All too often, we find vehicles on today's show fields that have been over-restored. While certainly stunning in appearance and quickly becoming the restoration standard, such vehicles aren't always indicative of how production models actually rolled off the assembly line decades earlier, leaving very few familiar with the types of factory flaws found in original, low-mile examples.
Steve Schappaugh of Lincoln, Nebraska, knows Second-Gen Firebirds inside and out. The 51-year-old engineer for Lincoln Electric System has a number of super-rare Pontiacs in his collection, and this Brewster Green '73 Super-Duty Trans Am is among his favorites. Though its exterior has been repainted, most everything else on it is original-and that's the way it's going to stay.
The Early Years
Steve's interest in Pontiacs came early in life, and he's had an ongoing love affair with them ever since. His first Firebird was a Brewster Green '73 base model with saddle Morrokide interior that he bought new, and it was only a matter of time before the Trans Am mystique lured him in. "Trans Ams were gaining popularity at the time," he said, "and I've always been attracted to the Shaker scoop, hood bird and spoilers. I had to have one, and replaced my base model Firebird with a Buccaneer Red '73 Trans Am with black standard interior, a D-port 455 and an automatic transmission."
He continued, "I really liked my Trans Am, but kept hearing about how powerful the Super-Duty 455 engine was, and how rare they were. I thought one might make a good investment, and be a fun car too, so I placed a 'wanted ad' in the classified section of a popular car magazine on the market. In March 1975, I flew to San Diego, California, to pick up my first Super-Duty Trans Am, and drove it back home to Lincoln. It, too, was a Buccaneer Red '73 with black standard interior, and was an automatic."
Another Super Discovery
As years passed, Steve bought and sold a number of low-mile Second-Gen Firebirds, amassing quite a collection in that time. "In 1999, I sold a '71 Trans Am to a guy from southern Texas, and when he came to pick it up, he asked to see some of my other cars. He immediately walked over to an Admiralty Blue '74 Super-Duty Trans Am I had at the time and remarked, 'There's a guy back home that has one of these, except it's green.' Having a soft spot for Brewster Green Firebirds, that was enough to spark my interest."
The Super-Duty 455 was Pontiac's...
The Super-Duty 455 was Pontiac's top offering in 1973, adding $521 to the Trans Am's price tag. It features a fully reinforced 4-bolt block, forged steel connecting rods, and forged aluminum pistons. Its No. 16 cylinder heads include 2.11/1.77-inch valves, intake ports that flow around 240 cfm at 28 inches of pressure, and round exhaust ports. Initial plans called for a 041-spec camshaft with 308/320 degrees of duration and 0.470-inch valve lift, and the combination generated 310 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. Emissions concerns forced the use of the 301/313-degree cam with 0.407-inch valve lift in production engines, reducing horsepower to 290 while boosting torque to 395 lb-ft.
The conversation continued, and Steve asked if it was a Super-Duty. "He said that it was, and that the owner bought it new and hadn't driven it much. Then he said that the car had been for sale about a year earlier, but he wasn't sure if the owner had sold it or not. I couldn't believe it-a one-owner, Brewster Green Super-Duty Trans Am that was for sale! I had to find out more about it."
Steve's excitement raged for nearly a month while he desperately searched for the owner. "Once I got a hold of him, I found that he still had it, and it was in fact a one-owner car. It was virtually untouched with just over 21,000 miles on the odometer, and, yes, it was for sale." Though Steve hadn't seen the car, he recognized its potential and adds, "We struck a deal and I immediately arranged delivery."
One might assume a vehicle with so few miles might be flawless, but the southern Texas heat wasn't kind to the Super-Duty's exterior. "I have to say, I was less than thrilled when the car arrived a few weeks later," says Steve. "The original owner was a real documentation freak, but he wasn't big on maintaining the car cosmetically. Its original paint was badly checked, and every decal was cracked. It clearly needed paint and lots of detailing, but it was all there."
Knowing that complete disassembly was the only way to properly refinish the exterior, Steve removed the body panels and separated the body from the sub-frame. "I figured that the underside would need a new coat of correct red-oxide primer, but after an afternoon of scrubbing, I realized that the original primer was in perfect condition, and all the Brewster Green over-spray that it left the factory with was still there. At that point, I knew I had to leave everything as original as possible."
Perched atop the No. 494419...
Perched atop the No. 494419 cast-iron intake manifold is a No. 7043270 Rochester Quadrajet carburetor. While at first glance both may appear externally no different than standard production units, the carburetor has a maximum airflow capacity of 800 cfm (standard engines used 750 cfm), and the intake manifold's runners were enlarged and closely match the overall dimension of the cylinder head's ports. Both are unique to the Super-Duty 455.
The beige cloth custom interior...
The beige cloth custom interior is completely original. Only one panel on the driver's seat was worn enough that it needed replacing, and Steve located NOS material for it.