How were the 301 Turbo Bandit T/As modified?
There wasn't a whole lot you could do with them because, they weren't built for power. We supertuned the 301, changed the wastegate, dialed in more boost, added the five-speed along with the rest of the appearance package, and installed the Ford converters. What was done to the suspension on the Bandits?We changed the front springs, and possibly the rear springs, and bolted in adjustable shocks. Polyurethane bushings were installed, and the older style, thick radiator braces were bolted in under the hood (#24 did not have the latter).
Why were there no Firebirds on the exterior?
We wanted the Bandit graphics to be the most visible since we were the only ones allowed to use the exact scripts, and we didn't want to have too much stuff on the car to compete with them. Decals were used on the fenders and rear spoiler (they were painted on #24, according to Neil), but the "Bandit" logo was glass-etched into the windshield.
We put the major mods under the hood, under the rockers, and in the passenger compartment to let the performance speak for itself instead of making the outside look tacky.
Explain The Numbering System.
We let the customer choose the number he wanted when we built the car. The '82 and newer Bandits had numbered map pockets with Burt Reynolds signature but the Second-Gen cars were just numbered on the outside.
Tell us about the first Bandit you built.
The first one was actually Bandit #7, which was used as the magazine test car. (Later, #1 was built for my partner, Rob.) It had everything that we offered: the 455, Recaros, radar detector, suspension mods etc. Motor Trend did the first story and the business took off.
From article to article it appears that #7 changes transmissions.
We switched the five-speed for the automatic for some articles. We were changing that car all the time.
Why was the first car #7?
We were young guys just being silly. Possibly we thought we could make a better impression and look more credible with #7, because it looked like we had already built six other cars.
Besides the magazines, was there any other press coverage on the Bandit?
We were also on local TV from Philadelphia once. The crew had us block off Route 38 and we did a smoky burnout for a live broadcast. That was a lot of fun.
You also traveled with Pontiac?
We traveled a lot with Pontiac as part of the "Trans Am Territory" display, when the Division used to bring the big motorhome and set up at events. We got to do all sorts of cool stuff like drive Richard Petty's racecar around Darlington after a sausage and biscuits breakfast.
When new cars came out, Pontiac would do a drive-away for the motor press. At Darlington on the back straight, the Division spelled out "USA" with red, white, and blue T/As one year.
Do you remember anything specific about Bandit #24?
Yes, this T/A was actually ordered during a whirlwind sales trip. A friend and I left Blackwood, NJ and drove to Circleville, Ohio; Sioux City, Iowa; Independence, Mississippi; Huntsville, Alabama; and back to Blackwood, New Jersey. We were gone for about a week and kept track of actual driving time. All totaled, it was 36 hours for 3,600 miles, which averages to 100 mph.
Our stop in Sioux City was to meet Carter Dennis and he ordered the Bandit during that trip. His was one of the few that didn't have the Recaro seats and Blaupunkt stereo.
How many Bandits were made in each year?
We didn't keep any production records, and since the customer could pick his own car number, looking at the cars won't help either. My best guess is that in 1981 we built between 30 and 40 455 cars of the proposed 200. The first two or three were actually '80 models. Most were black and had the whole package; there was a mix of automatics and five-speeds. We did a couple of blue cars and a couple white, and we did two 301 Turbo Nascar Edition T/As. We didn't build any normally-aspirated 301 Bandits despite the fact that they were offered in our brochures. From 1982 forward, I'd guess we built between 100 and 200 Bandit cars on the Third-Gen platform.
Was there any deal through Pontiac to build these cars?
With the '81, Pontiac would drop ship directly to a local dealer and then the dealer would send them to Cherry Hill. Most dealers bought them for stock. Just about all the special orders from customers came directly to us. There was no Pontiac regular production option (RPO) for the Bandit. We offered our own 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty.
When and why did Trans Am Specialties close?
The short story is that I sold my interest in the business and around 1985 it closed.
Are you considering getting back into the Tuner business?
I'm actually debating that right now. Most likely I would do the Second-Gens. I like the '77-'78 style the best from an appearance standpoint. They were knockout cars. Who knows, maybe this article will be the impetus to start again.
If you do, we would like to be the first to test one.There's some more motivation...