QUOTE _______________________________________________

"Hey hey, my my
Rock and roll can never die
There’s more to the picture than meets the eye. 
Hey hey, my my.

                                                                                -Neil Young



QUOTE _______________________________________________

"This is what you want.  This is what you get."
-PIL- Public Image Limited,

"The Order of Death"


Purchasing this TA was an adventure in and of itself but owning her has turned out to be just as big (nay, even more of) an adventure!  Yes, this particular third gen TA was rescued off of Ebay from its then-current owner in North Carolina with just 48,000 original miles showing on the clocks and for the princely sum of $7500.00.  The opening parts of this particular adventure involved winning the Ebay auction then flying over to North Carolina and driving her all the way back to Mississippi.

You see, I was looking for a nice black and gold, two-tone, all original TPI powered Trans Am (like the TA that a childhood friend had once owned) but since beggars can't be choosers and since black and gold Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams (original factory paint scheme black and gold Trans Ams, not repainted ones) are as rare as a full set of teeth and / or examples of good personal hygiene at the annual Sturgis Harley Davidson rally I took what I could find.  What I found was a super clean, all original 1986 monochromatic black Trans Am.  There was ... something ...  about this car that just drew me to her irresistibly, like a siren of days far yore. 

She was voodoo. 

She was a tease; high dollar options with low dollar suspension which didn't make a whole lot of sense but at the same time certified her as a veritable enigma from the start.  She was a LB9 car which normally would have required (in 1986) that she also be a WS6 car but she didn't appear to be such.  She appeared to be a factory LB9 car with a base model Y99 suspension (i.e. 15" wheels where the factory would have required 16" wheels with the hi-po motor).

The original intention was to repaint the lower rocker panels gold and upgrade her wheels, steering and rear differential to the more durable factory WS6 level using pieces from a later WS6 equipped parts car (yes, I was going to rip off parts from the '89 Formula in doing so...), thereby recreating the desired car from my teenage years with the full knowledge that it wouldn't be an "original" or "factory" black and gold TA; sadly, it would only be a copy.  She was purchased as a monochromatic black Trans Am with the base Y99 suspension on her, all of this judged by the many photos on the Ebay auction.  Questions to the seller (actually an auction clearing house taking over the selling chores for the owner) couldn't answer basic questions like "does the car have rear disc brakes?"  With little more information than the pictures could provide and no help from the seller, I decided to take a chance. What I was looking at was a black monochrome TA with some choice options and the Y99 suspension.  That's what I thought I was buying (and what I thought I had signed up for as well as resigned myself to owning).
  I'm a WS6 man at heart.  I've never owned a TA (or Firebird for that matter) that wasn't optioned with the legendary WS6 package so I went into this auction / purchase with mixed feelings.  I was buying a beautiful Trans Am, but it wasn't the Trans Am that I was looking for.  It wasn't a factory black and gold model and it wasn't a factory WS6 TA.  Still, I decided to make do with what I had and treat her with respect.

When I went to pick her up,  I fell in love with her at first sight. 

The pictures from the auction did not do her justice, she was even more beautiful in real life than any picture could have shown.  Suddenly, I didn't care that she wasn't a black and gold TA or a WS6 optioned car, she was gorgeous and in perfect mechanical / physical condition (or as perfect as one might expect of a 20 year old sports car).  After I sat down inside her for the first time, I flipped the center console open and found the RPO listing.  Glancing through the RPO listing, I found several curious RPO codes and decoded the important RPO codes from memory.  That's when I discovered, much to my amazement, that what I had actually bought was in fact a factory optioned WS6 Trans Am!  The expression "no effing way" came immediately to mind.

The codes were all there on the build sheet decal in the center console... G80, G92, GW6, J65, ... WS6.  WS6?  NFW!  I got out of the car and squatted at the rear wheel, peering through the spokes of the 15x7" cast aluminum wheel where I saw the tell-tale outline of factory rear disc brake rotors.  Yes, as incredible as it may seem, under the guise of appearing to be something it was not, I had unknowingly purchased a car that was far more than it appeared (and had appeared) to be! 

Much, much more!  Or, to use a phrase from Neil Young ...

"Hey hey, my my!  There’s more to the picture than meets the eye.  Hey hey, my my!"

Upon deciphering the RPO codes, I determined that this particular TA had left the Norwood, Ohio assembly plant (my first Norwood F-body, all the others had been Van Nuys built cars) with the correct aluminum wheels for the WS6 suspension system.  Somewhere, some how, some time in the past two decades, one of the three previous owners had "lost" the original 16x8 cast aluminum wheels trading them out for the smaller 15x7 wheels.  This solved one of the original questions I had in that if the car had come with over $6000 worth of high end options from the factory then why hadn't Pontiac, the dealer, or whoever it was who ordered this car in the first place come up with the extra few hundred dollars for the top of the line WS6 suspension?  If the car had top of the line options for interior and power train then why would it have had the base level suspension?  That didn't make sense to me since, in view of the cost of the other options the car had, the price for the WS6 suspension system would have been a drop in the bucket.  I just didn't see a LB9 TPI Trans Am as being allowed to be optioned with the base model Y99 suspension since the LB9 was the most powerful engine offered in 1985 and 1986 (and then only with the mandatory, extra cost 700R4 four speed automatic).  The LB9 had been required to be optioned with the WS6 suspension.

