SCCA chief steward of Trans-Am series racing ordered this ’72 Trans Am new. With the help
Any vintage Pontiac with less than 6,000 miles on its odometer is sure to create enthusiast buzz. Now imagine if that Pontiac is a ’72 Trans Am. Now add a one-off Cardinal Red exterior finish and original delivery to an SCCA Chief Steward. Oh yeah, and a column-shift automatic.
By now you probably think we’re conjuring up a fable just to lead you on, but there is such a Firebird and only a few pictures of it existed.
The details of its connection to the SCCA have been rather vague. The assumed story suggests that Pontiac gifted a ’72 Trans Am to the SCCA president and requested he drive it to SCCA events. Since the Trans Am was only available in Lucerne Blue or Cameo White that year, he refused the gift, saying he only drove red cars. Pontiac then produced a one-off Trans Am. The president drove it briefly before giving it to his vice president, who placed it in a private collection for several more years.
Never has anyone with firsthand knowledge been able to substantiate the Firebird’s relationship with the SCCA. Other than a brief stay at Volo Auto Museum, the Trans Am has largely remained out of the public eye.
At the time of our photo shoot, the odometer showed just 5,977 miles. After a quick once-o
Well, that is, until now. HPP has found this very Trans Am and has even spoken with the original owner, who purchased it new. Follow along as we share the exact details of its existence for the very first time.
Sport Car Club of America (SCCA) is a popular racing organization that hosts events throughout the country. During the late ’60s, Jim Kaser, director of professional racing, and the SCCA staff created a nationwide road-racing series for “ponycars,” with an established maximum engine displacement of 5.0 liters. It was called “Trans-Am.” Kaser then appointed fellow SCCA racer Berdie Martin as Series Chief Steward of Trans-Am in 1970 to oversee all operations. But let’s step back.
Well before accepting his new position within the SCCA, Berdie was familiar with Pontiacs. “I purchased a few over the years and always thought of it as a performance automaker,” says Berdie, now 82 years old. “Pontiac decided to build a high-performance Firebird bearing the Trans-Am name. SCCA had it trademarked, however, and Pontiac agreed to pay a royalty of $5 per car to use the Trans Am name.”
Berdie lived in the Chicago, Illinois, area and his first glimpse of the new ’69 Firebird Trans Am came at that year’s Chicago Auto Show. “I really liked the idea and thought it was a great-looking car. I recall being perturbed to find its standard 400 engine (6.6 liter) didn’t fit the SCCA regulations of the Trans-Am racing series. It couldn’t even compete in a race it took its name from!”
Along with many individual racers, the Trans-Am series included a number of factory-backed teams, and the Terry Godsall team had a connection with Pontiac engineer Herb Adams. Its driver, Jerry Titus, won four of twelve races driving a Mustang in 1967 to help bring Ford the Trans-Am series manufacturer’s championship. He joined Godsall, forming the Titus/Godsall team, to drive Pontiacs in late 1968 and drove Trans Ams into the ’70 season, when he was fatally injured and the Pontiac team dissolved.
By now Berdie had been promoted to chief steward, and as head of the Trans-Am series, he made it a point not to personally drive any model that competed in Trans-Am. “I didn’t want to show favoritism toward any make or model,” says Berdie. “When Jerry Titus died, there wasn’t a Firebird Trans Am running in the series any longer. I really liked the look of the new body style, so I didn’t foresee any issue if I purchased one for my own use.”
Making It Happen
This Trans Am drives like new, but don’t expect to see it on the street any time soon. It’
Though Pontiac wasn’t linked to the SCCA any longer, Herb Adams still attended some events and even competed on his own dime. “I saw Herb at an event in 1971 and told him that I was interested in a new Trans Am. I was fussy about exterior color and liked red cars. When I told him that I didn’t want a blue or white one, he suggested a Formula instead. He explained that I could get it with the same performance equipment as the Trans Am and in the color I wanted, and that it would be cheaper too. Because of my position with the Trans-Am series, I told him I’d rather have a Trans Am.”
“I didn’t have the authority to get a special-color Trans Am produced,” Herb recalls. “Berdie knew guys like Pontiac Chief Engineer Steve Malone and his assistant Bill Collins, and they had the clout to get a special car built.” After Herb laid the groundwork, Berdie finalized the purchase of the red Trans Am with Malone, who authorized the approval to build it. Berdie’s special ’72 Trans Am would soon be born.
Berdie went through the list of optional equipment and gave Malone a list of what he wanted for his Trans Am. “Since I was purchasing the car on my own, I was told it needed to be delivered through a Pontiac dealership. I had purchased several Pontiacs at Grossinger Motor Sales in Chicago, so that’s where I elected to accept delivery of it and negotiate its price.” he adds.
