Ron Schultz may be 53 years old now, but his fondest memories of this W72 400 ’78 T/A reach back to when he was just 18. Why? Because he bought it new from Kole Pontiac in his hometown of Oak Lawn, Illinois, in December of 1977.
“I paid for it with graduation money, grass-cutting money, and yard work I did for people in the neighborhood,” he remembers. Once he had the T/A, his bi-weekly paycheck from the local McDonalds was earmarked for modifications. He’s made many visual and mechanical mods over the last 35 years, but you may be surprised to learn that its most striking feature—the custom paint—was applied during the Reagan administration!
In the early ’80s, at Ron’s...
In the early ’80s, at Ron’s request, M and M Glass and Trim in Chicago restyled the seats to resemble those from the Camaro Type LT and recovered them in red velour. M and M also installed the chrome Hooker rollbar.
The T/A has been a show car and cruiser for most of its life and spent some time in storage, so it has only accumulated 10,949 miles to date. Don’t let that number fool you into thinking that this Pontiac isn’t used, however. Ron says he cruises in it and attends shows with it just about every weekend in the spring and summer. The trophies have actually caused a space issue in his garage.
“I have won so many of them that I’m now putting them up in the eves so I can still see them,” he told HPP. “My T/A has won at various events from local shows to World of Wheels. It just earned Concours Gold at the POCI Convention in St. Charles, Illinois, in 2012, and 1st place in Heavy Custom at a recent Trans Am Nationals.”
Back when Ron had dual quads...
Back when Ron had dual quads on the T/A, the hood was cut to accommodate them. Once it came out of storage and was being upgraded to return to show and street duty, he wanted to use the Shaker scoop, but it had to be lengthened by 4 inches to fit.
A few years ago the W72 400...
A few years ago the W72 400 grew to 461 cubes thanks to boring and stroking. A hydraulic roller cam, aluminum heads, headers, and upgraded exhaust result in 485 hp and 565 lb-ft of torque on the dyno. Note the custom paintwork extends into the engine compartment as well.
In 1984 Ray Paseka, then of Rainbow Autobody in Bridgeview, Illinois, did the paintwork freehand using custom candies and pearls in whites, yellows, oranges, and reds. They were applied over the factory Mayan Red paint after it was scuffed. Ron proudly notes that there has never been any other bodywork done to his T/A.
Regarding the graphics he recalls, “Though I love the hood bird, I soon wanted something more dramatic. Fantasy art was big back then, and I found the winged woman in a magazine and asked Ray to replicate it. We did the project in three stages. First it was just the hood art and a little black under the side mirrors. Later I had him apply black on sides and, finally, I asked him to incorporate all candies and pearls down the sides.”
After 29 years, the finish still looks pristine. Credit for that goes to Ray for using high-quality materials, Ron for his meticulous care over the years, and to Bill Ritter at Metal Masters Carstar in Chicago Ridge. Ron says, “Bill has matched and touched up some complex areas that no one would ever think possible when they look at my paint, but he always says to me ‘anything can be fixed.’ I believe he’s a genius. He keeps my car in ‘like-new’ condition, along with me polishing it for all these years.”
For improved handling and a more aggressive stance, part of the post- storage modernization program for the T/A was to deliver it to Hypercision in Orland Park, Illinois, where Moog 1-inch lowering coil springs and custom leaf springs were installed to set the desired ride height. Cornering is enhanced with a Hotchkis 1.375-inch, hollow front swaybar and a 0.875-inch rear bar. Polyurethane bushings throughout the suspension reduce deflection. Adding a modern Pro-Touring appearance and more stick are new YearOne 18x9-inch Snowflake billet aluminum wheels with matching caps and gold inserts, and BFG KDW 285/40ZR18 tires.
A Baer brake system features...
A Baer brake system features two-piston calipers and 13-inch, cross-drilled rotors up front with single-piston calipers and 12-inch, cross-drilled rotors in the rear to handle stopping duties and provide eye-pop through the YearOne Snowflakes. The Hurst T-tops are a factory option.
