Here Ray Baumgardner is shown piloting the Formula 455.
Retirement. It's supposed to begin with a farewell party and a gold watch, and then ease into weekday fishing trips, hovering over the shoulder of every repairman that comes to your house, spoiling the grandkids, driving 10 mph under the speed limit, and bragging about how fast the Pontiacs were that you used to own. Not so for Dave Bertram. He decided upon his retirement in 2006 that the streets of Scottsdale, Arizona, just wouldn't be exciting enough unless he was behind the wheel of a '72 Formula in Sundance Orange, replete with a 455 H.O., a manual trans, and a 3.42 rear.
Why would the then-63-year-old pharmacist want a hot Bird with a stick trans when most of the "Geritol Generation" would have sold off a Pontiac like that 20 or more years before? The seed for speed was planted in 1960 when Dave's brother Jerry purchased a black '58 Chieftain with a fuel-injected 370 that ran 14.3s at the local dragstrip. By 1962, Dave was 19 and driving his first Pontiac, a '58 Bonneville two-door hardtop.
The original WM-code 300hp 455 H.O. engine has been returned to the engine bay after metic
Over the years his passion for Pontiacs bloomed. In 1979 Dave bought a '76 455/four-speed Trans Am and proceeded to beat up on the local Camaros. His current crop of street-stompers includes a '58 Tri-Power Bonneville convertible, a '58 Tri-Power Bonneville hardtop factory three-speed stick, and a '66 Tri-Power four-speed Goat. See a trend developing here?
While most of our feature stories tell of the exhaustive search the owner endured to find just the right Pontiac, Dave's was right under his nose. His good friend Mike Baumgardner had owned it since 1994. Though the 1-of-276 455 H.O. Formula was rough, Dave realized its potential-and it was for sale. "At first glance, I admit I had to look past the Formula's condition-faded black paint, parts in boxes, missing parts, and the engine being out of the car," he recalls. "What I saw was the finished product-a superfast, rare Formula just waiting for a complete overhaul."
Not only did he buy it, but he enlisted Mike and his son, Ray, to restore it at their then-new shop, R&M Classic Auto Werks in Phoenix.
Code 601 Ram Air circa '72. It was mandatory with the 455 H.O.
Originally purchased from Everett Frizzell Pontiac in Austin, Texas, the Formula remained a Southwest car but was certainly still in need of TLC. Beginning in 2006, a body-off restoration ensued, and in the process, the rare Bird was returned to its factory color, Sundance Orange. Ray explains: "The Formula was rust-free to begin with so we media-blasted it, and repaired the door dings and smoothed the sheetmetal. We really concentrated on fitting the panels for better-than-factory gaps and alignment; considerable effort was put into getting the fiberglass Ram-Air hood to fit the way it should."
Once the shell was ready, Sherwin Williams P30 primer was applied three times and block-sanded. A coat of P30 sealer was then followed by three coats of Ultra 7000 Sherwin Williams urethane basecoat. Next came three coats of clear. Wetsanding with 1,000-, 1,500-, and 2,500-grit paper smoothed the surface, and 3M products were employed to bring out the shine.
Satisfied with the factory-designed code-332 Handling Package and code-501 Variable-Ratio Power Steering, the suspension and the code-502 Power Disc Brake system were rebuilt with stock-type replacement parts. The only deviations are modern Napa gas shocks and urethane bushings in the rear spring eyes to augment the stock springs and factory-issued 1.25-inch front and 0.875-inch rear swaybars. Optional 15x7 Rally wheels now sport wide 255/60R15 BFGs.