1973 Pontiac Trans Am Super Duty - Brewster Green Machine
A Brewster Green '73 Super-Duty Trans Am That Rides On Its Original White-Line Radials
From the October, 2007 issue of High Performance Pontiac
By Rocky Rotella
Photography by Rocky Rotella
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.
Steve sent the body to Bob Chalek of Musclecar Memories Restoration in Bellevue, Nebraska, for paintwork. Since the original underside and jamb finishes remained in excellent condition, Bob masked off those areas and stripped the rest of the exterior to bare metal. "The body was rust free and it only had a couple of small dings," recalls Bob. "We applied three coats of DuPont primer and then block-sanded it. Sealer was applied over the primer, and then three coats of DuPont Brewster Green base and three coats of DuPont clear followed. The topcoat was wet-sanded with 1,200-, 1,500-, and 3,000-grit paper before it was machine buffed."
While the body was being refinished, Steve cleaned and repainted the front suspension and subframe assembly, documenting with pictures any paint markings he happened upon during the process. "We repainted the Super-Duty engine in the correct shade of blue, but it wasn't taken apart. Because of leaks, we did install new gaskets in the transmission, though," he adds.
Reassembly began as soon as the freshly painted body was returned. "I wanted the car to be as original as possible and re-used everything I could, including the weatherstrip, but anything that was affected by the Texas heat or age, like hoses and wiring harnesses, were replaced. The headlight, parking light, and taillight bezels, grilles, and rear bumper are the un-restored originals. The original wheel flares were repainted, but we did install new welting because the originals were so badly cracked. We also tried to repair the cracks in the original plastic front valance several times, but finally replaced it and the lower spoiler with reproductions."
The Radial Tires
As the project neared completion, Steve had a choice to make before putting the Super-Duty Trans Am back on the road. A new option, which was eventually available on all models that year (besides the Ventura) was steel-belted radial tires and, in the instance of the Trans Am (or Firebird Formulas with the optional Y99 Handling Package), buyers could opt for GM-tread design GR70-15 radial tires over the standard F60-15 bias-belted units at extra cost.
Initially conceived by Pontiac...
Initially conceived by Pontiac Design Chief Bill Porter during 1970 11/42 Trans Am development to better integrate its Shaker scoop, the large Firebird hood decal (UPC WW7) didn't reach production until 1973. A total of 2,663 Trans Ams received the $55 option that year.
"The original owner added radial tires when he ordered the car, thinking that they'd be white-lettered. When it showed up with white lines, he wasn't happy at all," says Steve. "They didn't stay on very long, and when I bought the car, three of them came with it. Since I'm such a stickler for originality, I found a fourth and put the white lines on the car, but I can't say they'll stay. Like the original owner, I like it better with white-lettered tires too."
Since its completion in 2000, Steve has added no more than 100 miles each year to the Trans Am attending local area events, but he also had it at the POCI Nationals near St. Louis, Missouri, in 2005. "Wherever it goes, it seems to draw attention," he says. The rare combination of the Super-Duty engine, Brewster Green exterior with beige cloth interior, and its overall originality-all of which make this car so special to Steve-certainly contribute to that.
Beyond normal maintenance, Steve says the Super-Duty's future doesn't include much beyond local shows and nearby national-type gatherings. That will likely give him time to focus on his future projects-an Adriatic Blue '72 Trans Am (no, that's not a misprint), and an Admiralty Blue '74 Super-Duty Trans Am with a manual transmission. These two cars are in need of full restorations, and you can bet that this Brewster Green beauty will be the benchmark!
Vintage Pontiac sales bulletins...
Vintage Pontiac sales bulletins say that radial tires offer such benefits as extended tread life, softer ride, and improved wet and dry handling. Combine this with the Trans Am's already-impressive suspension package, including a 1.25-inch diameter front and 0.875-inch rear sway bars, high-rate front and rear springs, and the result is a formidable contender that was among the best handlers of its day. Production records indicate that a total of 2,850 Trans Ams and Y99-equipped Formulas received the radial tire option that year.
Mounted in the optional D55...
Mounted in the optional D55 front console is the original shifter that controls the PQ-coded M40 Turbo 400 transmission. Other options include: A31 Power Windows, C49 Rear Window Defroster, C60 Custom Air Conditioning, U63 AM Radio and Y90 Custom Trim. Everything is original, with the exception of new trim around the shifter and radio.
Do you think white-lined radial...
Do you think white-lined radial tires look out of place on this Trans Am? Believing they'd be white-lettered, the original owner opted for P85 GR70-15 White Steel Belted Radial Ply tires and, when the car arrived with these white-lined Goodyear Steel Belted Radials, he promptly replaced them with aftermarket tires. According to Car Distribution Bulletin No.73-53 dated May 24, 1973, white-lettered tires replaced white-lined on all orders preferenced from that day forward. Steve's car, which was built in mid-June, was likely preferenced prior to this date and subsequently received white-lines.
Most of the undercarriage...
Most of the undercarriage remains un-restored. Like the leaf springs, the original 8.5-inch 10-bolt rear axle housing a 3.08:1 gear set was repainted and reinstalled, and the factory spiral shock absorbers were repainted the correct color. "The original Super-Duty exhaust system with resonators was still on the car, but it couldn't be saved," added Steve. "So I went with stainless reproduction system from Gardner Exhaust Systems. It's one of the early systems that didn't yet include the correct-style resonators." The red-oxide primer throughout the entire underbody is completely original. The subframe was separated from the body, repainted the correct shade of semi-gloss black, and reinstalled with new rubber body bushings. Though he kept the original fuel and brake lines, the rubber fuel and brake hoses were replaced with modern units. The steel fuel and brake lines were chemically stripped to restore the factory appearance.
Original, low-mile vehicles...
Original, low-mile vehicles are always a treasure, and this Brewster Green '73 Trans Am is one of only 252 that received the LS2 Super-Duty engine in 1973.
Steve received with the car...
Steve received with the car every piece of paperwork the original owner had, including the original order form and window sticker (shown). Also included was a maintenance log noting date and mileage of warranty work and regular servicing, as well as each fuel fill specifying the date, odometer mileage, number of gallons and purchase price, and calculated fuel economy.