BACK IN BLACK
Story and photos by Bob Wicker
1976 was a pivotal year for Pontiacs ever more popular Firebird line. With sales on a steady increase, the top of the line Trans Am model was also becoming the best selling of the Firebird line. While overall performance was in decline compared to the HO and Super Duty years, Trans Am styling was a winner in the showrooms as color and option choices became broader. 1976 was the last year for the 455 cubic inch power plant and round headlights but the first year for the soon to be very popular special edition black and gold package. Pontiac sold over 46,000 Trans Ams in 1976, leading to the Firebird line selling over 110,000 units that year.
Fast forward to 1989. Ronnie Bayer was a Pontiac service technician and was in the market for a Firebird. Ronnie shares:
"I have always admired the old American muscle cars from the '60s and '70s. I have owned many of them in the past, but not a Trans Am. Buying a new truck in 1989, I decided I wanted to buy a second hand car to drive back and forth to work. Back in the past my sister owned a 1976 Formula, I always admired it, and at that moment I decided I did not want just any ordinary car. Looking through the paper I came across an original owner selling his 1976 Trans Am. Wanting a car like that I gave him a call and struck a deal with him. The car was all original, except for the radio that he had replaced, but he did still had the original radio and 8-track tape player for the car. It was a well used, high mileage car but was not a rust bucket. The car needed a full restoration, with the intention of making it an everyday driver. While traveling to many salvage yards on the search for all the parts and with help of some restoration books, I was ready to rebuild the car. After several years of rebuilding and driving it the car was ready to be painted."
Ronnie's Trans Am was originally silver with a red interior. The previous owner had painted it black so Ronnie decided that he would stay with black for the repaint. The car was ordered new with no hood bird and he liked that look so he kept it that way when he restored it. He also went with red and silver decals. The result is striking and looks great with the Firethorn red interior.
Ronnie also detailed the original 400 cube Pontiac motor. When the car was finished it was far too nice to be a daily driver so it became an occasional driver and show car. Ronnie shares:
"One of my most memorable moments was when I entered the car in the 1994 Houston Autorama car show and won 1st place in my class."
I have known of Ronnie's car since 1996 and it looks as good today as it ever has, a testament to the constant care and detailing that Ronnie dedicates to his "Back in Black" 1976 Trans Am.