2010: MAJOR changes!


It may not seem at all logical but a major change occurred in 2010 and it was all due to this wheel.

 It's a long story, both in terms of time and in terms of how it leads to the outcome of this year's entry in my 78 Trans Am journal.

 What we see above is an 8 inch wide Pontiac "Snowflake" wheel. The snowflake was initially introduced for 1977 as the optional upscale 7 inch aluminum wheel for the Trans Am, as a replacement for the heavier "Honeycomb" wheel that was used from 1970 until 1976. The base wheel remained the 7 inch Rally II, which were still on my base '78 Trans Am.  These wheels were popularized by their use on the black and gold Trans Am used in the film Smokey and the Bandit. In 1978 Pontiac introduced an improved handling option on the Trans Am with the order code WS6, and this included an 8 inch version of the wheel, as shown above.

The WS6 option was available on any Trans Am, not just the black/gold (and later gold/black) Special Editions. On non-SE cars, they were painted a silver/grey in the spoke insides, whereas on the gold wheels they were uniformly gold for 1978 and as in the image above for 1979 and later. They could be distinguished from the narrower non-WS6 snowflakes by the additional shiny lip on the edges, helping to achieve the extra width.

How this pertains to me and the photo above: in late 2001, I purchased four fairly used wheels from a fellow Trans Am owner in Toronto... he had held on to them from the days when he owned a 1979 Trans Am. They were worn and somewhat corroded, with the grey paint flaking off from the spokes, but far from restorable. The idea all along was to fix them up and use them on my 1978 Trans Am. The intention was the keep the car black when it would be repainted, and probably stick to the graphics colors as used on silver cars. I'm not big on change, and I really liked the way the grey/orange bird worked on a black car with a red interior. I figured restoring the wheels to their original stock grey colour would work best, although many had skipped the repaint process and opted for a plain polished look which was also incredibly sharp looking.

So the wheels languished in my basement, through a move to a new house, until the day came in 2009 when I handed them to a local wheel "specialist" to get them done up. I decided on the gold theme, with the '79-'81 treatment of having the spoke edges polished and clear. It cost me a near fortune, but the results were FAR less than stellar. In fact, I was downright enraged: I'd seen plenty of worse condition wheels restored to near-new condition, and these were pathetic in comparison. Even after I provided them plenty of reference photos to colour match from, they still managed to screw up the hue! The tint ended up NOTHING like the factory used, and it left me sort of depressed due to the fact that refinishing them was no longer possible (save for manual sanding and lots of hard work). Even the clearcoat was far below expectations of quality. I didn't even bother unwrapping the rest of them, I just left them in the corner for now.


So how does that bring us to 2010....


After the fantastic repair job on my GTA after the little incident in late 2008, I had asked to be put on a waiting list for getting a nice paint job done on my '78. With the gold wheels, I had begun to entertain the idea of building a quasi-SE, with some of the SE items I liked and avoiding those cues I did not (one of which was the gothic lettering, but that's a long story). So in mid 2010, the call came and it was time to bring it in for the makeover. The night before, I gave it a good scrub but little did I know what lay ahead of me.

The first order of business was to get the front passenger fender finally patched up. While digging in there it was noticed that some sections of the floor boards would need patching, as well as a section in the rear by the tail panel. I had been collecting parts for the past decade, in preparation for this moment. Everything from rear frame rail extensions to an entire red deluxe interior (albeit for a 1979, it turns out... just a little different in terms of pattern but new replacements are available now). The first phase went well, the front fender looked awesome and with the subframe mount fixed up (improperly welded at the factory), the car rode better than ever!!


Fate, however,  had other plans...