As mentioned, not all was disappointing. The rough and fairly unhealthy idle notwithstanding, as it sat there rumbling away through its original exhaust (with water pump gushing away!), I found myself feeling as if I was transported back to the late 70s. No stinkiness in the exhaust nor in the interior. Opening the driver's door to examine the interior (let's not get distracted by the highly questionable repairs on the driver's door latch mechanism!), we find something akin to a time machine.
I've always been a big fan of the deluxe interior, which happened to be one of the only options my other 1978 Trans Am came equipped with. The opportunity to own a black cloth version was really exciting, even though I thought the red interior in my other car was really cool for its time. The deluxe interior offered the cloth lower door trim (with map pockets) and a passenger grab handle and could be had in either cloth or vinyl, the benefit over the base non-deluxe vinyl being the improved padding of the seats. After 10 years with my other 1978 Trans Am, I just wasn't interested in living with one that did not have these comfy seats.
Being an A/C car, it also seems to be equipped with an under-dash "hush panel", located over the pedals and probably intended to muffle some of the A/C duct roar. Again, another nice touch... my other non-A/C '78 did not have this panel.
Here we see the original pushbutton AM/FM cassette stereo, complete with Pontiac's ridiculous implementation of stereo speakers: a center dash speaker playing one side (I haven't really cared to find out) and the other side playing out the single rear deck speaker on the driver's side! What were they thinking? Especially since the steel structure under the tray is already cut for DUAL speakers! (which I believe they finally used for 1979 and later)
The door panels themselves were in decent shape although the "chrome" plating on the beads have flaked off fairly badly. I don't think the panels themselves warrant replacement, so I may just try to freshen them up first and ride it out for a few years.
The Pontiac-spec Hurst shifter, fresh from the factory.
Seems like healthy oil pressure, hopefully the original owners paid good attention to basic maintenance like oil changes and the sort.
The A/C seemed to be non-functional. The fan blew correctly, but it turns out the pressure switch on the A/C line had its terminals broken off. I did manage to get it working, but that's all part of another chapter later on.
But it was all there, intact, and not a spot of rust to be found on the undercarriage beyond a bit of the usual rot down by the tail panel. The trunk was impeccable even on the driver's side which had obviously seen some repairs. The build sheet was available and perfectly preserved, which further authenticated this as a true low mileage winter-stored Canadian W72 WS6 car loaded to the gills with nearly everything except for the hood bird decal!
So after much consultation with the restoration expert, to whom I owe a great deal of gratitude for his help in this adventure, it was clear there was a LOT to do on this car before it could be considered a solid driver. In this respect I'd be taking a huge step back by replacing my other fully-enjoyable 1978 Trans Am with this car, not counting the additional expense of repairs and refreshing. A huge risk indeed. It would need a complete repaint, body repairs both to deal with the rust as well as undoing some of the older "funky" repair jobs here and there, not to mention unknown mechanical repairs... I hadn't even driven the thing yet!
After sitting down to discuss the issues with the owners, I had no choice but to negotiate a better sale price. The original price, although claimed negotiable, was simply completely unrealistic considering the condition of the vehicle. Working FOR the vehicle was its low mileage and SUPERB undercarriage as well as a clean non-smoked interior, as well as being one of the few remaining unmodified performance Trans Ams of that era! Being sold by the original owners was another big plus, as was the fact it was nicely documented as an authentic Canadian W72 WS6.
Working AGAINST the car was its cosmetic condition and checkered bodywork past (with zillions of dings all over the place!), as well as the generally poor mechanical (operation) condition. There really was no way this car could have been driven back home on its own, it would need to be transported the 9 hour journey to my home before going under the knife... who knows how long it would be before it would be drivable. The current depressed collector car market wasn't helping the asking price either... for the price they were initially asking, the car would have needed nothing more than a little bit of cleanup here and there and a few weekends of tuneup work on my part.
After some lengthy face-to-face discussions, a price was agreed on. I am not ashamed to say I ended up paying a solid $1.5k to $2k too high for the vehicle in the state it was in... I could have found a car in pristine unrestored shape for a few more thousand dollars, or found a long-termer (like my old '78) for MANY thousands less that I could drive immediately. What pushed me to this purchase was the fact that it was indeed a solid W72 with low miles, and if anything the money I'd put into it would be going towards a car with some sort of pedigree (so the risk would be lessened, although I'd certainly NEVER get back anywhere near the money I'd put into it, should I be forced to sell it later).
Later afternoon, a deposit was handed over and the plates were pulled... the car was tucked into the garage awaiting the transport back to the restoration shop to get it fixed up nicely. The adventure had truly begun...
(IMPORTANT: other than the questions surrounding the car's lifetime and bodywork/paint history, I don't feel bitter over the transaction or the purchase itself. I made a solemn promise that I would not be flipping the car and I stuck to it, and I intend to do my best to make sure the car enjoys an easy life with me. As with any of my cars, it won't be a garage queen but it will hopefully remain factory fresh for as long as possible. If the original owners stumble across this site one day, I hope they will be content that the car is being VERY well treated and if all goes well, will be outliving most of us! They may be a bit surprised at how it ends up looking, but that's a story for the coming chapters...)