The Trans Am’s YB-code 455 H.O. is completely original and unmodified. Net rated at 300 hp
The Firebird was produced in the first week of November at the Norwood, Ohio, assembly plant. Most likely due to one-off production processes, it wasn’t shipped from the plant until November 17, 1971. “It arrived at the dealership in late November 1971,” recalls Berdie. “When I went to take delivery of it, I thought it was absolutely beautiful. I loved the color and all the stripes and scoops. It was good-looking and powerful. I was very happy to own it.”
Berdie drove the Trans Am to a few different Trans-Am events. “I added hoodpins to keep the hood from lifting off so I could use it as a pace car. I paced the field with it on Road America at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and a couple of other races. That’s when I found out the Honeycomb wheels weren’t cast aluminum. I got the brakes too hot one time and found the rubber coating had melted when I got back to the pits!”
Beyond the trips to Trans-Am series events and a few miles for personal leisure, Berdie really didn’t drive his red Firebird that often. “My wife and I each had daily drivers, and the Trans Am was more of weekend car to take to SCCA events. It was always an attention-getter wherever I took it, though. I recall that while at an SCCA event, Herb Adams spent some time under the hood tuning its engine to ensure it was running its best. It definitely ran better after that,” he remarks.
A floor-shifted, four-speed manual transmission was standard equipment for ’72. The Turbo
In 1974, Berdie moved to head the SCCA’s Can-Am series and he appointed good friend and fellow racer Bob Anderson as Series chief steward of Trans-Am. “Bob had always been into high-performance Pontiacs, and had even worked at Grossinger Motor Sales for a while just before that. He always liked my Trans Am and kept asking to buy it from me. I figured that it might better serve him in his new position as Trans-Am Series chief steward, and decided to sell it to him in 1978.”
With only a few thousand miles on its odometer, Bob kept the Trans Am just as it was when Berdie sold it to him. “I know he removed the hoodpins and repainted those portions of the hood, but I can’t recall him ever doing anything else to it.”
After several years of ownership, it seems Bob sold the T/A to an unnamed individual, who then placed it on consignment at Volo Auto Museum in Chicago in 2002.
The black interior is completely original and unmodified. The Custom Trim Group ($79) incl
Leawood, Kansas-resident Doug Hunt has had an obsession with Second-Gen Firebirds since his first brush with them in the mid ’70s. “My friend David Carroll took me for a ride in his ’73 Super-Duty Trans Am. I was at a very impressionable age. That car left an unforgettable memory that’s still with me to this day,” recalls the 51-year-old CPA.
Doug’s first new car purchase was a ’79 Trans Am. “It was black on black with silver accents, a 403 Olds engine, automatic transmission, and WS6 suspension. I tried ordering the Pontiac 400 engine and a four-speed manual, but got a call a few weeks later that it wasn’t available.” The bug for an early Second-Gen led Doug to purchase a ’70 Trans Am, and then in the early ’90s, a ’71 Trans Am, which he restored and still owns.
“I was browsing the web, searching for a ’71 or ’72 Trans Am equipped with a four-speed and air conditioning. I happened across the Cardinal Red ’72 Trans Am on Volo’s website. While it wasn’t at all what I was looking for, the combination of a true low-mile survivor in a one-off factory color was just too interesting to pass up. Volo sent me pictures and a short video of the car for evaluation purposes. I negotiated the deal with them and bought it in July 2002.”
Trans Am-specific components like the plastic wheel flares and front spoiler were molded i
Upon taking delivery, Doug says, “It was exactly what was represented and I expected. It isn’t perfect, but it’s in outstanding condition for a 40-year-old vehicle that’s unrestored. I didn’t have to do much to it beyond routine maintenance, but I did replace the battery and battery cables, and had the carburetor rebuilt by Cliff Ruggles to correct a hesitation issue.
Although Doug rarely drives his Trans Am, he has put a couple hundred miles on it in the years he’s owned it. He remarks, “It’s as close to new as it gets for a 40-year-old car. It runs very well after repairing the carburetor. The most noticeable aspect about this Trans Am is that it still has its original Polyglas tires. That truly makes you appreciate the difference radial tires have on handling and suspension.”
When asked what he likes best about his Trans Am, Doug replies, “It’s clear this car is a very rare piece of Pontiac history due to the one-off color, extremely low mileage, and lineage that got it built. Recognizing that, I consider myself the current custodian of the car. I haven’t done anything major it to and don’t plan to.”
With a 1.25-inch-diameter front sway bar, high-rate coilsprings, high-rate multi-leaf axle
Upon hearing that his Cardinal Red Trans Am was still in existence and that it remains in excellent original condition, Berdie says, “I feel it’s proof that this Trans Am has very special meaning and Pontiac collectability. I am happy to hear that it’s still around after all these years, and very proud to know it’s still in its original condition. It sounds like it made it into the right hands for the future.”