My passion for Pontiacs goes all the way back to 1975. I was living in Beirut, Lebanon, and I received a call from a gentleman an hour's drive from the city, who wanted to sell a Pontiac. I didn't know what model it was, but I talked my dad into going with me to take a look at it.
There, stored high in the mountains of Lebanon, we found a '73 Formula 400 with a four-speed. I spent $5,000 on it, which was a lot of money in those days. I learned how to drive in the Formula, and in the process, fell in love forever with Pontiacs. (In the inset photo, Youssef's dad, Haidar Hachem, is shown with the '73 Formula in 1976.)
I moved to the United States in 1982, but it wasn't until 2000 that I bought my next Pontiac. No coincidence, it was a '73 Formula 400, which I specifically sought to help me rekindle my teenage memories. Though the car was in good condition, I wanted to restore it to how it looked when new in the dealer showroom back in 1973.
I met Rick Deiters, the owner of Trans Am Specialties in Miami, and he restored the car, while Charlie Kabbaby of Warpath Performance, also in Miami, performed the engine rebuild. When my Formula 400 was completed, I was so pleased that I started looking for my next Pontiac project.
That's where this story really begins. I wanted a '73 SD-455 Trans Am but chanced upon a 60,000-mile '74 SD-455 in Cameo White with black interior. The car had sat in a warehouse for 20 years, completely disassembled and stripped to the sheetmetal. From what the owner told me, he had run out of money trying to restore the rare car, which gave me the opportunity to buy it and restore it to concours-gold quality.
Once again, Trans Am Specialties handled the restoration and Warhawk Performance rebuilt the motor. The body-off rotisserie restoration involved chemically stripping and media-blasting the shell, removing and restoring the suspension components using factory replacement rubber bushings, spraying red-oxide primer on the undercarriage (which is similar to what the factory used), and applying PPG basecoat/clearcoat paint. Inside is the original, uncracked dash, but the door panels, headliner, seat covers, and other interior trim were replaced with licensed GM reproduction parts.
The numbers-matching code-Y8 engine was bored 0.035-over and stuffed with the original nodular-iron crank, Eagle 4340-steel H-beam rods (6.625-inch length), and JE/SRP flat-top pistons. Its No. 16 heads were rebuilt to stock specs, and a Comp 224/230-degree-duration-at-0.050 cam directs the valvetrain. The current compression ratio is approximately 9:1. The factory PQ-code Turbo 400 was rebuilt during the restoration and sends power to an original, 3.42-geared rear end.
It took eight long months, but when it was done, I was breathless when I saw the pristine Cameo White paint with the freshly applied blue-and-black Screaming Chicken. It was the happiest I've been in my life.
Every time I drive the car, I remember how special Pontiacs are and what a shame it is that General Motors just doesn't get it. What also makes this SD-455 Trans Am so wonderful is that it gives me a way to spend more time with my sons-the Trans Am is our way to bond.
I would like to thank my wife for putting up with my hobby and all the time and effort I put into the SD-455 Trans Am, and all my children for giving me the time and patience while I've restored the car. Who knows? I may be writing back to you soon about my next restoration. You won't have to guess to know that it will be a Pontiac.
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