The Can Am package may have been short-lived, but it made a very big impact in the collect
The visual flash of the Pontiac Can Am isn't to be challenged by any other A-body car to roll into GM showrooms during the late '70s. They are unique, classy, and clean. Pete Rust must agree with this because he owns two of them. While limited to an estimated 1,377 total units, there is a very strong following for them. With the help of his two sons Dave and Mike, the Rust family was able to resurrect this once-dilapidated Can Am into one of the cleanest show-winning A-bodies on the road.
How It Began
Pete is a 72-year-old plant superintendant in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania. Back in 1979 he was living in Pittsburgh, which is where he stumbled upon this '77 Can Am. "I really liked the body style and looks when I first saw it," he says. The owner was being forced to sell the car for personal reasons. Pete, knowing the car's significance, decided to snatch it up for a fair price.
The brainchild of Jim Wangers, the Can Am was a particularly rare car. Included with your price of admission to the Can Am Package was an assortment of standard equipment. Most notably was the venerable 200-horse T/A 6.6L Pontiac 400 with a Q-jet four-barrel. It commands attention with the sealed Shaker scoop adorned with T/A 6.6 callouts. Power is sent to the body-color Rally II wheels through a Turbo 400 automatic transmission mated to a 3.08-geared rear. The front brakes are power-assist discs, and the steering is a variable-ratio power unit.
Here is where the project started. The rear quarters had to be completely cut out because
Most Can Ams were sold in Cameo White with special tri-color striping, callouts, and reardeck spoiler. Inside, the driver could see what was trailing behind through the twin sport mirrors, and was able to see all the Pontiac's vitals thanks to the Rally gauge cluster in the Grand Prix-sourced instrument panel.
To make sure these limited-edition cars held the road, all Can Ams were equipped with the Rally RTS handling package, which consisted of specific springs, shocks, and bushings, and heavy-duty front and rear sway bars, all designed to work in concert with radial tires.
In addition to the already feature-filled A-body package, Pete's came with some extra options checked off. These included the Safe-T-Track Differential (G80), Custom Air Conditioning (C60), Front Seat Console (D55), Custom Sport Steering Wheel (N31), Tilt Steering Wheel (N33), and Lamp Group (Y92).
Pete sits proudly behind the wheel of his Can Am.
His Can Am soon took the role of daily driver, transporting Pete across town. Eventually the transmission died. "Once the transmission broke, I let the car sit for at least 10 years," he admits. It was taken to his sister's garage, where it lay dormant.
During this dark time of the Can Am's life, Pete and his sons, Dave and Mike, collected a jubilee of parts for it, so they could restore it back to its original glory one day. It was also around this time that Pete stumbled upon another Can Am for sale. This one had a Firethorn Red interior and didn't need very much work to make it show worthy. The team quickly fixed that one up and began parading it around.
The second Can Am took some attention away from the one he already had. By this time, not much had been done to it. Sometime around the mid '80s, the transmission was rebuilt and some small things were performed on the car. "We collected a lot of parts for it because we knew we wanted to fix everything on it," he said.
Inside and out, GM N.O.S. pieces were hunted for before they were taken out of parts pipeline. Parts that he wasn't able to track down were sourced from junkyards, where they found rust-free doors and a trunk lid. They finally had everything they needed to restore the Pontiac.
The striking tri-color striping that adorned the hood and Shaker is carried underneath the
With all of the pieces accounted for, Pete told his sons that he wanted to restore the car and finish it this time. The family moved to Bethel Park, just south of Pittsburgh, in 2000. Once Pete was settled in, the Can Am was disassembled, "bagged and tagged," and Dave began working on its body.
The front fenders and rear quarters were replaced with the pristine N.O.S. parts. "Most of the car had some rust on it, so having fresh panels to install made the task much easier," says Pete. Next to go on were the junkyard doors. They were sanded and smoothed before final prep.
Once Dave was finished with the bodywork, it was sent to Pete's friend John Ganner in Pittsburgh for paint. Two coats of Dupont Epoxy primer were shot onto the bare A-body, followed by block-sanding and Dupont sealer.
"T/A 6.6" signifies that this is a Pontiac engine, and this car wasn't sold in California.
John mixed up a batch of Cameo White Dupont basecoat and then applied four coats of the white tux, followed by clear. After that, it was treated to 1,500-grit and 2,000-grit wet-sanding before being finished with 3M Micro Finishing Compound and Hand Glaze. Once the paint was done, N.OS. bumpers were hung, and Dave applied the stripes and decals.
Can Ams could receive three different interior trim colors: Black (code 19), White (11), and Firethorn (71). Firethorn trim could also be selected with white-vinyl seats (code 97R1). This Can Am was code 19R, meaning it came with black-vinyl bucket seats. "I had a complete new carpet from GM for the Can Am," Pete says. "I sent the car to my friend Jerry Berberich in Pittsburgh to have the seats recovered and the carpet installed." Everything else in the interior was restored using the original parts, down to the dash and center console.
Moving onto the suspension, Pete's son Mike brought in his expertise. Much like the rest of the car, Pete had an entirely N.O.S. suspension from GM ready to replace the tired bushings, springs, and shocks. All around the car, Mike replaced each piece with all-new parts. Pete's Can Am came with the body-color Rally II wheels, which measure 15x7 and now have 225/70R15 BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires mounted to them.
The Grand Prix-sourced dash, which gives the Can Am some of its sporty personality, played
Mike then opened the W72 T/A 400 engine. Inside he found scored bores and an engine in need of a good clean-up. He disassembled it and sent the block off to receive a 0.030-over bore. When the block was back from the machine shop, the larger 4.15-inch forged pistons filled the holes. They're attached to the stock rods and stock 3.75-inch-stroke crank. A stock replacement 274/298-degree duration 0.364-inch-lift hydraulic cam was then slid in, along with the original 1.5:1 rockers, and new lifters, pushrods, and springs. The original Q-jet and intake manifold sit atop the unported 6X heads. Factory exhaust manifolds, pipes, catalytic converter, and a single muffler were reinstalled.
It's hard to say how long the restoration took, but Pete agrees, it was a while. Not very many restorations go into this much detail, and few include many brand-new parts from GM. This car is very special to him because he was able to restore it with both of his sons. They were both there for him over the years as he needed "this and that" done.
"Now I use the car strictly for show," he says. "I have one of my sons drive the other Can Am to most of the shows that we go to, and it was a big honor for me when this one took First Place and the Firethorn took home Second."
What's an even bigger accomplishment is that the first show it ever entered was the Ames Performance Tri-Power Nationals show in 2007, where it took home Best in Show and Editor's Choice. With the amount of time and attention Pete and his sons put into this build, it deserves all the credit it has received and will garner in the future.
Pete takes his Can Am on the occasional cruise, but thoroughly loves taking his two Can Am
These are the Rally gauges and wood grain dash-standard equipment on the Can Am. Notice th
Here's a look at the AM/FM radio.
Very few Can Ams had this glovebox decal. The surface was textured and not conducive to ad
Out back, Pete and Dave removed the tarnished bumpers and taillight bezels. They found a r
With the interior removed from the Can Am, the edges were taped off and Dave smoothed the
Prior to the hood's and fenders' reinstallation, the attention to detail can clearly be se
After every panel was smoothed, and the replacement fenders and quarters were hung, the Ca
The Rally II wheels were standard and painted body color. Buyers could check off code YJ8