A correct restoration for any points-judged Pontiac includes replicating the original component and fastener finishes, and assembly-line characteristics. The best way to determine what’s correct from what isn’t is by documenting original, unmodified vehicles. What’s found can, however, vary as the finishes and processes often differ from plant to plant during any given year, but it can even differ in a day-to-day setting at the same plant.
Say, for instance, a plant runs out of specified fender bolts on a particular day. Similar-spec fasteners are then sourced from a secondary supplier to prevent production delays. The head markings may be different, and possibly the finish too. If your Pontiac happened to be assembled during that period, it might contain fasteners and/or finishes that go against the accepted norm, but reusing them and/or replicating the original finishes would absolutely be correct during your particular restoration.
The Norwood, Ohio, assembly plant continually churned out Second-Gen Pontiac Firebirds and Chevrolet Camaros during the 12-year production run and a similar build process was used throughout that period. The Van Nuys, California plant supplemented production during the ’70-’71 and ’78-’81 model years only, and the assembly techniques and finishes used at that plant sometimes vary from those practiced at Norwood.
This ’74 Trans Am wears most...
This ’74 Trans Am wears most of its originally applied code-29 Admiralty Blue exterior finish. A ding was removed from the driver’s door early on, and the wheel flares and nose pieces were repainted several years ago. While Firestone radials may have been the most commonly used Trans Am tire in ’74, the GR70-15 Goodyear Steelgard was also used. These tires are original to the car and Pontiac supplied the original owner with tire warranty information, which still remains with it.
This ’74 Trans Am is one of the 73,729 Firebirds produced at the Norwood plant that model year. Equipped with the highly desirable Super-Duty 455 engine, the original owner drove it sparingly in the years he owned it, putting little more than 15,000 miles on its odometer. It very rarely, if ever, saw any inclement weather in that time. Aware of its uniqueness, he saved each piece of paperwork associated with its build, and a packet full of documentation accompanied it when Firebird collector Steve Schappaugh became its second owner in the mid-’80s.
Schappaugh did little more than preserve its originality in the 20 years he owned it, adding very few miles in the process. It was sold to a third owner in the mid-’00s, who literally did nothing to it while in his ownership. Jim Rotella purchased the Super-Duty Trans Am in 2010 and it presently shows just 17,000 miles on its odometer. It’s a well-preserved example that’s completely original and unmodified in nearly every respect.
The nose-mounted Firebird...
The nose-mounted Firebird emblem was common to all ’74-’76 Firebirds. Consisting of a plated metal frame, color-filled details, and a clear plastic cover, originals often sun-faded and/or deteriorated in the elements. New units from GM were available well into the ’00s and excellent reproductions are now offered. Neither is exactly like what’s found on this particular Trans Am, however. The Firebird’s wings and tail are connected by the metal backing. It’s a characteristic omitted in subsequent years.
The fact that it’s equipped with the rare Super-Duty 455 engine is likely the reason it’s so well preserved today. However, don’t let that mislead you into believing that it was assembled any differently than other ’74 Trans Ams! The SD-455 was a regular production option on ’73-’74 Firebirds and such examples were built alongside other F-bodies on any given day.
This particular Trans Am was assembled on January 11, 1974, and likely possesses the same production characteristics as the ’74 Firebirds built immediately before and after it, and quite possibly most other Norwood-built Firebirds of the era. It retains nearly all of its original Admiralty Blue exterior finish, and beyond minor engine-block touchup, its underhood and underbody finishes are totally original. So original, in fact, according to Schappaugh, it scored 396 points out of 400 possible at a past POCI National Convention.
Beginning in 1973, the original...
Beginning in 1973, the original Trans Am decals found on the front fenders and rear spoiler consisted of screen-printed graphics on a clear laminate backing, which lends to a “billboard” look. A clear backing was also used on the 400 and 455 Shaker callouts in certain years. Individual stencil-cut graphics appeared in ’76, and most modern Second-Gen reproductions licensed by GM use individual stencil-cut letters. One-piece decals are correct for Trans Ams of such vintage, but originals or correct reproductions can be very difficult to locate.
Any Pontiac that’s so well preserved is an invaluable resource to document correct finishes and assembly procedures for restorers and enthusiasts. We spent several hours poring over and under the Trans Am, photographing many original characteristics and are excited to share some of them with you. While it’s impractical to cover every minute detail, especially those without some type of disassembly, we hope to provide some of those that are often overlooked or questioned during restorations. This installment of our two-part story details the exterior and underhood. Next month’s will detail the interior and suspension. So stay tuned!
Any Pontiac that’s so well preserved is an invaluable resource to document correct finishes and assembly procedures for restorers and enthusiasts
The mesh screen in the fender-mounted...
The mesh screen in the fender-mounted air extractor was painted semi-gloss black through midyear ’75. The lack of overspray and any masking lines suggests that the screen and extractor were painted separately and that the screen was glued into place after finishing.
Traces of body color on the...
Traces of body color on the door-latch mechanism and a thorough coating on the screws indicates that the latch assembly was installed onto the door before the exterior finish was applied.
The outer housing of the hood...
The outer housing of the hood latch features a black (or dark gray) phosphate coating. (The camera flash makes it look lighter here.) The internal latch-arm mechanism is cadmium plated. Note the varying manufacturer markings on the fastener heads.