Anyone familiar with today's musclecar market knows the effects major collector-car auctions have had upon the hobby in recent years. Not only are low-production, numbers-matching Pontiacs drawing prices that could otherwise buy the average family a luxurious dwelling, we've also seen instances of total rebodying or restamping of mechanical components to achieve maximum dollar on the auction block.
Loren Sheffer of Delray Beach, Florida, however, wasn't driven by monetary profit when building his Pontiac. The 52-year old professional investor's '70 1/2 Trans Am was built purely for enjoyment.
This '70 1/2 Trans Am is doing what it does best. Art Philipp Jr. (the driver in this phot
Loren's love affair with Trans Ams dates back to the spring of 1970 when the then-15-year-old Glenview, Illinois, high school student spotted a new Polar White '70 1/2 Trans Am while riding in a school bus. Of the experience, he says, "The sound, the Shaker hood, the vented front fenders, and the blue racing stripe were just too much for a 15-year-old not to love." Then, a few years later, while attending the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire and working as a waiter, a senior coworker of his had a white '73 Super Duty Trans Am that he drove daily. "He was the envy of every waiter there. The car was cool, and he knew how to work it," recalls Loren. "I knew that I wanted a Trans Am some day."
It took 30 years before Loren's dream would be realized. "I've been fortunate," he says. "I've owned three automobile dealerships, sold each successfully, and was able to retire sooner than I ever thought possible. I then decided it was time to build the Trans Am I always wanted." He found the Polar White '70 1/2 Trans Am at an auto auction in Portland, Oregon, in 2001 and purchased it for $12,500. "It was sold new in Stockton, California, and looked pretty good from 30 feet away, but this old Bird had a tough life. The original R/A-III ran poorly, the car had been hit and repaired improperly, and rust began popping through the body in a few places."
A Richmond five-speed manual transmission with a 3.27:1-First-gear ratio replaces the orig
Not totally content with his latest acquisition, Loren pondered selling the Trans Am, but ultimately settled on a restification. As he set out in search of the right person to entrust his project, "Fate stepped in and solved my problem," he says. "My daughter and I were shopping at a local Barnes and Noble bookstore, and there on the cover of the April '04 issue of HPP was a '70 1/2 Trans Am owned and built by Art Philipp Jr. After reading the article, I thought Artie might be the person to glorify my Trans Am.
"It wasn't easy tracking him down. After a few calls to Scranton, Pennsylvania, I was able to contact Artie's mom, and she put me in touch with her son."
"Once Artie and I started talking, I knew we were going somewhere," says Loren. "His level of enthusiasm was only outweighed by his expertise. He arranged for me to see a Brewster Green '73 Super Duty he had just finished. Having been in the car business for three decades, I can tell you that no Trans Am ever came off the assembly line that perfect. I was impressed and knew then that Artie was my guy."
Jason Sileo airbrushed the Lucerne Blue graphics onto the Polar White body before Philipp
Over the next 17 months, Artie and Loren spent hours on the phone discussing every last detail of the build. "We decided against a concours restoration early on," Loren says. "I remember him asking, 'Do you want this car to be all stock, or do you want to have fun?' For me, fun always wins out." Knowing what had attracted Loren's attention, Artie took an approach similar to that used on his own Trans Am and built Loren a car that excelled in every way possible.
Artie sent a 455 from a '72 Catalina to Joe Tedesco of Tedesco Auto in Old Forge, Pennsylvania, for rebuilding. S&S Machine in Kingston, Pennsylvania, bored the cylinders 0.030 inch to 4.18 increasing total displacement to 462 ci. The balanced rotating assembly rides on Clevite bearings and consists of a 4.21-inch- stroke, nodular-iron crankshaft secured by new four-bolt main caps, stock cast-iron connecting rods with ARP bolts, and TRW forged, aluminum pistons with Speed-Pro chrome-moly rings. A 60-psi Melling oil pump resides in the added-capacity Canton road-race oil pan.
Though the original '70 1/2 Shaker's air valve swings somewhat freely, allowing the fuel-i
A pair of Edelbrock 87cc, aluminum cylinder heads were utilized to achieve a compression ratio just over 10.0:1. Fitted with longer-than-original Ferrea stainless steel, 2.11/1.66-inch valves, the 215cc intake ports contain no additional porting and are advertised by the manufacturer as flowing 275 cfm at 0.600-inch lift at 28 inches of pressure. An ACCEL throttle body sits atop the Tomahawk single-plane intake manifold, while custom-made fuel rails feed the injectors.
