When restoring any vehicle, finding reproduction components that share the appearance, quality, and consistency of an OE part can be a daunting task. NOS pieces are the preferred choice for perfectionists, but theyre generally difficult to locate and costly when available. While many modern reproduction parts are close enough for most, sometimes theyre all thats available at a given time and may simply have to do, even for the pickiest owners.
Our 72 Trans Am was restored in the late 80s. A trip to the local GM parts counter procured new Trans Am decals, as well as the Firebird logo on the nose. The center stripes were not available new, however, and in a time before the Internet age, locating NOS originals outside of your local GM parts counter simply wasnt feasible. The seemingly best option was a reproduction stripe set, which was decent, but it wasnt printed on clear film, lacked the clear reveal found on the originals, and the white was much too vibrant. Excited to get the project back on the road, we figured we could replace them someday when more accurate reproductions became available.
Since then a few companies have introduced excellent-quality stripe sets for 70-72 Trans Ams. While those readily available today are very close to the original design, some subtle variances are detectable if comparing them to originals. Its generally not enough to deter use unless maximum originality is of utmost importance, and we werent prepared to replace our existing stripes unless it was with faithful reproductions. A new offering from TransAmStripes.net has us doing just that. Follow along as we share the details.
Greg San Marco of San Antonio, Texas, is one of the aforementioned perfectionists and planned to restore his Lucerne Blue 72 Trans Am as accurately as possible. I purchased a reproduction decal kit and began comparing the pieces to originals. The stencil-cut letters and nose bird looked OK, but I immediately noticed a few issues with the stripes. I began wondering how I could make exact reproductions of the original stripes to use on my own car.
Greg started a thread on the Performance Years (PY) forum seeking information and eventually borrowed and/or bought a few different NOS stripe sets to use as templates when creating his own stripes. After perfecting the dimensional aspects, I found a clear film and screen-printing process that would emulate the original manufacturing process and produce quality comparable to the original GM product. I planned to make just two or three sets but began receiving requests from other PY members, who asked that I not only make stripes available to others, but reproduce the letters and nose bird to complete the set.
With the progress Greg was making on the white stripe set, it didnt take long for the PY members with white 70-72 Trans Ams to begin prodding him about reproducing blue stripes for their cars. The gradient of the blue stripe is very different than the simple white center field and black outer field of the white stripe, he says. The blue stripe has a distinct dot pattern that fades from the blue border into the blue center field, and that presented some challenges.
It took many attempts, but Greg was finally able to achieve the correct dot fade pattern to accurately reproduce the blue stripe set. With an ISO-9001 printer available and the blue and white stripe sets ready for production, Greg attained the appropriate licensing from General Motors, and began selling the complete kits, as well as individual stripe parts and letter sets on his new website, TransAmStripes.net (which doubles as his company name) and through Performance Years.
Upon learning of the effort set forth to create faithful reproductions, we immediately began considering a new stripe set from TransAmStripes.net for our Trans Am. When we saw them on display at the 2012 P.O.C.I. National Convention in St. Charles, Illinois, we were able to observe the quality and accuracy firsthand. We knew at that point that a set was for us. We had, however, some legitimate concerns about installing new stripes on a vehicle with a finish thats 25 years old.
The challenge would be removing the existing stripes and hoping that our Trans Ams exterior finish hadnt faded over the years and that the stripes hadnt etched into the painted surface. After recording some measurements and comparing the new stripes to what was on our Firebird, we were happy to find that the clear reveal found on the new reproductions made them slightly wider than ours. We were confident that any tear-off effects would be negligible.
We initially didnt intend to replace all of our Trans Ams decals, only its stripes. However, a combination of age and normal polishing had taken its toll on the condition of the Trans Am letters, so it only made sense to replace the entire set at one time, especially when considering the reasonable cost of about $400 for the entire kit. We contacted Performance Years and a set was delivered to us in a few days.
While removal and reinstallation is certainly a task we could have performed in our own garage, we were concerned with preserving the existing finish, so we decided to let the capable crew at Musclecar Memories Restorations in Lincoln, Nebraska, handle the task. Owner Steve Schappaugh and his shop manager, Ed Dedick, established a plan and the removal and reinstallation went exactly as expected. Within about four hours, our Trans Am had original-spec stripes and letters installed once again and we were very pleased with the result.
If maintaining an exact original appearance for your 70-72 Trans Am is important, then a stripe kit from TransAmStripes.net is in order. The visual impact the quality reproductions provide is immediately apparent. The stripes are so faithful to the original design that they might also be considered a suitable alternative for high-end restorations where 40-year-old NOS originals in questionable condition are otherwise used. No matter the case, the newly installed stripes have made it 1972 all over again for our Trans Am!
Racing stripes were quite popular during the musclecar era and they were original equipment on models of many makes. Pontiac designers developed a single stripe running through the center of the hood, roof, and decklid to make the Shaker scoop an integral part of the 7012 Trans Am. Its a signature characteristic that early Second-Gen enthusiasts have come to love.
