Mystery Machine - 1975 Trans Am - Pontiac Enthusiast February 2010

Mystery Machine

STORY BY Jason Scott / PHOTOGRAPHY BY Marc McGrew and John Kryta

After a torrid, one-year fling with this '75 Trans Am, the owner mysteriously parked it with just 9,000 miles on the odometer, never to drive it again.

It's been said that every car - like every person - has a story. Some stories are comedies. Some are tragedies. And some, like the one behind this 1975 Trans Am, are mysteries.

The bits we know of its past are few: The original owner purchased it on a whim - he had driven by the dealership one day and the car caught his eye. He pulled in, looked it over and bought the car on the spot, for no reason other than he wanted to buy a cool, new car.

For the next year, the owner drove the car nearly every day and racked up roughly 9,000 miles on the odometer. By all accounts, he seemed like he thoroughly enjoyed the car. Then, just as quickly as he became smitten with it, he suddenly lost interest, parked it (indoors), and never drove it again.

And there it sat for 30 years.

When the Kryta boys - John and James - found out about the car, they instantly recognized the car was a rolling showpiece of originality, since it had never had any major service work done, nor had it been butchered or modified by the original owner, who was apparently not much or a car guy.

The Kryta's purchased it, both to rescue it and to give themselves and others a chance to learn from it, because it's unlikely there's a more original '75 Trans Am anywhere in the world. "Nothing on the car has ever been touched," John Kryta pointed out. "The spare had never been out of the trunk, nor had the air cleaner ever been off. The original paint, original belts and hoses - never touched."

Ahhh, the stereotypical barn-find - an un-restored, untouched, original 1975 Trans Am with just 9,000 miles. Such finds are our best evidence of how cars were truly built at the factory - not just speculation and assumption.

Studying the bumper jack slots suggests the car was never jacked up - at least not with the original jack equipment. Again, note the door fitment: it's higher at the rear, as evidenced by both the gaps and the way the light cascades down the car's character line.

The more Kryta looked it over, the more amazing tidbits he discovered. For example, "the spare tire has a ton of inspection marks on it," he told us. And, "the cylinder head is stamped 'OK-5', but it's upside down." But then there are the mysteries and what the car tells us about GM's assembly processes back in the mid-'70s: "There isn't much paint on the engine, but the water neck and water pump has a lot of paint - maybe these pieces came from the manufacturer painted and then were bolted on and engine sprayed as a unit," Kryta speculated.

Cars like this seldom come along. Take your time to closely study the pictures on these pages, because each one tells volumes about what was - and wasn't - done at the factory at which this car was built, at the time it was built. Much of that info applies to other first-gen Firebirds, and even to other non-F-body Pontiacs, which were often constructed with similar processes.

It never hurts to keep in mind that exceptions were always possible and that different plants sometimes did things differently. Likewise, processes sometimes changed from one year to the next, or from one model to the next.

But in general, studying untouched originals is, perhaps, the best evidence we have of how our cars were originally built. And in that way, the fact that this car was mysteriously parked with so few miles may fortunately solve some mysteries surrounding others' cars - possible yours.\

Original cars are great for noting wire and hose routings. For example, cylinder #7's spark plug wire doesn't pass through the wire loom.

Interiors may seem like they have less to teach us, but we've seen all-original cars with mismatched window crank knobs, poor-fitting glove-box doors, off screws used to secure things, and even standard door panels on custom interior cars.

Placement and condition of decals and emblems can tell a lot, too. We've seen hood birds that were askew or had minor wrinkles, and we've seen cars with certain decals or emblems that were simply missing.

9,000 miles and 34 years didn't do much to diminish the brilliance of this Firebird emblem, but note the less-than-perfect coloring of the re portions, especially the tail and flame from the beak.

The engine compartment on this beauty revealed that the engine actually had very little paint on it, yet certain items - the water neck and water pump, in particular - had a lot of paint, suggesting that they were painted prior to installation and also received paint when the completed engine assembly was painted. Note the rusted fasteners everywhere and the semi-rusted hood hinges, which tells us they had poor protection against the elements, usually a thin, black-oxide coating, for these items.

Notice the lopsided application of the "400" engine callout decal. It's unclear how or why the rear edge of the decal is worn. Though hard to tell, the photo also shows the paint has a fair amount of "orange peel" - tiny pore in the surface.

Here you can see the paint overspray through the fender vent. Also not the uneven door-to-fender gap.

This is about as clean and perfect as a trunk can get. The spare had never even been out of the car, and was covered with inspection marks and stickers. The jacking equipment is as good as new - because it is, other than its age.

Areas like the underside of the deck lid are great reference points for original paint, because it's rarely faded by the sun or damaged from items being set on it. The jacking and stowage instruction decals show less-than-precise placement and plenty of wrinkles, too.

The interior looks as good as it was new - the back seat was never used and the seat belts never clicked together. It even has new car smell remaining as a feature.

The trunk is equally untouched. The spare has never touched the ground and from the impression in the trunk mat it was never out of the car until the day of the photo shoot. Original cars bring a history of the process of how these cars were put together. In the trunk we can see color of the sealer and the red primer put down first and the blue body overspray followed by the trunk paint. The fasteners and hardware is colored and plated. These are the details that are usually lost in an average restoration.

This type of car is the reference that future restorations are based from. The details are documented and the pictures remember better than the human mind. While there is some deteration in the engine compartment it is clear the color of the different parts. The master cylinder is black, the lid is gold and the booster is gold with green inspection marks. The vlave is bare steel and has light rust and the bracket that holds it to the booster is phosphate.

The story here is not how low the miles are or what the mystery is but rather all that can be learned by an untouched original car like this.