Our Pontiac hobby is comprised of a diverse membership including racers, collectors, purists, modifiers, and myriad other groups with varied tastes among them. This story speaks of the collectors—those who resist the overwhelming temptation to take out their new Pontiac and drive the wheels off of it. All the previous owners of the F-body featured here share this singular trait.
Seemingly one of the few '77 S/E T/As that was not purchased as a direct result of Smokey and the Bandit, instead its first owner took the term Special Edition to heart and acted accordingly.
Bob Lapp was living in New Holland, Pennsylvania, back in the '70s and was already a serious car guy. No, he didn't toil away his days and nights under the hood getting his hands greasy in order to spend the weekends at the racetrack. Instead he attended car shows like those of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA), scoping out the various vintage models and learning about what made them collectible.
An AACA spring meet in Winchester, Virginia, in 1975 would lead Bob to Pontiacs, and two years later, this Trans Am. He recalls, "While at the meet with my brother-in-law, we decided to visit the local Pontiac dealer, and a '75 Grand Ville Brougham convertible caught my eye. The salesman remarked that we had better buy it now, because Pontiac was going to stop building the Big-Car convertibles."
Taking the cryptic conversation to heart, once back in New Holland, Bob visited his local Pontiac dealer and ordered a Roman Red '75 Grand Ville Brougham convertible with a 455, white top and interior, and a host of options. He took delivery that June, but instead of cruising with the top dropped, Bob began his hobby of collecting cars that he felt would be valuable in years to come. To that end, the Grand Ville was only driven to local shows and was stored under a car cover in his climate-controlled garage.
Notice how on the FM setting the numbers don’t come all the way up from the bottom on the
Inside we find a lone casualty in the war against time—the Radial Tuned Suspension badge a
One code-XA 180-horse Pontiac 400 engine. Take a good look because according to the three
A nearing-extinction '76 Caddy Eldorado convertible soon joined the Pontiac, and by 1977, Bob was car shopping again. Wm. B. Fry's Pontiac in Lititz, Pennsylvania, had a 180-horse L78 400, automatic trans, 2.41:1-rear–equipped '77 S/E T/A sitting in its showroom. Given its collector potential, Bob purchased it and treated it to the same care and preservation that he lavished upon the Grand Ville and the Eldorado.
You are looking at 36-year-old tires that have no visible cracking on the outer sidewalls
While many S/Es were loaded with extra-cost options—and you'd think that one ordered for the dealer showroom would be so equipped—this one showed some restraint. The most important of course was the $1,174 Y82 Special Edition package, which bought with it the Hurst T-tops; special gold cast-aluminum wheels; gold interior and exterior appointments; and gold stripes, graphics, and hood decal. Beyond that, the S/E was fitted with A/C for $488, tilt steering wheel for $63, Soft Ray glass for all windows for $51, pedal trim package for $6, AM/FM stereo radio for $233 and white-letter GR70x15 steel-belted radials for $47.20. With $2,062.20 in options added to the $5,456.06 base price and a $193 destination charge, the S/E checked in at $7,711.26 in 1977.
For about 13 years, the T/A enjoyed a life of luxury in Bob's growing collection. By the late '80s, however, he was ready to liquidate. Wanting the cars to have good homes, he had to look no further than his brother Chris Lapp. He owns the landmark Good & Plenty Restaurant in Smoketown, Pennsylvania, the heart of Amish country, and was also into low-mileage collector cars and storing them in a climate-controlled environment. In fact, he had built a 60-foot x 90-foot building equipped with heat and A/C just to house his collection. Chris says, "I also installed ceiling fans to keep the air moving in the building. They were always on at a low setting, but they did the job. I never had a problem with mildew, mold, or anything. The thermostat was set for the low 50s. I always made sure to disconnect the batteries and trickle charge them, and of course I kept the cars clean and waxed."