A deceptively deteriorated driver turns into a full-scale restoration – Part I
“Love the one you’re with,” is a tough directive for a car enthusiast. It seems like no matter what vehicle you start with, it’s always in worse shape than you imagined starting out. The temptation to get rid of a project car and begin with something nicer is immense, so it’s refreshing when something the average hobbyist might consider beyond economical restoration is given a new lease on life.
Consider our feature car here. When it rolled across the auction block at one of the major Scottsdale, Arizona, sales, it was what you’d probably call a 20-footer. Something that might make you go, “Ooh, a ‘Bandit’ Trans Am!” Get closer, though, and start picking away at the details, and that “ooh” might have turned to “oh.
“Still, that initial impression was correct about something: This is a real Y82, the black-and-gold Special Edition that looks like the ones driven by Burt Reynolds in the hit 1977 film Smokey and the Bandit.
That’s what attracted owner John Prenzno of Paradise Valley, Arizona, when he saw it at auction nearly four years ago. Having owned a brand-new one just after high school, the pull of nostalgia was strong and John bought it, warts and all. As you might have guessed, the warts were extensive.
That much was evident from even a casual inspection. The first problem made itself known even without taking a look, when a leaky fuel line caused it to run out of gas before it could be driven away from the auction site.John took the car straight to Ward Gappa at Quality Muscle Car Restorations LLC, in Scottsdale. QMCR made a temporary fix to the fuel line (extensive rust demanded complete replacement) and gave the car a thorough going-over so John would know exactly what he was up against to get his Trans Am up to snuff.