Three-words can be used to describe this weeks Re:Fuelers Rides feature. Lairy, Lovable & Large. Having seen this car at many a show in the Southwest (not just Re:Fuel), we are honored to have Ian share his story of how he came to own this prime example of good ‘old fashioned American Muscle!
‘I have always loved classic American cars since I was a kid reading Custom Car and Street Machine magazines. They would have pictures of Ford Pops jacked up at the back with chrome Jaguar rear ends or Ford Cortinas with wide arches and metal flake paint but also sometimes they had pictures of a 57 Chevrolet Bel Air or a Ford Model A or a Ford Mustang and they real stood out to me.
I would like to say though that to be honest I love all cars, from old English classics like the Austin Healey’s, old school Ford Escorts too the new modern JDM Japanese car scene and the VW car scene. To be honest if your car is your pride and joy no matter what it is then I can appreciate that.
Anyway, I bought a 1965 Ford Mustang back in 2013. I didn’t take a specialist with me, I had completed zero research and I didn’t have a clue about what I should be looking. All the things people advise you NOT to do when buying a classic, car I did. I bought with my heart not my head.
I drove all the way to Essex from Exeter and as soon as I saw it I decided I was having it and a deal was done. When taking it to a few shows I started to meet some great people in the American car scene, and I stared to see that there is so many more cars out there than the typical Mustangs and Chevrolets.
I decided in the summer of 2017 that I’d had enough of the Mustang and I wanted something else. I stuck the Mustang up for sale, I looked on the Internet and saw that many classics take a long time to sell. So I decided that as long as I made a little money on the cost of buying and owning the Mustang, then I would be happy. Holding out for top-dollar and trying to sell it for six months was not an attractive proposition to me.
I priced it £500 cheaper than all the other mustangs on the Internet and within a week it had gone to the second person that looked at it. I started looking at cars online from Chevrolet Novas to Ford Galaxies but then I saw an advert from a chap in Swindon who had a 1971 Pontiac Lemans for sale, it was still on the boat from the USA and would be arriving in the UK in 3 weeks.
A good friend of mine called Kevin owns a 1966 Pontiac Lemans, I met Kevin at a car show, and we got talking about his car, I loved the stacked headlights and shape of his car. You might have already seen it at Re Fuel (it’s very red!)
I sent the details over and asked him if he would come with me to Swindon to look at the car as soon as it got to the UK. I would not be making the same mistake as I did with the Mustang, Kevin is ‘Mr Pontiac’ and before he had his Lemans he owned a Pontiac Firebird and knows everything there is to know about Pontiacs.
A few weeks later we went up to Swindon to look at the car, Kev got on the ground and spent ages looking at underneath then was all over the engine. I loved the shape of the car but I wasn’t a fan of the colour or the front end. I said we would go for a coffee and I would call him soon, I needed to get Kevs honest opinion first.
Kev told me the car was like brand new underneath and thought that if I liked the car then it was a great car to buy. A deal was done. When we got it home, I was able to find out from the Internet a little information about the car. On YouTube there is a video of the car being sold by a company called Atlas muscle cars in Dallas. The video was uploaded in 2015 so I emailed the garage but they were not that helpful, all they could tell me was that they had sold the car for a client from Arlington, Texas and that it then went to a chap in St Augustine in Florida.
It was then sold to Joe in Swindon from whom I got it. The next 8 weekends, trusty Kevin was at my house as it had many little issues that needed to be sorted; carburetor needed tweaking and adjusting as it would not idle, nearly every bolt needed tightening on the car and during the first road test it felt like the rear axle was going to rip itself off from the car.
This was to do with the limited slip diff clutches sticking from the car not being used. At first it felt like this was going to be expensive but all it needed was the differential oil to be drained, new gasket and new oil then go drive the car in figure of 8s. After this we found the UJ joint needed replacing, then a new fan clutch then a few more issues with carburettor but this has all been sorted now. I bought new American racing wheels from Summit Racing in the states which really suit the car.
So, I then googled the VIN number which tells its own tale. The car was built in Fremont California in the 3rd week of February 1971. It was originally sandalwood brown and that the car is a T-37. In 1971 you could buy a Pontiac T-37, Pontiac Lemans Sport or Pontiac GTO. The T-37 could be upgraded to a GT-37, it is a rare car with only 29,000 being made. However, in 1972 they were all called Lemans.
I love driving the car and the colour and front end have grown on me. My favourite thing about the car has to be the noise as soon as you start it up nothing sounds as good as an old American V8. I also like the way the exhaust tips don’t poke out of the back of the car but you can just see them behind the rear wheels. Plus, you just don’t see another one so I like that is a rare car. I have spent the last two years taking it to shows, the furthest was to Beaulie in Hampshire. I love driving the car just because driving a car that’s 49 years old is such a different experience than driving a modern car. I understand it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, as some people do not like American cars too much, but if you look at the design that went into the American cars of the 50s, 60s, and early 70s the detail is amazing. Go and look at a ‘59 Cadillac Coupe De Ville, it’s bonkers but the detail is unbelievable.
I had to Google where the aerial for the radio is in my car as I couldn’t see it anywhere, turns out that it is built into the front windscreen, you can see it if you look it’s in the centre. When the car was built it came with a 350 cubic inch engine but it now has a 400 cubic inch (6.6 litres) The engine block is a rare W72 which were built in 1977 to be used as an option to upgrade your engine spec when buying a new Pontiac Trans am. This engine was only built for around 12 months and are sought after in the States.
Parts, believe it or not, are relatively easy to get, for mechanical parts you can get most things in the UK, body panels are always going to be harder as they will come from the States but the postage is probably going to cost the same amount as the panel.
Advice to anyone looking to buy a Pontiac would be get yourself a Kev! Speak to other Pontiac owners who have more of an idea than you do, there is also a lot of info online these days. I know a few people that have bought in the States and shipped them over with no problems.
Thanks for reading, stay safe
Model: T-37 (Lemans)
Engine: 400 Cubic Inch (6.6litres)
BHP: A fair amount
Top Speed: TBC
0-62mph Time: TBC
Weight: 1500 kg
Cost When New: $2,800
Modifications: Painted Gun metal grey, Original Colour Sandalwood Brown, 400 W72 Block built for the 77 Pontiac Trans Am, Holley 4 Barrel Carburettor, HEI electronic ignition, Edlebrock Performance intake, Spectre Performance dual plenum air intake, 12 Bolt with Pozi rear end, Hotchkiss rear control arms and springs, Manual Disc brake upgrade, no servo, Racing bucket seats and 4 point harness, American Racing Torque Thrust Wheels, Airbags all round (Not Really) if you crash it’s going to hurt!
Thanks Ian, a truly awesome automobile and we can’t wait to see it again at Re:Fuel soon!