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."
The hard-shell back of the standard seat is smaller than that of a Custom seat. Remember h
Chris treated the Bandit T/A with the same care and respect that his brother did. He took it to some shows over the years, but did not put many miles on it.
Around 2010, he too decided to get out of the hobby and sold his collection to Glen Weeks of Glen Weeks Classic Cars in West Frankfort, Illinois. Glen knew Jason Belvedere, who is partners with Rick Jahn in R.E. Jahn Autosales in Wexford, Pennsylvania. He thought that Jason and Rick would be interested in 3 of the cars from the 21-car purchase—the '77 S/E, a '58 fuel-injected Bonne, and a '60 Cadillac. Rick and his friend Russel Nairn took a ride to Chris' place in Eastern Pennsylvania to check out the vehicles before they were scheduled for transport, and of course, they could not pass them up.
As it turns out, Jason's friend George Myrter of Cranberry, Pennsylvania, has a car collection of his own and purchased the '58 F.I. Bonne. He also acted on a longstanding request from his friend John Angiolillo of West Harrison, New York. "I told George that I was looking for a low-mileage S/E T/A and to keep an eye out for one," John recalls. Knowing that there were other interested buyers, George bought the T/A just to hold it for John, who quickly made the trip west to pay George and pick up his prize.
The result of all this wrangling is that a Pontiac, which had remained in the same family for 33 years, changed owners four times in about two weeks.
John is a major S/E T/A enthusiast. He tells HPP, "I have a '76, a '77, a '78 Gold Edition, and a '79." His goal is to collect at least one example from each year—a '78 black S/E is next on the list.
This ’77 S/E T/A is one of 6,030 built with the L78 400 engine and Hurst Hatches (T-tops).
Where did his appetite for like-new Trans Ams come from? "When I was 13 years old, I went with my brother Glenn to look at Camaros and Firebirds. My father asked my brother to find a car so that he could buy it for our oldest brother, Dan, for graduation. The Pontiac dealer took us to a special garage to show us a new '74 SD-455 T/A. I can still recall that new car smell and hear the exhaust rumble. From then on, I was hooked." Ultimately John's dad decided a '75 Camaro Type-LT would keep his eldest out of trouble better than an SD-455 T/A, but the die was cast with young John.
John, like Bob and Chris, appreciates the pristine condition of this S/E T/A and its low mileage. He too houses it at a climate-controlled storage facility near his home. As you can see, the tradition of preservation of this special Pontiac continues. The three people who owned it the longest are credited with the condition that it's in today, as well as providing the readership of this magazine a glimpse of just how Pontiac built them in Norwood back in the day.
Companion tech stories covering the details of the engine compartment, body, and undercarriage will commence with the next issue. Special thanks to Melvin Benzaquen of Classic Restorations for telling HPP about this S/E T/A and for the use of his shop area for the photo shoot while it was snowing heavily outside.
The cowl trim tag reveals this Trans Am (WS4) as having Starlight Black upper and lower pa
It’s not often that you see standard interior door panels and crank windows in an S/E T/A.
Here is a seemingly appropriate plate for any ’77 S/E, yet this particular Pontiac did not