With Amazing Documentation
Story by Bob Wicker Photos by the owner
I am not a gambler. However, I am willing to bet that your Pontiac does not have the amount and type of original factory documentation that the subject of this feature does. You see, Richard B from Southern California owns a 1973 Super Duty Trans Am with factory documentation that will blow your mind. Of course, he has the "typical" documentation that some Pontiac owners possess. For example, he has the factory build sheet for his car. He also has the original owners manuals, maintenance schedules, and warranty documentation. In addition, he has the 1973 service manuals, Fisher body manual, dealer technical bulletins, factory parts catalog, product information manual and chassis and body catalog. He also has the original California blue plate license plates customized to read "SD 455" (with the original selling dealer's frame). He has some photos of the car taken when it was new, and emails from the original owner that reveal the history of its purchase and stock drag strip performance. To add icing to the cake, he has the official Pontiac plastic model, only issued to dealers, to represent 1973 Firebirds as a gift to loyal customers.
So by now, some of you might be saying "So, I have most or all of that with my Pontiac too". However, all of that documentation and memorabilia is not what makes the history of Richard's Super Duty Trans Am so special. What does, are the letters. The original responses from Pontiac, to the original questions that the original owner sent to Pontiac when he first tried to order a 73 GTO with the SD 455 engine. Then, when he found out that the GTO would not be offered with the SD engine, his quest continued to order what is considered by many to be the ultimate second generation Trans Am: The SD 455.
We should start with a bit of history: The SD 455 engine was ultimately produced in very limited numbers in 1973 and 1974. It was only produced in two Firebird models, the Formula and the Trans Am. Only 43 Formula buyers and 252 Trans Am buyers were fortunate enough to be able to score a 1973 Firebird with the SD 455 engine.
When this Trans Am's original owner, Mikal Woodward, set out to order his special muscle car, in an era when the muscle car was dead when it came to other brands, he soon found out that the process would be anything but easy. The amazing part today, is that each one of his detailed letters to Pontiac, was answered, in writing, by a real Pontiac employee. An employee who took the time to research each question, and sign each letter, then mail Mikal these written responses. (Good luck getting that type of response from any large company these days). Even better, is the fact that Mikal kept each letter and that Richard now has them today, to document the history of his SD 455 Trans Am in a way that few Pontiacs are documented. Please take the time to read each of the letters below, as they provide a great window in to the the marketing, engineering, and production history of this great Pontiac icon.
As you can tell from the letters, Mikal Woodward's SD 455 Trans AM was finally built sometime after June 6, 1973. It was shipped to Mazzei Pontiac-Cadillac in Antioch,California, equipped with tinted glass, roof drip moldings, belt reveal moldings, door edge guards, visor vanity mirror, front console, door handle tape, turbo-hydromatic transmission, maintenance free battery, Rally II wheels with trim rings, 60X15 white letter tires, AM Radio, California emissions, Deluxe black interior, and Cameo white paint.
After taking possession of his SD, and allowing for a 2500 mile break in period, Mikal took it to his local quarter mile track in Fremont California to see if if it lived up to its performance expectations. His initial run in bone stock trim yielded a 14.38 at 100 mph with a great deal of wheel spin. Mikal then changed only the secondary metering rods and ran a 14.04 at 104 mph, again with wheel spin off the line. Indeed, the stock SD met his expectations.
Below are some scanned pictures that Mikal took of the car not long after its purchase.
Mikal owned the SD until 1974 and sold the car to its second owner. Fast forward to 2001. Richard had always dreamed of owning a 1973 SD 455 Trans AM. With prices starting to rise he began to search for one. He found this car on ebay, still in California and still in the hands of its second owner with 90,000 original, documented miles on the odometer. He won the auction and took possession of the SD.
The car had been mildly modified by both its first and second owners. The original blue Trans Am decals had been changed to orange, the car had mud flaps and the original exhaust manifolds had been replaced by headers. In addition, the car, while quite solid, needed some refreshing both cosmetically and mechanically. For the cosmetic part, Richard entrusted the rare TA to Magnolia Street Auto Body and Paint in Ontario California. They re painted the car in its original Cameo white hue, and added the appropriate blue decals. For the mechanical aspects, Richard brought the car to none other than Pontiac legend Ken Crocie of HO Racing fame. Ken balanced and blueprinted the original SD engine, adding an HO Racing HC-02 cam and 1.65 rockers. Ken noted an interesting bit of trivia regarding the heads. He noticed they looked to have a very mild factory port job on them. Richard has a receipt from the previous owner from the last time the heads were off noting the same thing. This was something Ken heard was done in the crib during the assembly of the first dozen or so SD engines. Ken learned this from someone actually working in the assembly crib at that time. As it turns out, the car is a June car with a very low VIN number as posted in the online SD registry. Richard added a Gardner reproduction exhaust and an upgraded stall converter to match the cam. The only noticeable deviation from stock is the flapper kit that Richard added to the shaker to make it functional, using a factory look harness. The engine build and dyno test was featured in a major Pontiac publication in 2005. Richard's SD also appeared on the A&E network TV show Modern Marvels - 70's Tech. Richard says that his 73 SD is now 99 percent complete, and that he continues to work on that last 1 percent. I believe that Richard is very fortunate to own such a rare car and that we are very fortunate to be able to learn more Pontiac history from his 73 SD's amazing documentation.
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