This 1977 Trans Am Will Leave Smokey in the Dust
by Jeff Edelstein, The Trentonian
One of my lifelong dreams was fulfilled last week when I got to pretend to be Sally Field. Maybe I better explain …
I was riding shotgun in a beautifully restored black 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Special Edition. The “Smokey and the Bandit” car, hardtop edition. And let me tell you something: Whoa. It’s been my dream car since I was a little kid, which is weird, because I’m not a car guy in the least bit. But this car does it for me. It’s just so … badass. There’s really no other word in the English language that describes the car better. It’s a badass car.
And I was riding in it courtesy of Nicky Sindora, a 20-year-old Trenton resident who spent the better part of the last four years putting this particular one back together.
It was his 16th birthday, back in 2009, and Sindora knew what he wanted: His mom’s Trans-Am, which had been parked in the driveway for about 15 years.” It had been sitting there since about 1993, 1994,” he said. “Completely undriveable. The floors were rotted, the engine was done, the transmission … everything.”
Now understand: This was not just any car. Sindora’s dad, Larry, had bought it as a wedding present for his wife. And even though it was on the junk pile (and survived not one but two catalytic converter-related fires) no one really wanted to get rid of it. In fact, Sindora’s two older sisters had failed in their lobbying efforts for the car.
“It would have been totaled by now if I got it,” said Jessica Sindora, one of his sisters. “Nicky is the right person to the get the car. He’s more responsible than we ever were at his age and he’s not your normal 20 year old. He deserves that car.” His sister’s observation is on the nose. Nicky Sindora is not your average 20 year old. He doesn’t drink, do drugs, smoke or swear. He works with his dad for Sindora and Son Hauling — “we’re like ‘Sanford and Son,’” Sindora said — and his interests are less Justin Bieber, more “Leave it to Beaver.”
For instance: While the Trans-Am is his pride and joy, a close second is a 1959 Schwinn bicycle he restored. He loves vintage stuff, and working with his dad gives him ample opportunity to feed that need. But back to the Trans Am.
His parents decided to give it to him. They didn’t know what to expect. Four years later, they’re blown away.
“I’m proud and very, very impressed,” said his dad. “It’s a headturner. It’s never looked this nice.”
So the details: Um … it’s badass? Listen, as I said earlier, I’m not a car guy. But I love this car, as I mentioned in a column from two years ago about my burgeoning midlife crisis. (I wanted one. And a fling with a woman named “Caandeeiye. Anyway …) Anyway, Sindora saw the column and reached out to me, telling me he was restoring a Trans-Am, and if I’d like to see it when it was done. I responded calmly, something like, “OMG YES PLEASE WHEN NOW SOON?” Alas, I had to wait.” Over four years,” Sindora said. “A lot of time. I spent close to $25,000. A lot of people helped out, chipped in. But now, if I wanted to, I could sell it, at auction, for $45,000.”
I asked if he had any plans to sell.
“I’m never getting rid of this,” he said. “If I get married and my wife says to get rid of it, just give me the divorce papers.” That said, the whole process of restoring wasn’t exactly smooth.
“They only made 549 hardtops,” Sindora said. “And every piece of this car comes from one of them. I wanted every detail to be correct. Thank god for eBay. And while I’m glad I did it, I’ll never do this again. It did get aggravating, trying to fix it, find the parts. I ended up buying a whole other one for parts at one point. Once, I took a drive to Maryland to pick up an engine piece I needed. And once I got the engine in, I couldn’t get it to start. Found a stink bug nest in the carburetor.”
But now that’s it more or less done, save for some minor details — and it’s only been on the road for a little over a week — Sindora is thrilled.
“I love the lookers,” Sindora said. “Most reactions so far are jaw dropping. People are stopping me, making me offers on the car. And it boogies.”
I can attest to the boogie nature of this perfect car. We found an empty parking lot. He hit it. And it boogied. (I tried to repress a Sally Field-like giggle.) According to Sindora, the car can hit 170 MPH, as he found out during diagnostic testing.
“I don’t want to ever get a ticket in this,” Sindora said. “But if I do, I’m asking the officer if we could take a picture together with the lights flashing and everything.”
Eastbound and down …
Jeff Edelstein be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org , www.facebook.com/jeffreyedelstein and @jeffedelstein on Twitter.