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Old 05-12-2020, 12:56 AM
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Default Tim Schuetz (napa68) 1971 Pontiac Trans Am!

Good morning Bruce!

Hope this finds you well. Against better judgement in the currency economy, I bought another car. Naturally, these types of things tend to transpire when it is not practical. But, cars like this I don't pop up all too often. Below, is what Tracey and I bought. I suspect this will be around for quite a while

I have known of this 71 Trans Am since late summer 2019. I saw the car advertised on eBay. In fact, the ad ran a couple of different times and then the car disappeared. I did see the owner had a dedicated thread on the Performance Years. Recently, someone had bumped the thread to the top just out of appreciation for the car. Having seen it, I decided to reach out to the current owner Chris Eagle (4th owner) to see if the car had in fact sold. Chris still had the car and informed me he was going to put the car back up for sale this spring. He was waiting until the Covid-19 crisis had passed.

Chris and I had several enjoyable conversations. Not only about this particular car, but cars and life in general. I found Chris to be brutally honest and transparent about the condition of the car. Chris shared a war chest of pictures, information, documents, and researched history about the car. Chris made me feel quite comfortable with the transaction to the point we made a deal sight unseen (something I swore off doing anymore).

The car arrived this week (May 7th, 2020) and to say I am thrilled with the car is an understatement. This car is everything I personally cherish in a car.

  • 71 Pontiac Trans Am
  • 455 H.O. / M22 4 speed
  • Original paint, interior, chassis, trunk, and engine compartment.
  • 18,xxx documented miles
  • 4 owner (now 5)
All original drivetrain components with the exception of the block. Carb, alternator, starter, distributor, radiator, transmission, and rear diff are all original to the car. The block was wrecked with a failed connecting rod. The car now has a correctly date coded WC block, just not original to this car.

The car has an interesting history. Chris had done a dandy job of documenting the cars history and tracking down all of the owners. In fact, Chris even found the owners Son of Fenton Pontiac in Port Elgin (where the car was delivered to it's first retail owner). Below, is the information Chris posted on the PY site.

When I bought this car I was told I was the fourth owner. I received some of the original paperwork when I bought it, and that included an address for the original owner. I didn't know if he was still there, but I took an chance and sent him a letter. He called me a few weeks later and we have spoken at length a few times about the history of the car. He also sent me some pictures of the car from when he owned it. His name is Wayne, and he had some great stories about the car and it's past. I am very grateful for the time he spent with me. Below is a compilation of our conversations. I hope you enjoy it.

In approximately April 1972, Wayne Hackett of Waterloo, Ontario was looking to buy a car. Wayne liked the new Corvettes, but with young kids, he needed a car with a rear seat. Wayne had a friend who worked at Forbes Motors, the local Pontiac dealer in Waterloo, so Wayne went there to see about buying a new Trans Am. Wayne wanted a four speed car, but the salesperson told him they were hard to get and it would take between eight to ten weeks to get one. Wayne did not want to wait, so he left without buying a car.

Although Wayne lived in Waterloo, he worked at the nuclear power plant on the shore of Lake Huron, just south of the town of Port Elgin Ontario, which was about a two and a half hour drive from Waterloo. Wayne also kept a residence in Port Elgin, and he stayed there during the week. One day after work, Wayne went to Fenton's Pontiac in Port Elgin to see if he could get a car there. Wayne met with the owner, Mr. Fenton (first name unknown) and told him what he wanted.

Fenton picked up the phone and made a call to someone at Pontiac. Fenton then told Wayne that he could get him a white four speed car right away, the only caveat was that the car had been used to film commercials, and therefore it had a few miles on it. Wayne said he was interested in the car, so Fenton told the person on the phone to have the car delivered to his dealership.

The following Monday, Wayne returned to Fenton's Pontiac and saw the car for the first time. The passenger side front bucket seat and the rear seat had been removed, and there was a camera mount in the rear seat area. There was also a camera mount on the hood, which was held in place with two large suction cups. Wayne was told the interior would be reinstalled, and Pontiac would take one thousand dollars off the sticker price, so Wayne agreed to buy the car.

When the camera mount was removed from the hood, it left two round marks on the hood stripe where the suction cups had been. Fenton's offered to replace the hood stripe, but Wayne thought it was kind of cool that the car had been used to film commercials, so he told them to leave the hood stripe alone. The marks on the hood stripe are still present after all these years. Wayne purchased the car on April 18, 1972, so the advertising people had the car for about fourteen months. The odometer reading at the time of sale was 3100 miles.

