We purchased our LeMans in 1988 after arriving at our new Air Force duty location in Arizona. For $1,000 we bought a straight, rust-free car that was a mechanical mess. We spent the next few years first making it safe, then slightly improving its performance and appearance as time and money allowed.
Jump ahead to 2004 and I was returning from Korea and preparing to retire from the Air Force. During this time, the Pontiac sat idle and neglected. It had been almost a decade since it was painted and detailed, and time had taken its toll. Here in the story is where there will be some knowing smiles and head nods from readers. The initial plan was to simply fix a few things and redetail everything. Right!
Once we started, we found ourselves going more and more in-depth and the "simple" plan turned into a body-off restification.
We disassembled the car, cleaned the frame, and painted it with Eastwood products, and set it aside. I was quickly persuaded to replace the 350 engine with a stroked 400 built by Performance Clinic in Beavercreek, Ohio. The '75 block and 6X heads were filled with Eagle and Crower parts, and then topped with an Edelbrock Performer RPM manifold and an Edelbrock 800-cfm carb. The recurved HEI distributor was reused and total timing was set at 36 degrees. This combination produced 532 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm and 430 hp at 4,800 rpm on the shop's dyno.
Ceramic-coated Ram Air factory exhaust manifolds were installed, and the previously rebuilt Turbo 350 trans was mated to the engine using the original flywheel and a Coan Racing 11-inch converter. The junkyard 12-bolt received a Detroit Locker differential, 3.55 gears, and Richmond axles. I also added an SSBC rear disc conversion kit. The body and frame were reunited and sent to Hall's Collision Center in Louisville for fresh Pepper Green paint and '69 Judge stripes.
Its front suspension was rebuilt and Polygraphite bushings from PST and a Hotchkis 1.25-inch sway bar were installed. The front brakes were upgraded using SSBC slotted rotors and aluminum calipers. The rear suspension also received new bushings, Hotchkis boxed lower control arms, and a Hotchkis rear sway bar. Hotchkis 1-inch lowering springs were used all around, along with Edelbrock shocks. The Rally II wheels maintain a stock appearance, but measure 16x8 rear and 16x7 front.
Tom Cherry Muffler in Muncie, Indiana, finished the exhaust by installing a 2.5-inch Flowmaster system with "X" crossover and 40 series mufflers.
The interior keeps it's near-stock appearance with just the addition of a factory tach; underdash Auto Meter gauges for water, trans temperature, and oil pressure; and a Pontiac vacuum gauge mounted on the console. The seats have been recovered, and vinyl stripes were placed in the seat backs to mimic the Judge stripes.
We finally got the car back on the road in 2009. I can think of 50 things I'd still like to do, but my current standard answer is "Yes, honey, it's done now." The only task left is to fulfill a promise to teach our daughter how to do a burnout!
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