This August 2009 issue’s featured car is the 1977 Special Edition Trans Am of Dr. Anthony LaRusso. Here is the story:
THE SECOND TIME AROUND
I became a NFTAC member in 1996 and got serious about my love for Firebirds and that Firebird spirit that is so evident in all NFTAC members. There is just something about the Firebird that no other car has. Not even the minute-est fraction of
A Firebird is like no other car; even the similar body styled Camaros with the same shell never looked like a Firebird.
My dream car was a 1977 Special Edition Trans Am. I had one and it was featured in the Spring 2000 issue of this magazine and it’s story. Then divorce hit. I was forced to sell it and everything else I owned. After a few years of being broke and starting my life over, I found another 77 Sp. Ed. Tran Am in Queens, New York. I went to see it in June 2004 and by that point they had become much more popular than in the 1990’s and more valuable (and expensive). This one was shot, but all there, numbers matching. It blew out smoke, but it still ran. T-Tops and all. It was a genuine Y82 Trans Am and loaded with every option including the more expensive Lombardy Cloth interior, new for 1977. The interior was clean but faded. Not even any rips! The dash was cracked and the armrest was as well, and there was more rust in it than in the Titanic. To me, it was a survivor. Originally from Brooklyn and now in Queens, this sucker made it! From 1977-2004 and still all there and running. In New York! It’s probably the only one in all 5 boroughs to survive. Even though it was tired, it had a look to it. Tough and mean. The face on it just looked so manly. The ride was smooth and handling was even better than the previous mint condition one I had before divorce. This was a well built T/A. I loved it. I bought it for $3,000 and after driving around and burning several quarts of oil each time I took it out for a day, I blew the motor on the NJ Turnpike trying to outrun a pain-in- the butt T-Bird that was chasing me. I had the engine taken apart. My uncle was concerned for me and urged me to sell it. He pointed out that I was not yet on my feet after divorce and this car just wasn’t worth all the time and energy it would need, and the money to invest in it. I agreed and sold it for $1,000.
Two years and three months later I was regretting selling it. I saw one go by one day and they had also gone even further up in popularity and value. Heck when I was first going in 1996, they were $9,000 clean and no one talked about them and they were not considered classics and no one cared. At the time I didn’t understand this and it quite frankly ticked me off. In 2006 they had risen to $30,000 clean and today clean survivors are selling in the low-mid 30 thousands. Restored cars are worth over $40,000. Wow! I mean all classic muscle cars and classic cars in general have skyrocketed in value in this decade… .and now the 1977 Special Edition is lumped in with all of the rest. It is now a highly sought after valuable classic car.
I was combing ads in 2006 and saw a 77 Sp. Ed. For sale with freshly rebuilt motor. It was in a town about 20 minutes from mine, so I went and it was my car! With the engine rebuilt bored 30 over and done right. My shorts were still in the trunk and it was still titled in my name. The dude bought it from the person I sold it to.
The first guy monkeyed with it and the second guy knew what to do. He did the engine himself and in the garage next to it was a gleaming restored 4-speed 1976 Trans Am 455 that he had restored himself He was working on a few cars and ran out of money. So, he was forced to sell this car. Now that I had my car back and it ran like hell, I wanted to do something special for it. I mean, heck, this thing survived New York for 30 years and had this crazy story in New Jersey and I end up buying it twice. It just deserved something special.
I went online and searched for restoration shops to restore it. I found Trans Am Specialties of Florida. I called and spoke to Rick Deiters, the owner. He was warm, charismatic and convincing. He is the only restoration shop in the world that focuses on the Special Edition Trans Am. I described the car and we talked numbers and I had a truck take it to Miami. It stayed 11 months there and Rick and his crew labored on it. They took it off it’s frame and even cut-off the back half of the car to fit a donor rear-section on it. That’s how bad the rust was. I wanted to keep as much of it as possible, so that is why I had them save the cabin section and not just replace the entire shell. What a great place. I flew in 3 times, met Rick and his men. He even let me drive a Special Edition he had there (one of many) and took me to his house to meet his wife and beautiful two kids. We went with the kids to Dunkin Donuts for goodies and had fun together. I also hung out at the shop which is Trans Am fever. All Firebirds, accessories, and they do things right. My car came out show-room new and it is my baby. Rick documented the entire restoration on his web site. This one is for keeps. I have learned from my mistakes and for me and for this car, and for our story together, it is truly THE SECOND TIME AROUND.
Dr. Anthony LaRusso