Jeff Chelepis MD (Motor Doctor) at Hypercision bored the original T/A 400 engine to 4.155 inches and stroked it via an Eagle forged 4.25-inch crank to 461 cubes. Eagle forged 6.800-inch rods are pinned to JE forged flat-top pistons wrapped in Speed-Pro rings. A Melling high-volume pump and stock pan comprise the oiling system.
A Comp Cams hydraulic roller with 224/230 degrees duration at 0.050 provides 0.502/0.510 lift, has a 110- degree LSA, and was installed 2-degrees advanced. A set of round-port E-heads feature 2.11/1.66 valves and 87cc chambers. Crane 1.50-ratio aluminum roller rockers, Manley pushrods, and Edelbrock valvesprings with 10-degree retainers and locks make up the valvetrain.
A 750 Holley carb and Edelbrock Performer RPM intake deliver the air and fuel to the cylinders, and an MSD Pro-Billet distributor, 6AL ignition control, coil, and wire set send the spark to Champion Copper Plus plugs. Custom 1.875-inch headers and a full ceramic-coated exhaust with a 2.5-inch H-pipe, Flowmaster 40-series mufflers, and OE-style tailpipes and tips provide a throaty tone.
Since Ron doesn’t take extended highway trips with the T/A, he decided to forgo an overdrive transmission and simply beef up the original Turbo 350. TCI provided the shift kit, flexplate, and 2,800-rpm stall converter. The GM 10-bolt, housing 3.23 gears and Safe-T-Track, remains out back.
Ron says, “With the new upgrades, I feel it handles as nice as any new sports car out there and the acceleration is breathtaking, seemingly even when the car is standing still.”
Ron currently owns a ’77 body-off...
Ron currently owns a ’77 body-off concours-restored Bandit with T-tops, four-speed, and A/C; a ’70 Formula 400 four-speed with Ram Air, A/C, and a Cordova top; a ’94 25th Anniversary T/A hardtop/cassette combo—very rare; and his daily driver, an ’01 Grand Prix GTP. Yet his best memories are of this wildly hued ’78 T/A—his first new car.
The guys at Trans Am Depot...
The guys at Trans Am Depot and Kevin Morgan Designs have graced the T/A with autographs.
The standard Carmine Red interior...
The standard Carmine Red interior has an AM/FM 8-track, power windows, and rear defroster. Ron added the B&M shifter back in the day.
Ron has masterfully blended two car- building themes—Pro-Touring with contemporary suspension, brake, wheel/tire, and engine upgrades, and ’80s fantasy-based custom body art—thus furthering his T/A’s trophy-winning ways. Most importantly he enjoys his Bird as much today as he did in the ’70s.
“Each time I drive it and people give me the thumbs up and shoot photos, it takes me back to when I was 18.” I wonder if the kid in the 1981 photo realized that three decades later, he and his Trans Am would still be cruising the streets of Oak Lawn and cleaning up on the show circuit.
Ron would like to thank his mom, his “Gram,” his great friend Matt, and Bill Ritter for all of their support, and “Punkin’, for putting up with the last 13 years of a hobby gone mad!”
When I saw the T/A in the showroom, I fell in love with it, Ron explains. The screaming eagle was the coolest thing in the world! That summer I had seen Smokey and the Bandit and knew I had to have a Trans Am. I still remember sitting in the drive-in in my 76 Pontiac Formula 350 watching the movie. Its my favorite movie of all time! Heres the T/A in stock form in December 1977.
I live and breathe Pontiacs, says Ron. As well as being a member of the Illinois Chapter of POCI, I also belong to Showcase Classics Motor Club where we do all the local car shows in Chicago20 a season, all professionally judgedso every weekend for us has car shows. Everyone around me calls me Pontiac Ronthats so cool.
Heres Ron and his T/A in 1981. Note the new BFGs in front, sidepipes, rear-window louvers, body pinstriping, and hero board.
The dual quads and tons of underhood chrome characterize 80s and early 90s show-car vogue.