I was in Riverside California and working at March AFB in November 1988, when an ad appeared in a Penny Saver “1970 Trans Am, ram air, runs $1300, phone — ——. Naturally, I called and asked if it was a Ram Air III or IV. The owner had no clue, so that made me want to get there even faster.
A friend who was making a clone 1970 Chevelle SS went with me to look at it. As it turned out, it was a white Ram Air III TA that was in pretty bad shape. The paint was yellowing in areas; windshield, nose, and passenger window gone; driver’s door had a huge dent in it, five small rust spots around the rear window, trunk lid and rear center spoiler caved in due to a garbage truck’s bucket coming down on it, carpet and seat covers gone, dash pad cracked in the middle, console shot, steering wheel pretty torn up, front center spoiler gone, AC compressor gone, a worn out battery and starter, and a tired Ram Air III motor.
As I found out later, the car we were looking at, was a true PHS documented, high optioned, Ram Air III, California TA that still had the original paint, engine, heads, trany, rear end, door panels, fenders, floor pans and quarters. It had very little rust, as described above. The shaker even had the solenoids, wiring, and all the goodies that make the flapper open when you accelerate. As we thoroughly looked over the car, we quickly determined the car’s good points far surpassed the bad ones.
The seller said the car would run but got hot in the summer time and would not start. He said it had been sitting out in front of his home for about eight months, parked parallel to the curb, and that’s where the garbage truck’s bucket struck the rear trunk lid and spoiler. My friend Randy and a huddled up and came up with an offer of $950 and he took it! I became the third owner and the seller was friends with the first owner, so he had a lot of history on the car.
We had the car towed home as the motor had not been turned over in 8 months. The next weekend we started the restoration. In the next 18 months, almost everything was either replaced or rebuilt to include transmission, suspension, air conditioning, interior, carpet and dash pad, glass etc. The original set of Rally II rims (JW codes) were still on the car, so all that was needed was to strip and repaint each one. A numbers carburetor was found with the help of a good friend, Scott Nesheim, who, to this day, still owns his Lucerne Blue ’70 TA. The body work and prep took the longest to get accomplished because it was done by a great body shop guy that did private work on weekends at the shop. Finally, I had it painted to its original white. I disassembled all the spoilers, mirrors, grills, lights, chrome, rear bumper and nose to ensure all surfaces got an equal amount of Code 10 paint. About a month later the stripes went on.
The last thing, but the most important one of all, was the engine rebuild. In 1990, the compression had finally gone almost to zero. I decided to find someone who could rebuild the motor. I didn’t have to look far as I had met Carl Lower at one of the local Pontiac club meetings. At that time, Carl was staying with Bruce Fulper-Rock & Roll Engineering and came highly recommended.
Carl, along with his two sons, and I did the rebuild in my garage and took several weekends before it was complete. All the machine work was done by a Pontiac performance shop in Riverside. The engine had never been into so it only had to be bored 30 over. A three angle valve job was done and new bronze guides were installed. The block was bored and honed and new cam bearings were installed. Forged TRW pistons and Melling cam (068) and bearings were installed. A Ram Air III oil pump, Carter fuel pump and Edelbrock double roller timing chain were also installed. The whole assembly was balanced and finally we carried the Ram Air III home, put it back in the TA, and the car came alive!
In 1993, I moved to Texas and only have had to replace the normal parts a car goes through in 12,000 miles of driving plus new power steering pump and box, AC system (converted to R134 in 2003), exhaust system, brake booster and tires.
Although I show my TA in many San Antonio and surrounding area shows, the best times I’ve had with the car are when I’m driving it to and from these shows, to a cruise night or two, or just around the area where I live on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I don’t care that some engine parts don’t shine quite as much as new ones, because many are 16-18 years old or are original ones. This car was my first one to try to restore and will always be very special to me. Also, one of the best things about owning this car is I get to meet so many great people that love old cars almost as much as me. Through the years, I’ve also met folks that do excellent work on them and I’ve been able to pass along their names to others that need help with their car. Without my TA, all of that wouldn’t have happened. I feel very lucky to have found it.