This ’70 Pontiac Lemans was my first car. I got it in 1993 when I was 16 years old. I’m now 35 years old. To say this car is part of me is an understatement.
When I was 15, I was dying to get my license and my first ride. I knew I wanted a classic Pontiac, and I was working a grueling job at a landscape company to save the money. After checking out several cars that didn’t live up to their descriptions, I came across this ’70 LeMans. The car was decent and the $1,600 price was perfect.
After six months of getting used to the 350/350 combo, I wanted more. I discovered a ’77 400 with a Turbo 350 trans for $150 in the classifieds and bought it.
I worked with my father, who passed away in 1998, to rebuild the 400. We had it bored 0.060-inch over, and treated it to forged pistons and a new cam.
Even back in 1994, Dad’s health was declining, so for him to make the time and have the energy to help me was something I’ll never forget. When we fired up the new mill for the first time, it was a rush! It ran great from the first time we ignited that bad boy!
I drove 35 miles each way to the dragstrip, most of the time by myself, as Dad usually wasn’t feeling well enough to go. I would unbolt the exhaust at the track and put on an old pair of slicks. I ran a best of 13.98. (Keep in mind this is a low- compression 400 with 6X heads and a 3.08 gear.) I remember coming home from the track and sharing my experience with Dad. He was impressed.
The LeMans was my daily driver until early 1998, when my interest waned, so much so that I put it up for sale. When a guy came out to test drive it, I rode along and it just felt wrong. I apologized to the man and said I just couldn’t sell. Later that year, my father died. Then my mom’s car quit on her and she ended up using the LeMans as her daily car for about a year. She got compliments everywhere she went!
Moving ahead to 2005, I was (and still am) an automotive painter. I painted the LeMans a couple of times in my parents’ driveway when I was a kid, but now I wanted to do it right. I stripped it down to metal, then the rust repair began. Two quarter panels, fender patches, and numerous spots around the rear window were welded in by various co-workers. Kevin Hoover and Alan Rivera helped me greatly. We did the bodywork, primed it, blocked it, and then primed it again.
I painted it Orbit Orange in 2007. Shortly after, I lost interest again and it just sat in the garage, painted, but still needing a lot of work. In early 2012 with the help of my father-in-law, Jim Durs, I finally refreshed the interior and finished the exterior trim. We also added Judge stripes and 17-inch American Racing wheels for attitude.
As you can see, it took quite a long time to get my LeMans where it is today, but it was worth every penny and every minute. That old 400 that Pops and I built way back in 1994 is still running strong.
|In My Words|
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