The Little Old Lady From Pasadena (Texas)
Story and photos by Bob Wicker
In 1976 Kay Sudbek of Pasadena, Texas was in the market for a new car. She liked the Firebird models so she and her husband visited Gay Pontiac in Dickinson, Texas. The Gay family (Don, Roy and later Don Jr.) who owned the dealership were major Pontiac racers and kept performance models in stock. When Mrs. Sudbek saw the 1976 Formula sales brochure, she really liked the new W50 Formula Appearance package, but not the yellow color featured in the brochure. She asked about other colors available with the package (which for '76 were Carousel red, Sterling silver and Cameo white along with the Goldenrod Yellow) and decided on Sterling Silver.
Gay Pontiac did not have one in stock, so Mrs. Sudbek special ordered hers with the Pontiac 400 4 barrel (the top formula engine in '76), A 4 speed manual transmission, deluxe black interior, AM/FM Radio, air conditioning, Rally guages and a few other options. She did not order any wheel options because her husband already had a set of Western Wheel slot wheels that she wanted to use on the car. Both Mrs. Sudbek and the salesman were surprised when the car arrived with a large clock where the tachometer would normally go. Neither had realized that the rally guage option did not include a tachometer unless one was ordered as an additional option.
Mrs. Sudbek was a house wife and she drove the car only to run errands and go to the market a few times a week. She kept her Formula in the garage. By 2008, the Formula had only gathered a paltry 32,000 miles. Due to a failure of the factory silver paint on the roof (A common problem with that color in the 70's) and a large dent on the passenger door, Mrs. Sudbek decided to have the car painted some years ago to bring back its new car sheen. She and her husband carefully selected a painter who did a great job on the repaint. Mr. Sudbek replaced the decals with reproduction units once the paint was complete. Other than the repaint, true dual exhaust and some upgraded speakers, the Formula was still in its stock factory configuration.
In 2008, I found a Craigslist ad for this well preserved Formula. Mrs Sudbek was no longer driving the car and felt that it would be best served in the hands of a collector. After seeing its well preserved condition, I bought the car on the spot. When I got it home, my son and I carfully cleaned what Mr. Sudbek admitted was the original (and all subsequent) grease that had gathered on the engine. After only a gentle cleaning, most of the engines original paint was found still intact.
Just after buying the car, I had a chance to buy a small warhouse that I thought would be perfect for my growing Pontaic collection. However, buying the warehouse meant that the Formula had to go. When I took it to a local meet, some friends of mine saw the car and immediatley fell in love. I owned this Formula only 13 days before Bill and Ella West of Houston, Texas became its third owners. Bill and Ella are avid firebird collectors, so I knew the car would be in good hands. unfornately, the building deal fell through for me, but I still have the satisfaction of having owned this peice of Pontiac history. And I get to tell the story of the little old lady from Pasadena (Texas).
Mrs Sudbek and her Formula in 2008
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