interior pictured before you. The people mover ran well, but the body was a poster child for the damaging effects of snow and salt. Still, he let his nephew Adam drive it to college for a year and a half before he took action.
One day while browsing his local Buyer's Express periodical, Wacholtz saw an ad for a '71 LeMans station wagon body. The ad read "needs interior", which was just what he was looking for, as he already had miles of perfect Pontiac wagon upholstery. As the restoration came together, a change of direction occurred, which would set the LeMans apart from the rest. "I was going to do a LeMans wagon, but a friend of mine called up and said he found a '71 Judge frontend in a junkyard in South Dakota," said Wacholtz. This find included the Endura front bumper and the hood as well, but Jon didn't stop there.
"I wanted the car to look correct for a Judge, so I pieced together a 455 from parts here and there." The '71 vintage 455 features 472 ci these days. A set forged connecting rods and TRW forged pistons swing from a stock crankshaft that resides within the four-bolt main-cap block, and a full-length windage tray keeps oil whip from the crank to a minimum. The bumpstick is an Ultradyne flat tappet piece that has an advertised duration of 308/320 degrees just like the Ram Air IV, and a lift of .475-inch with 1.50 ratio rockers. This stick tells the pushrods when to open and close the 2.11 intake and 1.77 exhaust valves within the #197 455 H.O. cylinder heads. The castings received a three-angle valve job from Stealy Performance Machine in East Moline, Illinois, which also machined the engine block.
Wacholtz assembled the motor and topped it off with a stock 455 H.O. aluminum dual-plane intake manifold and a 750-cfm Quadrajet carburetor. A K&N filter resides in the ram-air air cleaner assembly, which feeds those many cubic inches copious quantities of air. Removal of the combustion byproducts is a function of factory H.O. exhaust manifolds and a 2.5-inch exhaust system that uses turbo mufflers to quiet the big-cube mill.
Wanting a sturdy drivetrain for his 4,210-lb behemoth, Wacholtz called up Moser Engineering for one of its 12-bolt assemblies. Packed with a 3.73:1 ring and pinion and an Eaton posi differential, the wagon was ready for some serious acceleration. But to keep highway revs in check, Jon swapped in a 200-4R overdrive transmission. This hauler is suspended via various polyurethane bushings and new stock suspension components. The land barge's factory front/disc and rear/drum brakes remain, but the beauty now rides on a set of 15x7-inch Honeycomb wheels and 225/70-15 Firestone rubber.
Its two-year restoration also entailed new paint and graphics for the LeMans/Judge. Randy's Body Shop in Austin undertook the task of painting the oceans of vintage steel. Whereas the previous rusty wagon featured a rotting gold hue, this rust-free Conestoga came in deep Laurentian Green, which is exactly what Randy's Body Shop reapplied after stripping the sheetmetal. Performance Years and Ames Performance supplied the vivid Judge graphics, which really put the stamp of performance on the personnel carrier.
The Parchment interior, which started this whole endeavor, was installed along with an Auto Custom Carpet, and every option that Wacholtz could find. Power door locks and windows were the only things that he didn't install, but chances are all hands will be working the vintage 8-track player mounted on the transmission tunnel. When was the last time you saw a pedestal-mounted 8-track?
A crossover in every sense, Jon Wacholtz's wagon has easily identifiable roots, and the combination of the wagon body with the Judge look has resulted in a unique vehicle that garners quite a bit of attention. "I'll take it to shows and park it right beside my Ram Air IV Judge. The Judge is a rare car because of its painted roof, but everyone always looks at the wagon," noted Wacholtz. It must be the split personality that keeps everyone entertained.
472 cubes of 455 H.O. Pontiac...
472 cubes of 455 H.O. Pontiac power now reside between the painted fenders of the wagon. The power is plenty for the 4,200-plus pounds that it must propel, and the air conditioning will ensure that all nine passengers arrive in comfort during the summer cruising months.
Some people might consider...
Some people might consider a wagon like this to be an excellent demolition derby candidate, especially when the body is rusted. Thankfully, there are car restorers like Jon Wacholtz who see what the car could be, and turn their dreams into reality. And this dream all began with the Parchment interior pictured here.
Even with the Endura frontend,...
Even with the Endura frontend, this wagon would possibly go unnoticed, but the Judge graphics jump out at you and tell you this is no ordinary grocery getter.
The rear wing is a factory...
The rear wing is a factory option, but the owner chose to relocate it for a more aggressive look.