The answer is, whoever spec'ed this car out gave it just about everything from the factory.  The only thing missing from the build sheet are a few interior convenience items (like power remote mirrors, a vanity mirror on the passenger side sun visor, a remote electric rear hatch release and one or two others minor options ...).  She was originally a WS6 car, she was just wearing the wrong size wheels and tires on her.  I bought her thinking she was a Y99 car and wishing she was a WS6 car.  When I got her, I found out that she was indeed a WS6 car that was wearing Y99 rims instead of the factory correct N96 rims.


Other than that, the Pontiac was perfect inside and out, original paint, cold air, working cruise, working headlights, rear window defogger, all power, original factory radio, almost showroom quality, which was quite a rare find for a sports car that is 20 years old, especially one that has had only 3 owners and was driven, on average, less than 2100 miles a year...

For two weeks after I purchased the car, I struggled with the paint scheme.  The solid black exterior with gold decals (the front Trans Am decal missing from the nose and the "PONTIAC" logo missing from the front headlight were both clues that kept nagging at me) made me wonder what kind of color scheme this car had been ordered with.  I've seen some unusual color schemes but the scheme this TA had was so unusual that it just raised some red flags when I thought about it.  Usually, monochrome black cars were outfitted with some kind of silver or other type of complimenting color stripe to set them off.  Black and gold was generally limited to the special edition Trans Ams, the Recaro edition Trans Ams and other similar special edition package groupings.  Now, it should be noted that while this TA was indeed optioned with the rare factory supplied Recaro seats, this TA wasn't in fact a "Recaro TA" since that was a separate model / option of Trans Am in and of itself and the last official Recaro TA had been offered and built way back in the 1985 model year.  However, 1986 was the last year for the Recaro bucket seats (and the Lear Sigler seats as well) as a factory option, a tradition that had gone all the way back to 1981 and the second generation Firebird (first appearing in the 1981 Turbo Trans Am Daytona 500 Pace Car edition).

This TA was so right yet so wrong.

So, I began to look at how I could correct the color inconsistency of the car, either go solid black / monochrome or go to a black and gold factory paint scheme.  I felt that one plan would be to paint the car two tone black and gold, replace the missing emblems and have the car that I had always wanted but I also felt this was turning the car into something it was originally not.  I've always hated finding a rare Y84 special edition Trans Am only to find out that some redneck took a red TA and repainted it black and gold because they always wanted a "Smokey and the Bandit" Trans Am and could never afford a real one.  My conscious weighed heavily on me not to change this TA into something it wasn't.

The other option was to go all the way with the monochrome paint scheme.  I had a set of factory / year correct 16x8 inch aluminum wheels that needed to be stripped and repainted.  I decided to paint them black and to remove all the gold decals from the car and go back with black decals.  Black on black, total monochrome from top to bottom.  The tan interior would be the ringer but with tinted windows, I could live with it.  Besides, I remembered seeing a black Dodge Daytona with tan cloth interior and it hadn't been too hard on the eyes.  Just when I made up my mind to follow this course of action and commit to "fixing" the "error" of including gold decals on a monochrome black car, I went back and looked at the RPO codes line by line, out of curiosity. 

What did I find?

Well, look for yourself ...

















These codes tell me that my TA was once a black and gold Trans Am, complete with the gold (ochre) "square-dot-fade" accent stripe (the WW5 code is the key to this)!  Not only had I purchased a WS6 car wearing Y99 tires and rubber, I had purchased a black and gold TA, a real, factory black and gold TA (the TA that I had been looking for all the time) that was hidden under some previous owner custom applied monochrome paint scheme!  Repainting the bottom ground effects gold wouldn't be changing this Trans Am into something it never was, it would be restoring it back to what it once had been!  Yes, 20 years ago, a black and gold, two tone, LB9 powered,  Recaro optioned, WS6 packaged Trans Am left the Norwood, Ohio assembly plant.  Somewhere, in the last two decades, she lost her original 16x8 aluminum wheels and some moron removed the "TRANS AM" decal from the front nose, removed the "PONTIAC" emblem from the front driver's side headlight, removed the "square-dot-fade" accent stripe and repainted the gold ground effects black to match the rest of the car.

The second mystery of owning this car soon became which of the three previous owners not only removed the "square dot fade" accent stripe, but which one had also repainted the lower ground effects black (to match the rest of the car)?  Yes, like the Rolling Stones sang in the quote I use at the bottom of this page, I had started out to find a clean black and gold TPI / WS6 powered Trans Am with T-tops.  I had bought something I thought was much less than what I wanted.  When I took delivery of it, I found that it was actually much more than I had expected and not only was it a Trans Am that I could live with but it was the very one I had been looking for to begin with!  Hidden, like an Easter Egg in a video game.

The bigger mystery would be "why?" all of this was done to this car in the first place ... did someone think they could turn this TA into a GTA (which didn't appear until the 1987 model year)?  Possibly.

Now, follow along as I restore the old girl to her former two tone glory.  Black and gold are beautiful together.  Oh, yes, they are.  Expensive too, but worth every damn penny.

QUOTE _______________________________________________________________________________

"You can't always get what you want ... But if you try sometimes well
you just might find ...  You get what you need."

  -The Rolling Stones