Wayne used the car as his personal car for the next two years, after which time he decided he wanted to start drag racing it. Wayne said the car fit the class (F-stock) really well and no one else was running one of these cars. Wayne swapped out the stock suspension and transmission, installing a Liberty trans. He removed the factory wheels and put on a set of Keystone mags with a 10.5 inch rear tire. In F-stock they were allowed to run a bigger cam, headers, and electric fuel pump. Wayne also made a number of small modifications to the car, some of which are still present today.

Wayne said he knew a guy named Dave Billies, whose grandfather had founded Canadian Tire, (which Wayne said was a lot like the Pep Boys Tire Store is in the USA). Wayne said Dave had a lot of money, so he set up a private shop in Toronto, and hired some guys to build engines. The name of the shop was Performance Engineering. Wayne took the Trans Am engine to Performance Engineering and had it set up to run in F-stock.

Wayne had met another guy named Bert Straus, who ran a Fina Gas Station/Garage in Kitchener Ontario. This is where Wayne met Bert, and the two became good friends. Bert was the person who introduced Wayne to the people at Performance Engineering, since they were the shop that was building the engine for Bert's race car at the time, an early Willys called the "Chilly Willy". Bert later sold his gas station and went to work at Performance Engineering (They ran a Pro Stock Pontiac Astra for a number of years). Bert is in the Canadian drag racing Hall of Fame now. Wayne says that the Chilly Willy has been restored and is currently owned by a collector in the Toronto area. Bert has been known to drive it nostalgic drag race events.

Another of Wayne's race friends was a guy named Rudy Held, who built his own race engines and ran a shop in New Hamburg. Rudy campaigned a car named the "Gold Gambler." Rudy passed away about four years ago, but his shop is still a very successful business and the Gold Gambler is still raced by Rudy's nephew.

Wayne raced the Trans Am for approximately three seasons. He competed in the NHRA F-stock class at drag strips in the United States and Canada, such as the Cayuga Drag Way, Toronto Drag Way, and St. Thomas Drag Way. Wayne also raced the car in Detroit, and New York. Grand Bend Raceway was a popular race track in the 50's and 60's, but it was closed for a time and then reopened. Wayne said the track was closed during the time period he was racing the car, so he never got to race there. Wayne said the car consistently ran 12:70's-12:80's.

At the beginning of the last year Wayne raced the car, he was having the engine freshened up. Wayne and the engine builder talked about putting Super Duty (SD) rods in the engine. SD rods would have been in violation of NHRA rules, and if the engine would have been torn down for a tech inspection, Wayne knew he would be disqualified. Therefore, Wayne decided to leave the stock rods in. It would prove to be a fateful decision. On his last run of the season, while making a pass at the Detroit Drag Way, a rod broke and destroyed the original block. Wayne won the race, but said it was a sad drive home.

The engine failure was upsetting (and financially costly) for Wayne, so he put the car in his shop and it rested there for the next few years. At some point Wayne started racing a dragster, and the days of racing the Trans Am were over. Wayne said he kept the original block in the garage for a number of years, but it was damaged beyond repair, so eventually he discarded it.

Eventually, Wayne slowly started working on the Trans Am again. When he got an opportunity, Wayne bought a Bonneville with a 455 engine in it so he could use the block to fix the Trans Am. Wayne pulled the motor out of the Bonny and had the lower end freshened up. He then installed the original Trans Am camshaft and top end from the blown engine, and put the engine into the car. Wayne said the car ran well on the street, but he parked it in his shop where it sat for "a whole bunch of years."

Around the year 2000, Wayne said cruise nights were starting to become popular again, so he wanted to get the car back on the road. Wayne needed an inspection in order to get insurance, so he called a guy he knew named Reg Thompson. Reg worked at the power plant where Wayne worked and Wayne had known Reg for years. Reg was a "car guy"and also a certified auto appraiser. Reg appraised the Trans Am and took some pictures of it so Wayne could get his insurance. There was also a family connection with Reg, because Reg was related to Mr. Fenton, the owner of Fenton's Pontiac where Wayne had originally purchased the car when new. Reg told Wayne if he ever wanted to sell the car to please let him know.

