Bill says his goal with the 70½ T/A was to make it an “important American sports car.” He and his staff went to great lengths to make the Trans Am stand out visually, while adding functionality to its design, even if it took a little inter-corporate detective work to do it. Though some information in the following anecdote was published in HPP years ago, it bears further discussion.
Bill recalls, “Doug Patterson was a project engineer who worked for Design Staff and was a racing fan. Chevy did a lot of work at the Lockheed wind tunnel -- in Marietta, Georgia, if memory serves -- with the Camaro. Doug had a great report on the car, but Chevy wasn’t going to use the info in its design, so he offered it to me. I viewed it as a golden opportunity to make the T/A an even greater car.
The low-mileage, standard 4X-headed D-port 455 still runs strong, having only had a cam up
Despite the fact that Bill Porter would have been much happier with his Honeycomb wheel ha
“According to the findings, the best configuration was nose way down and tail way up. This wouldn’t work on the street for ride-height and ground-clearance reasons, so I worked on the front and rear spoiler designs. Ultimately we got negative lift out of the front and rear spoilers, and the rear-wheel leading-edge spoilers also worked really well. The engine air extractors were positioned to function correctly and look great, even if they were a bit smaller than I wanted due to the inner fender bracing.”
All of these visual and functional aerodynamic elements were still in use on Bill’s ’73 model, and once it came out of restoration, it looked fantastic, so he enjoyed it for a few more years. By 2010, approaching their late 70s, Bill and his wife, Pat, realized that they were using the T/A less and less.
“About three years ago, my son, Adam, bought a Formula 400 to restore. My wife and I decided that he would get more benefit from owning our Trans Am than restoring the Formula, so we gave it to him. Last year Adam and I drove the T/A to the Trans Am Nationals in Dayton, Ohio, and we had a great time together.”
With a career at GM that would make any car guy envious, Bill Porter achieved what many can only dream of, and was instrumental in providing us with some of Pontiac’s legendary designs. His accomplishments have been and will continue to be revered, and now he too is finally able to “see the forest for the trees,” and enjoy the results of his work by speaking with Pontiac fans at the T/A Nationals and making memories with his family in this ’73 Trans Am.
William “Bill” Porter’s Career Path at GM
Automotive Designer -- General Motors Design Center, General Motors Technical Center
Summer Intern, General Motors Styling (now called Design Center)
Junior Designer, Design Development Studio -- designer in training, learned surface development drawing, full-size rendering techniques, etc.
Junior Designer, Research Studio—generated ideas in the form of sketches, scale models, drawings, and such, in GM’s most visionary design area; worked on technologically advanced concepts such as “people movers” for dense urban environments, vehicles for fully automated highways, etc.
Designer, Pontiac Studio, Exterior Production—made sketches, renderings, etc. of proposals for Pontiac production automobiles being modeled full-size in studio
Assistant Chief Designer, Preliminary Design Studio -- helped direct “think-tank” studio with many young designers using 1⁄5-scale models to develop new basic body themes; attended General Motors Institute for one semester, taking various automotive engineering courses to promote better communication between designers and engineers
Chief Designer, Design Development Studio -- recruited and trained new designers, both interior and exterior; visited design schools throughout the U.S., met with design educators, interviewed students, and directed training projects for newly recruited designers at GM Design Center (called “Styling Staff” at that time)
Chief Designer, Advanced 2 Studio -- directed design of various preproduction and concept cars
Chief Designer, Pontiac Studio, Exterior Production -- directed exterior appearance design of all Pontiac production vehicles: Bonneville, Catalina, Grand Prix, GTO, LeMans, Firebird, and so on
Chief Designer, Advanced 1 Studio -- directed design of various preproduction automobiles, mostly Pontiacs, and concept cars
Chief Designer, Buick No. 1 Studio, Exterior Production -- directed exterior appearance design of Buick intermediate and full size cars: Regal sedan, LeSabre, Park Avenue, and Riviera
October 1995-August 1996
Chief Designer, Buick LeSabre, Production Studio -- directed studio staff of designers, engineers, and modelers creating appearance design of entire vehicle, interior, and exterior