The camshaft is a custom hydraulic roller from Butler Performance in Leoma, Tennessee, and features 230/236 degrees of 0.050-inch duration and 0.510/0.520-inch valve lift with Comp Cams 1.5:1-ratio, full-roller rocker arms. The ceramic-coated exhaust system is comprised of a pair of Tribal Tube 1.75-inch-diameter, tri-Y headers and a modified, 3-inch, dual-exhaust system featuring an x-type crossover, turbo-style mufflers, and '70 1/2 Firebird chromed tailpipe extensions from Pypes Performance Exhaust in Hatfield, Pennsylvania.
American Racing Torq Thrust wheels in 17x8-inch (with 4-inch backspace) up front and 17x9.
Job Spetter of Turbo People in Hastings on Hudson, New York, dialed in the electronic spark and fuel curves of the ACCEL DFI engine-management system on his company's chassis dyno. With 36 degrees of total spark lead, the potent mill generated a healthy 417 hp (that's about 500 hp at the crank) and 455 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels. "The dyno-shop owner commented that he hadn't had a car in his shop before that he thought was actually going to leap off the dyno," says Loren.
Artie performed the Trans Am's flawless paint and bodywork at his family's auto-body repair facility, Philipp's Collision in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He sent the body out for dip-stripping before performing the necessary bodywork and applying six coats of PPG primer. Artie then applied four coats of PPG Polar White base before spraying seven coats of clear. The base and clearcoats were wet-sanded throughout the process with various grit sandpapers, ranging from 1,000 to 2,000, which gives the finish its mirror-like appearance.
In April 2006, Loren and his Trans Am attended the Southern Trans Am Regional Show (S.T.A.R.S.) in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. There the car received Best In Class and Best Of Show honors. That August, the pair traveled north to visit Artie, and the trio then attended the Trans Am Nationals in Dayton, Ohio.
"We were immediately placed into the Super Street class and thought we would show well. The car was parked at the end of our row and attracted tons of attention. We met a lot of people and saw many fine cars," says Loren.
"The awards ceremony was full of anticipation," he recalls. "When our class' winners were announced, my name wasn't called. I wasn't really disappointed since the winning cars were all very deserving. I was more concerned for Artie. It's just a hobby for me, but it's a living to him. A few minutes later, they announced the Best Of Show award, and to my shock and surprise, they called my name! Artie and I walked up together to accept the huge trophy. I was really happy for him. It was just a great moment."
"It is understated and true to the original design," Loren says of his Trans Am. "It's modernized, driver-friendly, and really performs beyond my expectations. The total combination has 'instant on'-type power, and the car really is as it should be-it's perfect."
Loren offers a word of advice to anyone with similar expectations. "A successful project requires fluid and seamless communication between the builder and owner. You both have to be on the same page and know that even successful projects can be frustrating at times. I really give Artie a great amount of credit. He stayed focused even though we had a lot going on in our personal lives. Over those 17 months, we came out with more than a car-we have a friendship that will last for years."
Though the Trans Am's modifications are far from irreversible, some may wonder why Loren modified a vehicle that could today bring at least four times its '01 purchase price if concourse-restored-and then spent well beyond that to create what's shown here. The answer lies in the fact that Loren and Artie regard this Pontiac as much more than a typical '70 1/2 Trans Am-it symbolizes the dreams of its owner and the vision of its builder, both of which are priceless to them. If Loren could at all look upon this beautiful Trans Am as an investment, the dividends it's paid so far are sheer enjoyment and a lasting friendship. And that sounds like the yield this investor was after.
The original R/A-III was replaced by a fuel-injected, 462ci engine featuring four-bolt mai
A March serpentine-conversion kit drives the accessories, including the Sanden 508 air-con
Philipp modified a universal Chevrolet ACCEL speed-density-based, DFI engine-management sy
White overlays from Duranged Design of Salt Lake City, Utah, were applied over the Trans A
The original 12-bolt rear end and limited-slip differential remain, but its axles have bee
The front suspension consists of the original 1.25-inch-diameter stabilizer bar, Global We