Wayne drove the car occasionally to local shows. However, one time at a show, someone parked a bicycle next to his car and the bike fell and made a dent in the drivers side front fender. Some other damage occurred at another show. After that Wayne said he was worrying about the car so much that the shows were not fun anymore, so he quit going, and the car sat again.

Eventually, sometime in 2005, Wayne decided to sell the car. Since Reg had expressed an interest in the car, Wayne sold the car to Reg. The odometer reading at the time of sale was 16,600 miles. Reg lived in Port Elgin, and he stored the car there in his heated basement. Although Reg would start the car occasionally, the car sat there for the next ten years.

In late 2015, Reg had some work done on the car to make it roadworthy. He replaced the battery, and installed a new (aftermarket) exhaust and new shocks. In September 2015, Reg and his son Roger took the car to the Cobble Ridge Concours d' elegance in Owen Sound Ontario and entered the car in the Preservation class. It took second in class. Shortly thereafter, Reg decided to sell the car.

Reg let some of his friends know that he would be selling the car. One of them was named Steve Tishler. Steve was not interested in buying the car himself, but he sent an email to some friends advising them that the car was for sale. A friend named Keith Knudsen, expressed an interest and Reg later contacted Keith. Keith had heard about the car, but had never seen it in person. Regardless, Keith told Reg he would buy the car. A few weeks later, in November 2015, Keith and Steve drove to Port Elgin Ontario, where Keith bought the car and trailered it to his home in Michigan. The odometer reading at the time of sale was 16,700 miles.

Keith had sent me pictures and a description of the car when he got it home. I thought it was a very cool car, so I told him if he ever wanted to sell the car to please keep me in mind. Sometime around the first of the year, Keith contacted me and told me he had too many cars. Keith had just finished a lengthy frame off restoration on his 1987 Mustang, and he had his 1970 RA III Formula and his 1970 Trans Am, which both needed complete restorations. Therefore, Keith had decided not to keep the recently purchased 1971 Trans Am.

I purchased the car from Keith in March 2016. The odometer reading at the time it arrived here in California was 16,750 miles. Although the car is in very nice condition, it is not perfect. There are some dings and scratches, but overall I think it has good patina, and it runs really well. I intend to install a correct block and a set of correct rally II rims and drive it as-is. Recently, on New Years Eve (2016), I took the car for a drive. During the drive the odometer rolled over to 17,000 miles.

Below are some pf the pictures Wayne sent to me of the car "back in the day," as well as some interesting factoids about the car:

#1: About two years after Wayne purchased it, and right about the time he was converting it into a drag car, Wayne was contacted by someone from Forbes Motors, the Pontiac dealer in Waterloo. They had a blue 1971 Trans Am in the service department that had been towed in due to an engine failure. The engine was torn down and Pontiac had denied the warranty claim citing owner negligence for failing to maintain the oil level. The owner, who had financed the car through GM, was not happy and walked away from the car. The people at Forbes Motors asked Wayne if he wanted to buy the car as-is.

Wayne said the looked over the engine pieces and that it had 'grenaded' and was a total loss. He said nothing was usable, However, Wayne had a "warmed over" 400 engine sitting in his shop, so he bought the blue car and installed the 400 into it. Wayne said the car had an automatic trans and it ran really well. Wayne had welded tow hooks to the frame rails on the white drag car, so he put a trailer hitch on the blue car and used it to tow the white car to the race track.

Eventually, Wayne was talking to someone who he worked with at the power plant. The guy was collecting every odd year of trans am, and when he learned Wayne had the blue car, he said he wanted to buy it. One day the guy came to Wayne's house and bought the blue car. After he bought it, Wayne opened his shop and showed him the white car, but Wayne did not want to sell the white car at that time. Wayne said the guy who bought the blue car was from Cambridge, and Wayne never saw or heard of that car again.

#2: The GM of Canada documents indicate that the car came with Rally II road wheels. However, Wayne said the car had the honeycomb wheels on it when he bought it. This seems reasonable since the honeycombs were introduced in 1971, I figure the advertising people may have wanted to showcase the new honeycomb wheels, so maybe they put them on the car when they had it.

#3: I was told the car has never been advertised for sale publicly: Wayne went to Fenton's Pontiac to inquire about buying a Trans Am, and the people at Fenton's got the car sent over to them directly from the advertising people. Therefore it was never advertised for sale. When Wayne sold the car it was a "friend to a friend" deal. The same is true when Reg sold the car to Keith, and when Keith sold the car to me.
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