The rare combination of Admiralty Blue and Red interior has a lot of visual impact as Ron
As the cliche goes, "Good things come to those who wait." Back in the '90s, Ron Rushing was waiting to buy a Second-Gen Firebird. After meeting the love of his life, Beth, graduating from Georgia Tech with a master's degree in computer engineering, getting married, and landing an excellent job, Ron was living on cloud nine. The year was 1992, and the place was Augusta, Georgia. "I discussed with my wife my life-long-desire to own a mid-'70s Trans Am and she supported me 100 percent," he recalls.
His search began through local classified ads. "I spotted a '74 455 T/A for sale and the asking price was only $800." Pontiac only built 4,648 250hp L75 455 D-Port T/As for '74, and all were paired with the Turbo 400 trans.
Ron and Beth took a short trip across town to take a look at it; both were surprised. It was in terrible shape-and Ron absolutely had to have it. Beth wasn't so hot on the idea and thought that it was a disaster. "She was right, but I couldn't leave without the car," he laments. "I offered the seller $750 and then actually drove the T/A home as it blew oil out of the exhaust and had barely enough brakes to stop."
Planning The Restoration
Once the Nixon-era F-body was home, Ron began devising a plan to restore it. "I realized there were certain parts of the car that I couldn't do and would need professional help on," he says. "Everything else I would do myself." His first task was to strip the car down to bare metal and see how much bodywork was needed. Using razor blades, strippers, sanders, and various other equipment, he finished the task. He learned that the doors, fenders, trunk lid, and rear quarters were full of Bondo and the roof was rusted.
With a list of goals established for the T/A, Ron ordered documentation from Pontiac Historic Services and catalogs to help him find the parts he needed. It turned out that his new Trans Am was ordered from Foster Pontiac in Memphis, Tennessee, and wore code-E Admiralty Blue paint with code-901 Custom Red interior. Yes, blue with red interior-not a common pairing by any means-definitely a factory freak.
A red interior in a dark blue Pontiac? Yup, code 901 deluxe interior is the original hue f
The wheels are original to the car, and have modern Firestone radials in place of the GR70
The screaming chicken jumps out from the long hood. While most of the trim is original to
Excited to restore it back to this rare combination, Ron determined what parts he would need. The poor condition of his T/A came back to bite him, as he calculated the cost. "I was discouraged at how expensive it was turning out to be," he says. "So I decided to limit myself to purchasing a few items a month to help control the cost of the project." He couldn't rush the project if he wanted to at this point.
He ordered parts from Ames, YearOne, Classic Industries, Performance Years, and eBay. This went on for years, and the parts were beginning to pile up. Ron moved the red-gutted Bird and his family to Windermere, Florida, and found a shop to complete the bodywork.
A big boost in motivation came when Ron was scouring a Car Store salvage yard in Clermont, Florida. "I came across another '74 Firebird that was pretty banged up," he says. It had been in an intense wreck that destroyed the front end, but left the roof and rear quarters in perfect condition. Ron had the car cut at the window posts back and trailered the chunk home.
Ron Digs In
Fred Nicholas of Harper's Paint and Body in Orlando, was chosen to put together Frankenstein's monster. The roof panel and quarter-panels of the wrecked Firebird were cut off and welded in place at the seams on the T/A, as if it was done on the assembly line. A new trunk lid, front fenders, passenger door, and driver-side door skin were installed, and Fred began to body work the remainder of the shell.
Two coats of PPG DP50 primer were laid down and block-sanded until the body was straight. It was sealed with Sikkens sealer, and three coats of PPG Deltron Urethane in Admiralty Blue were applied. A progression of 1,500- and 2,000-grit paper was used to wet-sand the finish before it was finally polished off with Farecla G3 compound and G10 polish. Ron ordered restoration decals from Stencils and Stripes Unlimited in the original blue and dark blue hues. All of the exterior metal trim pieces are original.
Once the outside was taken care of, Fred turned his attention inward. Everything had to go with the exception of the dash, console, and seatbelts. Just Dashes restored the console and dash back to like-new condition, and Ssnake-Oyl restored the seatbelts. Then the seat covers, front seat foam, carpet, headliner, trim, door panels, and some gauges were ordered from Classic Industries. With the fresh parts installed, the interior was screaming red!
Underneath, the control arms and sway bars are stock, and the springs, shocks, and all the wear items were replaced with reproduction parts. With the debut of Radial Tuned Suspension for '74, spring rates, shock valving, and bushing firmness were dialed in to work with radial tires.
Another change was the rear swaybar diameter. While the front remained at 1.25 inches, the rear was reduced from 0.875 for '73 to 0.812 inch. The original 15x7 Rally II wheels now wear 225/70R15 Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 tires. Behind the wheels sit rebuilt 11-inch power front disc brakes and 9.5-inch rear drums.
With the rest of the car completed, the 455 engine was sent off to Fleet Star and Central Florida Machine and Speed in Winter Garden. There, the all-original engine was torn down for a rebuild. The block was bored 0.030 over to 4.180 inches and filled with flat-top forged TRW/Speed Pro pistons. The 140,000-mile mill received new bearings; a high-volume oil pump; refurbished, original 6.625-inch cast connecting rods; and a 4.210-inch stroke nodular-iron crankshaft. The cam is an "067" replacement with 273/289-degrees duration and 0.410/0.414 lift that bumps 2.11/1.66 valves in 4X heads via pushrods and 1.50:1 rockers. The original #7044262 Q-jet was rebuilt to stock and bolted to the factory #495106 cast-iron intake, and the ignition was upgraded to HEI. Factory log manifolds dump into a 2.5-inch exhaust system with twin GM replacement mufflers.
Both the rearend and code-PZ Turbo-400 transmission are original to the car. The Safe-T-Track rear came with 3.08 gears (code GYG) since the T/A has A/C, but it now has a set of 3.73 gears, and the transmission was rebuilt with a shift kit.
Believe it or not, the roof and rear quarters were transplanted from a wrecked '74 Ron
Fleet Star and Central Florida Machine and Speed did an excellent job of bringing the 455
Just Dashes revived the console and dash to like-new condition. Nearly every part of the i
In this case, a very good thing came to Ron after he waited and worked 17 years to get it. His T/A was completed in mid-2009. "I have to thank my wife because she was my support system throughout the project," Ron, now 47, says. Rebuilding a car from such a poor state can be very frustrating, but he couldn't be happier with the way it came out. He enjoys driving it on dates with his wife and to church. He also has taken it out with his 16-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter.
Ron saved this T/A from being destroyed, and slowly and methodically built it into an eye-popping, yet easily drivable Pontiac. Ron's '74 455 T/A with its funky color combo now has a new life-it just took a while.