Sometimes automotive scribes have to beat themselves over the head to comprise a strong lead for a feature article. Other times one just comes to them as naturally as waking up in the morning. Then there's the case of Mark Norris' '73 SD-455 Trans Am. This story has so many possible powerful leads that it made my head swim.
Let me explain. First it's an SD one of 180 automatics of 252 total-instant hook right there right? Then there's the fact that this Bird actually has a column-shifted automatic transmission-in a T/A! If those weren't enough how about the fact that Mark bought this T/A in 1978 from the original owner, a friend, for $2,500? And today the Pontiac has yet to be restored but is slightly modified and is raced on a regular basis. Are you beginning to see my problem? So let's just start at the beginning and let the superlatives fall where they may.
On August 3, 1973, a salesman named Leonard at Ed Hammock Motors in Atlanta, Texas, prepared Car Invoice No. 6826 for the Trans Am that you see here. Very late in the sales season to be sure, but then again, all '73 SD Birds were sold late due to a belated introduction of the option. By the time the price, the options, and the tax, license and title were totaled, the purchaser, a Mr. Leslie Hagin paid $5,309.88 for an incredibly rare SD-455 Trans Am.
Meanwhile, just a few miles from the dealer lived Mark Norris, a 16 year-old car nut who was smart enough to know a desirable Pontiac when he saw one cruising around town. As luck would have it, a few years after Leslie bought the T/A, he and Mark would end up working at the same company. They became fast friends due to their shared interest in fast Pontiacs, and Norris, who had bought a '75 T/A new and got rid of it in favor of a '70 T/A because it was faster, kept constant tabs on the rare '73. In 1978 bad news for the owner provided Mark with the opportunity of a lifetime-the SD had spun a rod bearing and Hagin was looking to get out. For $2,500, Norris at just 21-years old was the proud owner of a piece of musclecar history.
He soon rebuilt the SD-455 engine and Mark has cared for the Pontiac like the rarity that it is ever since. "I constantly pay attention to keeping up with maintenance and repairs. I want to preserve it rather than perform a full-blown restoration on it," he explains. To that end, in the ensuing years POR-15 was applied to the chassis to keep rust at bay and a new carpet was installed, though the rest of the black Morrokide interior (code 236) is original. In 1992, the T/A was repainted Cameo White (GM code 11 or C) using single-stage Sherwin Williams Polyurethane by Texas-T Paint and Body in Atlanta. Since then, Mr. Bill's Paint and Body, also Atlanta based, has handled touch-ups as needed.
But that's not the end of the story. This '73 is no pampered trailer queen. Mark has also raced the SD...a lot!
From the late '70s to present, Norris and his Pontiac have racked up wins on the street and in heads-up competition at the Original Musclecar Nats. It was an NMCA class record holder in H-Stock and was a class winner at the Pontiac Southern Nats in 1999 and a runner up in 1998. Mark recalls, " Back then I went through the stages of modifying the Pontiac to match the rules. Now I just do what I want and enjoy it.
"Since Trans Am and owner are so proficient at tripping the lights of the 1,320, HPP invited them to race during one of our Lone Star Pavement Pounder Shootouts and we photographed the T/A in action for this story.
Engine removal to repair spun...
Engine removal to repair spun rod bearing, circa 1978
Rebuilt SD ready for installation...
Rebuilt SD ready for installation in 1979