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."

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.

Restoration
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.

Drivetrain
Steve sent the powertrain to Blockhead Machine of Stuart. The 455 H.O. (code YE) was treated to a 4.180 (0.030-over) bore while retaining a stock 4.210 stroke. Its original nodular cast iron crankshaft was reconditioned to handle a rotating mass consisting of CAT I-beam 6.625-inch forged connecting rods and Speed Pro forged 0.030-over pistons. Bolted to the short-block are the original round-port iron heads (code 197) with 111cc combustion chambers and stock pushrods that activate stamped-steel 1.5-ratio rockers to compress stock springs and open and close 2.11/1.77 valves. Valvetrain actuation is dictated by a Melling SPC-7 flat-tappet cam with 212/225-degrees duration and 0.408/0.407-inch lift on a 113-degree LSA.

A Rochester Q-jet (PN 7041270) forces premium fuel into a Pontiac aluminum dual-plane intake (PN 483674) while gases are evacuated through factory H.O. exhaust manifolds (PN 9799721(r) and 478141(l)) bolted to a Magnaflow stainless steel exhaust with 2.5-inch tubing, X-pipe, transverse muffler, and 2.5-inch tails. Ignition is sourced from the original Delco distributor (PN 1112073) and sends current down AC Delco wires to AC Delco R45S plugs.

To produce action at the rear wheels, a stock torque converter connects to the Turbo 400 (code PQ) trans and transfers power through a steel driveshaft to a GM 10-bolt rear (code GYG) housing an Auburn Posi unit, 3.08 gears, and Moser axles. Rally II 15x7 wheels wrapped in 255/60R15 BFG rubber give the T/A a more comfortable ride. "I switched over to radials after the restoration," Kevin said.

Body And Paint
Steve stripped the body and found it was in excellent shape. He discovered a small rust area on the lower passenger quarter behind the rear tire and a rust spot on the heel of the passenger fender. When he cut out the lower 3 inches of the quarter panel, water came out-it was trapped inside, and caused rust to develop. The front fender, on the other hand, was the victim of debris trapped behind the brace, which produced corrosion.

He stripped the subframe, rear end, and suspension components, and powdercoated them. The underbody was stripped and resprayed with rubberized undercoating. The factory didn't provide undercoating, but according to the original sales receipt, the dealer did. The owner says, "That's what was on the car when it was purchased, and that's what I wanted back on it."

Steve said he was asked to provide a paint job that would please the owner and his family for years to come. To attain that goal, he etched the Trans Am's body twice with Klean-Strip Prep-N-Etch and sprayed two coats of Transtar Self-Etch Primer. He followed with two coats of PPG DP-series epoxy primer and gave one week for the epoxy to fully cure before block-sanding. Filler was applied to even out any low spots on the body, then the T/A received three coats of PPG K38 High Build Primer Surfacer followed by block-sanding and wet-sanding. He sprayed two more coats of K38 and rolled the body out into the Florida sun daily for four weeks before painting.

Then he wet-sanded using sucessive grits up to 600. He washed the T/A with soap and water and allowed it to thoroughly dry. For final preparation before paint, he sprayed one wet coat of PPG K93 Tintable Primer Surfacer/Sealer. Paint consisted of three coats of PPG Deltron (DBC) 2000 Basecoat in Cameo White followed by three coats of PPG DCU 2002 Concept Urethane Clear. Wet-sanding followed with 800- and 1,000-grit, then two more coats of clear. Final wet-sanding and polishing followed.

Interior
Kevin purchased interior parts from National Parts Depot (NPD), including a headliner, seat covers, door panels, steering wheel, carpet, and trim pieces. He sent the dash, lower door panels, console, and console lid to Just Dashes for restoration. The original gauges were cleaned, and the complete interior was installed by Florida Pontiac.

Conclusion
According to Paul, "The Trans Am looks as good, if not better than, the day I bought it from the dealer in 1971." Paul and Kevin have shown the T/A at three shows: NPD Oktoberfest, BOPC Car Show, and Widetrack Warriors All-Pontiac Show, and it has won First Place in all three. "One of my goals is to show the Trans Am at the Trans Am Nationals and see how it rates against the big guys," Kevin said. "But more importantly, I just like watching my dad drive the Trans Am to the shows we go to. To me, it's like watching him in 1971 behind the wheel of his brand new Trans Am. It's a great feeling."

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