There may not be any other Pontiac engine that harbors as much mystique as the Super-Duty 455. Introduced in ’73 as a maximum-performance effort capable of sustained 6,000-rpm operation, it was hampered by production regulations, but possessed a seemingly-infinite amount of power potential for those looking to extract it. It created significant buzz within the industry, and several magazines were praising its virtues for months before its actual release.
Upon purchasing his ’73 Trans Am, Michael Scicluna sent to PHS Automotive Services to obta
Delayed because of emission concerns and component procurement issues, its June ’73 debut was well-timed, perhaps coincidentally, with three exciting magazine articles showcasing the astounding performance of a Buccaneer Red ’73 Trans Am fitted with the new SD-455 engine. Hot Rod magazine’s June ’73 issue contained a two-part story that’s likely the most memorable to Firebird enthusiasts (part one is reprinted on the preceding pages). In stock trim, the Super-Duty Trans Am turned a quarter-mile best of 13.54 at 104.29 mph, setting the bar for perceived showroom-stock SD-455 performance. With some basic modifications and improved traction, it was reduced to 13.15 at nearly 107 mph.
Arguably the first production Super-Duty T/A ever built, the Firebird seemingly disappeared into obscurity once the magazine tests were complete. Nearly a decade passed before a teaser of its whereabouts surfaced. Now, after another 30 years, the very Firebird that fueled so many enthusiasts’ dreams may have recently surfaced, and it’s half-a-world away! Here’s the scoop.
The April ’83 issue of Car Exchange magazine gave the first clue of the SD T/A post-test existence. In response to an article about another SD T/A, reader Bill Eager wrote the magazine claiming to own the former test car. According to his letter, it was purchased by a Pontiac engineer following the magazine tests; Bill then bought it a couple of years later and remarked how well its SD-455 performed. Upon removing the intake manifold for a cosmetic repair, he found the SD-455 heads were professionally gasket-matched and suggested that Pontiac sent a “ringer” to the magazines.
HPP made a number of attempts to reach Bill over the years, but all proved futile. It wasn’t until recently that we learned of his passing several years ago. We were seemingly left with no way of substantiating Bill’s claim of it being a factory-prepped car or the timeframe he owned it. We half-heartedly accepted that this Super-Duty Trans Am may live on in memory only.
Buying A ’73 Trans Am
Michael Scicluna of Sydney, Australia, has been into American performance cars since he was a kid. “My father, Lorry, presently owns a ’79 Trans Am,” the 32-year-old Mariner tells HPP. “I have lived and breathed Pontiacs my entire life, and really love early Second-Gen Trans Ams.”
The Shaker’s original 455 decals have been replaced with those from an earlier 455 H.O. It
A Buccaneer Red ’73 Trans Am caught Michael’s eye at a Pontiac club picnic, and owning one like it became an obsession. “My goal was to find one that I could restore slowly,” he says. “I began searching several Internet sites for one in my price range. In June 2012, I saw a ’73 Trans Am for sale on eBay nearby.”
By its VIN, which contained a Y as the fifth character, the Trans Am seemed nothing more than a typical D-port 455, but the seller was quick to point out that its engine wasn’t original and he seemed honest about its condition.
Michael contacted the seller and they spoke for about 20 minutes. Following his gut instinct, he made an offer that was accepted. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later when it was delivered that he could check over the Trans Am closely for the very first time. Fortunately, it was exactly as the seller described; beyond general use, it was rather complete.