When we restored our Trans Am in the late 80s, the fender and rear-spoiler lettering and the nose bird were still available from GM. Though we refrained from using any abrasive cleaner wax on them, its easy to see what 25 years of normal polishing has done to the crispness of the black accents on the stencil-cut letters.
TransAmStripes.net recently introduced complete stripe kits for 70-72 Trans Ams, which were developed using NOS originals. UV-protected colored ink is silk screened onto clear 3M Controltac Graphic Film, which resists deforming and shrinkage when exposed to engine heat or sunlight. We sourced a set for our Trans Am through Performance Years. Expect to spend about $400.
New stripes were not available from GM at the time of our restoration. The reproductions we purchased were the best available back then. While the overall dimensions are very similar to original Pontiac pieces, they lack the clear reveal and the white is much more vibrant than the Cameo White scoop assembly. Our plan was to replace them when more accurate reproductions hit the market, and we just learned of an excellent solution.
Removing the existing stripes is a critical step that must be performed with great care. While its a job that could certainly be performed at home, we felt most comfortable leaving it up to the experienced professionals at Musclecar Memories Restorations in Lincoln, Nebraska. Shop Manager Ed Dedick carefully peels off the stripes using a heat gun to loosen the adhesive bond.
Our Trans Ams exterior finish was professionally applied 25 years ago and remains in excellent condition today. The adhesive left a ghost image of the stripe on the hood, roof, and deck lid, which must be completely removed when installing the new stripes, as any imperfections will show through. Dedick is confident he can remove it by lightly wet sanding and polishing. Vehicles with aged, worn, or poorly prepped exterior finishes may require additional work, which can add to the cost and/or negatively affect the outcome.
Dedick first wipes the surface area with 3M Adhesive Remover and a lint-free cloth to remove as much residual adhesive as possible. He then employs a dual-action sander fitted with 5,000-grit paper to lightly wet-sand all areas previously covered by the stripe.
Next, he polishes the freshly sanded surface using a high-speed buffer rotating at about 1,600 rpm, and a soft, yellow wool pad and Machine Polish compound from 3M. Its followed by a gentle polish using a 3M foam pad with the appropriate compound at a similar speed.
Its quite apparent when looking into the reflection of the painted surface that any visible trace of the ghost stripe has been removed. The exterior surface is now fully prepared for stripe installation. The process Dedick performed may or may not be compatible with your particular Firebirds finish depending upon its age and/or quality. Confer with a professional to determine the best approach for you.
The instructions in the TransAmStripes.net kit provide the exact locations to replicate factory installation. Dedick began by locating the centerline of each stripe as well as that of the vehicle.
He and shop owner Steve Schappaugh aligned the roof stripe and taped it down to retain its position, while performing a similar procedure for the hood and deck-lid stripes. A visual inspection followed to verify alignment of the entire set.
Starting with the hood stripe, Dedick wiped the painted surface with a tack cloth to remove any debris that could potentially get trapped beneath the stripe. He then peels the liner (or backing) paper off the stripe.
He completely covers it and the corresponding area of the hood with a mixture of Meguiars No. 62 Car Wash Soap and water (common household dish soap is not recommended). An application gel such as RapidTac, which is available from TransAmStripes.net, is a suitable alternative if you or your installer is more comfortable with it, but it offers less leeway when aligning large decals.
Just before removing the liner, Dedick used a sharp razor blade to carefully remove the Shaker area so he could install the stripe with the Shaker scoop on the engine. With the stripe and hood fully wetted, Dedick lays the stripe on the hood and carefully moves it around until its positioned exactly as the factory intended.
Working from the center outward, Dedick squeegees away the excess air and/or water thats trapped beneath the stripes surface. A small needle can be used to remove stubborn bubbles, but great caution must be exercised to prevent creating larger issues. He then moves to the roof and deck-lid stripes, replicating the same installation procedure.
After allowing the hood stripe to setup for several minutes, Dedick returns and pulls back a portion of the pre-mask (or transfer paper) to expose the decal beneath. He uses a heat gun to properly contour it into the Shaker opening of the hood, replicating what the factory did on the assembly line.
When using soapy water, Dedick recommends allowing at least 3-4 hours in a shaded area for ample drying before removing the pre-mask. Dedick starts at a corner and slowly pulls it straight back to prevent pulling off the decal in the process. Wetting the pre-mask can also be beneficial if it seems stubborn. Oftentimes warm sunlight can improve minor imperfections you might find in the stripes over time.
The remaining decals are removed in a similar fashion. The area is gently heated and the pieces are peeled off. Its then wiped with adhesive remover. If any ghosts are present, the area is sanded and polished just like others.
Dedick noted the appropriate installation area using masking tape and grease pen marks. The surface is treated to soapy water just before applying the decal. Once in place, the excess solution is removed using a squeegee.
After several minutes to allow sufficient drying, the pre-mask is pulled away, exposing a perfectly applied decal beneath.
The removal of the existing decals and reinstallation of the TransAmStripes.net kit took about four hours to complete (not
including drying time), but our Trans Am has never looked better. The new stripes lend an appearance thats much closer
to stock than the 80s reproductions it replaced. The crispness of the entire decal set gives our restoration a fresh appearance
25 years later.