Kevin Rimsky of Orlando, Florida, owns this '71 Trans Am built at the Los Angeles factory
When Paul Rimsky-an IBM engineer from Mims, Florida, who was contracted to the NASA Saturn V project-bought his '71 455 H.O. Trans Am new on April 17, 1971, the words "classic," "rarity," and "frame-off restoration," weren't part of his mindset. In fact, the only word that came to his mind was "awesome."
"I first saw a Lucerne Blue '71 Trans Am with a four-speed, and that's what I really wanted," Paul recalls, remembering his trip to Stephens Pontiac in Daytona Beach, Florida, in early 1971, home of Fireball Roberts' NASCAR sponsor. "My wife said to me, 'We've got four little kids. That's not the car for us.' But when we saw a more family-friendly T/A at McNamara Pontiac in Orlando, she said, 'I like the white one with the blue stripe, automatic, and A/C. You can buy it.'"
The couple's testdrive was the stuff from which warm and fuzzy memories are made. Paul took the driver's position, his wife strapped into the passenger seat, and the four kids crammed into the two back seats. "Our whole family of six had to see what the Trans Am would do on city streets," Paul said. "I turned around to my son, Kevin, and told him, 'Let's see if the shaker opens.' That was the coolest thing he had ever seen, and when we got back to the dealership, I traded in my '65 2+2 Catalina."
Only 2,116 Trans Ams were produced in '71: 885 with manual trans and 1,231, like this exam
Paul told HPP he loved the looks of the T/A primarily because he watched NASCAR/USAC racer Buck Baker drive a similar-looking Firebird in the '71 races. "If Pontiac ever built a stock car with aerodynamics capable of handling the high-speed banks of the Daytona Superspeedway, it was the Second-Generation Trans Am," he said. "I loved the way it handled. It was steadier and more stiffly sprung compared to the other cars that GM made."
Another joy to buyers was Pontiac's new 335 hp, round-port 455ci H.O. engine that made the T/A one of the most sought-after musclecars of all time. "I loved all the power it produced," Paul said. "I could put the accelerator to the floor and spin the bias-ply tires all day long."
The Trans Am received many compliments and Paul loved showing it off. He said when it was new he drove it to the security-restricted building where IBM computer engineers worked on NASA control systems and remembered one of them saying, "That car looks like its doing 150 miles per hour sitting out there in the parking lot." He maintained it as a regular driver and kept it in the garage. By 2003, it had logged over 100,000 miles and was ready for a restoration.
Early production examples of the '71 T/A featured 15x7 Rally II wheels (code JW) carried o
It was Kevin's decision to restore the Trans Am and he enlisted Steve Dietz of Florida Pontiac in Stuart to perform the work. "Paul's car was in pretty good shape with 114,000 miles on it," Steve recalled. "About 80 percent of the original paint and the factory decals were on it. It ran OK, but was a little tired.
"To return it to showroom condition, I took many pictures and measurements before the disassembly and marked on the printed pictures to note exactly where the assembly line workers put the decals. I was amazed when I saw how imperfect the factory's work was. The 455 H.O. on the shaker scoop is lower on one side than the other, but that's how the worker put it on during the assembly procedure, and that's how Kevin wanted it back," he said.
He disassembled the Trans Am, removing the front clip, the subframe assembly, the rear end and gas tank, and the glass and interior. Safely harbored above the fuel tank, he found the Trans Am's original buildsheet, placed there by a Van Nuys factory worker as the T/A went down the assembly line.
Additional options include blue custom interior (code 211), custom A/C (code C60), and AM
The 455 H.O. engine featured code 197 round-port heads, 335 hp, and 8.4:1 compression. Not
MSRP was $4,595 for the '71 T/A. Standard features included Posi-traction (code G80), powe