Welcome to wheels, Steve! You are clearly taking good care of my old Trans Am GTA, I couldn’t have sold it to a better man. How does it feel to own a classic American muscle car?
I love it! Since I was a kid I’d always loved American muscle cars. I used to buy a magazine called Street Machine back in the UK, which covered hot rods, customs and American metal. Every month I’d read it from cover to cover, dreaming of maybe one day owning a proper muscle car.
I always loved the Oldsmobile 442, Chevelle SS 454, Buick GS and Trans Am SD455, but my top want was a 1969 Dodge 440 Super Bee Six Pack. I love the styling, the stripes and the Rallye wheels.
Those are all awesome and it’s nice to see you were a fan of the Firebird too...
Absolutely. I think our old friend Burt Reynolds and his smash hit Smokey and the Bandit had a lot to do with my love of the Firebird. In fact, I’ve named the GTA Burt!
I also had a number of Trans Am toy cars and then in the early Eighties David Hasselhoff came along with KITT in Knight Rider. Although I didn’t like the third gen as much as the second gen, I still ended up with a remote control KITT, complete with flashing red scanner.
We did a deal for the GTA at the end of last winter and you drove it throughout the following summer — even though it didn’t have a working AC at the time. Now, the car looked cool — but how did you keep yours?
By driving it early mornings with lots of sun cream and a hat! I’d take a change of clothes to work with me: everything, including socks!
It’s ice-cold when it works, trust me! You’ve changed the look of the car a little by giving it a new set of Weld wheels and you blacked out the taillights. It looks really nice — do you have any other plans to customise it?
I liked the original GTA wheels, but for me, the 16s were just too small for what is a relatively big car. The Welds are 18s, but I’m thinking about fitting 17s up front. Also, I need to get a sports steering wheel and some under bonnet goodies. I’d like it slightly lower, too!
There’s lots you can do with the 350 V8. I’ve forgotten most of the things I did in my time but remember adding SLP’s flow booster to improve air flow in the throttle body — it gave me a few extra horses. I also had MSD ignition to ensure complete combustion of the fuel mixture to produce more power but it gave me a little trouble so I removed it. I had Hedman Headers on it for a while but they’d get too hot so I went back to the stock manifold (which I kept in my living room!) but the aluminium radiator was a great move; it would often run hot especially in the summer but the new radiator sorted that out. I also had the catalytic converter removed and with a K&N air filter on it, it breathed a lot better. Damn, I think I regret selling it now! I used to love that 5.7-litre; it’s a tyre frier isn’t it…
The LT TPS gets some stick off the LS boys, but I love it. It has lots of lowdown torque and even spins the wheels in second! But the V8 sound is the best.
What do your friends and family make of this classic GTA?
I get a lot of thumbs up when I’m driving around. Everyone loves it! A lot of people will come and chat to me about it. It is so much fun to drive — I take it to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays and usually the weekend too. It gives me a buzz everytime I start it up. It’s deceptively quick (I daily drive a Wrangler, so I’m not used to speed!) and surprisingly, it goes around corners really well.
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It corners flat thanks to the WS6 suspension package. It used to be a hardtop but I had the T-tops grafted on — it was the best thing I ever did in my 11 years of owning this Trans Am. How much fun is it to cruise in this?
The T-tops are only on to keep the dust out of the interior! The best thing about driving around with the roof off — apart from getting a nice tan — is being able to hear the V8 rumbling away. Driving it now, in winter, it’s an absolute blast! I love it.
The pop up headlights sometimes threw a fit as I recall; do they give you any trouble?
Apart from the passenger side headlight getting stuck, everything works a treat — but the rear view mirror falls off a lot. It weighs a ton, so I’ll often jump in to find it on the carpet!
I could never find a glue strong enough for that mirror! I had this Pontiac painted twice and it went through a few mufflers until I was happy with the throaty growl it now has. I’d get strangers ask me to pull over so they could check the car out — are you experiencing this too?
I am! I was followed home once by a guy in a Mercedes SLK and he pulled up and asked me if I wanted to sell it. He said his uncle owned a Firebird when he was little and he wanted to buy mine as it reminded him of his childhood.
But don’t worry, I’ll give you first dibs if I ever decide to sell it!
You better! Tell us how your passion for motoring began…
Ever since I was tiny I was into cars. I had a huge collection of toy cars when I was a kid and then I moved up to buying car mags when I was at school. I wanted to be a car designer growing up, and going to the Birmingham International Motor Show was always a major event for me. I didn’t quite make it as a designer but I was a writer for Fast Car magazine for 16 years. Cars play a massive part in my life and I’ve had some real beauties. Back in the UK I had everything from a R32 Skyline GT-R, Mazda RX7 FD3, Lancia Delta HF Turbo, Range Rover Classic, Toyota Supra, Mk2 Ford Escort RS2000, Capri 2.8i, two AE86 Corollas and an Audi Coupe 2.2. B2.
You’ve had a lot more than that but we’d need to give you another page in the mag to list them all! Final question before I let you go burn some rubber in your GTA — what’s the best car you have ever driven and had a ride in?
Best ride was being a passenger in the McLaren F1 LeMans car with Chris Goodwin driving - and he wasn’t shy.
The most fun I had was driving a Daihatsu Copen around the Alpine track at Milbrook. It had a three-cylinder turbo engine and a body that was visibly flexing on every bump. I was crying with laughter! It was such a fun drive and I doubt I went over 100kph!
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