"Before" and "after" photos have been the rage in advertising circles for decades. Everything from diet pills to exercise equipment and wrinkle creams have been sold on the basis of how poorly the unfortunate individual looked "before" and how great he or she became "after" using a great new product. The reasoning is simple: If you can show a drastic improvement in your subject in the "after" photo, the drama caused by the comparison will sell the product for you.
Though Pontiac aficionado Rick Mahoney of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, isn't selling his '70-1/2 Ram Air IV Trans Am any time soon, he did provide plenty of "before" photos for this story. When placed near the "after" shots we took, you can immediately appreciate the enormity of the task that was completed by Scott Tiemann and his staff at Supercar Specialties, Inc. in Portland, Michigan, (517) 647-2433. So buckle up and see for yourself how this tattered T/A was plucked from the grasp of the rust god and provided with a new lease on life.
Forty-four-year-old Rick Mahoney is no stranger to rare Pontiacs, as he has collected them for more than 25 years. His arrowhead-heavy resume contains the likes of two '73 SD Formulas-one an automatic and the other a four-speed, a '70 Ram Air IV Trans Am in Polar White, one of the eight '69 Trans Am convertibles, and a '70 Ram Air IV Judge convertible, just to name a few. However, Rick admits, "My first Pontiac was a '74 400 four-speed Formula and I was hooked after that!" So despite forays into the realm of First-Gen F-bodies and A-bodies, his heart remains with the Second-Gen Birds.
Regarding his latest labor of love, Rick explained, "I always wanted a Lucerne Blue R/A-IV Trans Am. There's just something about that color that is really striking." To find one, he chased down every lead that came his way regarding the 88 R/A-IV T/As that were built in 1970. In the process, he learned that there were 25 blue cars and 63 white ones. Of the 25 blue T/As, 22 were Norwood built and just 3 rolled out of Van Nuys. Of the 88 R/A-IV T/As, 59 were four-speed equipped and 29 were automatics.
His search finally led him to the driveway of a house in Maryland in May 2005. Under a tarp near a tree was the object of his Pontiac desire-one Lucerne Blue R/A-IV four-speed 1970-1/2 Trans Am-in need of some serious resto work.
Rick checked out the round-port Bird, ran the numbers, convinced the owner to sell and took it home shortly thereafter. Adding to the odd factor of this rarity, the options list would fit comfortably on a matchbook cover. That's right folks, there were only three. In "Pontiac speak" they were: "4 BBL SD R/A" code 342 for $389.68, "Radio P/B" code 401 for $61.09, and "Glass S/R" (Soft Ray) "WS" (windshield) code 532 for $26.33. The suggested retail price of the T/A was $4,847.85. It was built at the Norwood, Ohio, plant in the third week of July, 1970, and was sold from Scutti Pontiac, Inc. in Rochester, New York.
The good news was that the T/A was quite complete, given its condition. Its original WW-code 400 ci 370-horse R/A-IV engine, M-20 wide-ratio four-speed trans and 12-bolt rear were intact. Even the heads, intake manifold, exhaust manifolds and distributor remained. The only pricey item missing was the correct carburetor.
For the bad news, rust had pervaded some areas, so once Rick was finished going over his new prize and developing a plan of attack with Scott Tiemann, the T/A was sent to Supercar Specialties for the full treatment.
With ample power under the...
With ample power under the hood and arguably the best suspension in the industry in its day, the '70-1/2 T/A was at home on the dragstrip and the road course.
The interior reveals just...
The interior reveals just how few options there are on this T/A. Standard black upholstery, no console, no power windows, just a big stick jutting up from the trans tunnel and an AM radio. Even the floor mats had to be added during the resto. Reproduction parts were used as needed from Ames. The seats were recovered and the headliner, carpet, and its underlayment were replaced. Just Dashes restored the dash pad and door panels, and the gauges were rebuilt.
The interior didn't look too...
The interior didn't look too horrible, but was obviously in need of lots of help.
This restoration does require some explanation, as a few items deviate from stock. Rick admits to not being into points judging but he does enjoy displaying his Pontiacs at major events. Though this T/A would do extremely well in points competition, it wasn't Rick's goal for the project. In fact, he says that the T/A is over-restored in some areas and that's the way he likes it. "No Trans Am ever left the assembly line with body panels that fit as well as they do on mine, and the same can be said regarding the quality of the paintwork," he explained. "But I'm not going to spend all this time and effort to have my Pontiac restored and intentionally put flaws back in it. What I wanted was a nut and bolt restoration that not only looks great and stock, but also highlights the talents of Supercar Specialties."
But that is only part of the equation. Rick's original desire was to go Pure Stock drag racing with this T/A. "There's something exciting about going low 12s in the quarter mile on Polyglas tires," he says. Thus, though it appears to be stock, Rick had Scott add some more Wheaties to the drivetrain.
To that end, the original R/A-IV engine was torn down. The 4-bolt main block was machined and bored 0.030 over to clean up the cylinder walls. The oiling system is comprised of an NOS GM pump that delivers 80 psi of pressure, the stock windage tray, and the oil pan. Though the factory crank was retained, the stock cast rods were swapped out in favor of forged steel Eagle H-beams and forged Diamond pistons that feature a 5 cc dome to increase compression to 11.72:1 without excessively milling the heads. A Crane Blueprint Ram Air IV cam specs out at 308/320-degrees advertised duration and 0.516/0.516 lift with 1.65:1 rocker arms. Speaking of which, the rockers are Harland Sharp rollers that take direction from Crane lifters and Comp Cams 111/432-inch pushrods to compress Comp dual valvesprings and bump the 2.11/1.77 Ferrea ss valves off their seats in the otherwise stock #614 round-port heads.
The factory aluminum intake manifold was simply restored and returned to the engine with its cast-iron exhaust crossover. A correct Q-jet was sourced and then restored to stock specs. A Pertronix conversion modernized the original points distributor, whose ignition curve was dialed in for 36-degrees total timing all in by 2,500 rpm. Reproduction date-coded Packard wires deliver the juice to AC44S plugs. The original round-port exhaust manifolds were restored and feed a modern Pypes 2.5-inch system with an x-type crossover, a crossflow muffler and a pair of tails, the latter of which connects to reproduction chrome tips.
Dan Jensen who, as regular HPP readers will know, is heavily into Pure Stock drag racing, says that the upgrades to this engine typically increase power from 380-390hp stock to 450-460hp.
Ensuring a smooth transition of torque from the crank to the completely rebuilt M20 trans is a Centerforce Dual-Friction 10.4-inch clutch in the factory bellhousing. A new driveshaft provides the twist for the original 12-bolt Safe-T-Track rear, which now houses 4.10 Richmond gears in place of the factory 3.73s-another concession to this project's original intent.