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A Poncho Legend!

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August 2008 Feature Car


It seemed everyone forgot the great Pontiacs built after 1972 and that was a shame. However, interest in these cars is starting to take off. And why not? In my opinion the 73-77 Pontiac LeMans has several great things going for it including great looks, excellent handling and exceptional reliability. Ray White's Oshawa built and Chevrolet powered 73 LeMans Sport Coupe is an excellent example of what was offered to us lucky Canadians. Here's a little about the car in Ray's own words:

This is my 1973 Lemans Sport Coupe. It is a true Driver and Survivor undergoing only a paint job in 1989 from its original Ascot Silver. Since purchasing it in 2004 I have done a little work on the car to suit my taste but always with the mind to keep the car as typical as possible for the period it is from.

 

The car is documented by GM Canada as one of 3,761 built. It was built in Oshawa on March 9, 1973. The car has just over 63,000 original miles. We often dont think of a LeMans as a Canadian Pontiac with a Chevrolet engine under its hood but here is one. In this case, it is a 350 small block badged as a Pontiac Astro-Flash.

 

I decided the only way I was ever going to get into the old car hobby was to make a specific decision on what year and model to look for. I settled on 2 choices, a 1970 Tempest 2d. post or a 1973 LeMans Sport Coupe, both cars my dad owned when I was a teenager. The search for the Tempest still continues.

 

I found this car by searching the web, then one Thursday there it was, in Barrie Ontario. Luckily I was heading up to the cottage the next day so I called and made arrangements to see the car. The owner said he bought it in 1989 but since 1996 it was stored at the family farm in a Barn near Parry Sound. He produced a invoice dated a week earlier from the Parry Sound Canadian Tire for a battery and some exhaust parts, required to bring the car down to Barrie.

73LeMansFront.jpg

It idled rough and launched badly when I first drove it but I was soon topping 80 mph on the cornfield lined country roads. When the owner handed me a box of small bits and parts and I saw the original dealer emblem that said 'by Rumble - Leaside Ontario', I looked at my 16 year old son and said we have to buy it. At the time he went to Leaside High School and the dealership, now Brennans, is only blocks from the school. In fact when I attended Leaside High for our driver training, Rumble supplied the 1974 LeMans and Regals we learned to drive on. My Dad even had a '73 Sport Coupe that I learned to drive on and took to Prom in 1976. I gave the owner $400, the contents of my wallet as a deposit and agreed to come back Monday evening with $2,400 more in cash.

73LeMans34Rear31.jpg

The car is really like a toy for me, its not perfect and its played with. I am lucky that it didnt cost very much so I dont fuss over it. Its got a few scratches and door dings some I bought with it and some I put on myself, but it runs well and is reliable. The GM Canada paper work for my car shows a really neat option which Ill point out Console, Less and this explains why I have bucket seats and a column shifter. Seems rather odd but kind of neat I think.

73LeMansInterior.jpg

One thing to know about a 1973 Canadian built LeMans is that no where in this world do there exist any reproduced parts for this car. If that isnt bad enough, on top of that 1973 is a one year only body style for the LeMans. 74/75 are the same as are 76/77 but 73 stands alone. As an example I recently purchased ignition wires and what a fiasco. Each time I got the wires they were wrong, they were for various Pontiac V8s, until finally we asked for a 73 Chevelle, BINGO, exact fit. So in this regard I share a lot in common with a Beaumont owner.

73LeMansRear31.jpg

Since purchasing it I have put all the exterior trim back on it, I had two broken parking lamps which have been replaced but took forever to find and got them from a GTO undergoing NOS restoration in BC. Put in a Grant steering wheel that I set up as close as possible to the optional NK5 Soft Rim Sport Steering Wheel. My GM paper work showed my car was built with that wheel but it was not on the car when I got it.

73LeMansRumble.jpg

I found NOS sill plates in Chicago, got a map light from a Grand Am which just bolted right in place from Edmonton to replace the dome light, its got a 160 MPH speedo from a Firebird in Ohio which needed a bit of finesse to fit since it was from a floor shift car and also recently obtained the Rally Cluster from California.

73LeMansfront31.jpg

Pulled dual horns from a 74 Luxury LeMans from a salvage yard in Midland, mine only had one from the factory, and figured what the heck, so now I have triple horns.

73LemansSide231.jpg

The ZZ4 Bowtie Aluminum intake came from a brand new ZZ4 crate engine in New York, never run - a $65 eBay score; valve covers from an 86 IROC Z in Tennessee - $7 eBay score, painted aluminum look almost like LT-1 covers. Replaced a leaky Quadrajet with a new Edelbrock 600 CFM performer, got a discontinued GM Performance Parts Air Cleaner from Karbelt in Pickering and I had some air cleaner decals made up of my own design to reflect the original Big Block style Pontiac decals used up to 1969 using the Astro Flash 350 Small Block instead.

73LeMansAstroFlash.jpg

The crowning touch though has to be that N.A.S.A. ducted hood, from Mike in Grafton, owner of a 75 Cup Car  undergoing a frame off, Mike also gave me a rear sway bar from his 75 as he changed his to the Trans Am bigger diameter piece.

73leMansRear.jpg

Thats about it. Have to mention Darryl, my good buddy 65 Camino, who is always nearby to help turn wrenches, come up with ideas and travel to cruise ins with and also acknowledge Todd and this great site and fantastic members which makes the hobby a lot of fun!

 

I mentioned that I took my Dads 73 SC to my Prom in 1976. The pretty girl who was my passenger that night is often my passenger in this Sport Coupe too, August 1st is our 27th Wedding Anniversary so it is a nice coincidence that Todd asked to feature my car.

________________________________________________________________________

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Epolougue: In October 2011 the LeMans underwent a 454 Big Block engine swap. Using the Big Block was an easy solution to adding horsepower and torque to this otherwise nice performer yet somewhat sedate L48 powered car. The word muscle car can now be legitimately used when speaking of this LeMans Sport Coupe and the car has claimed victories over a 440 Roadrunner and small block powered Corvette. The swap is documented under thr 1970+ engine tech section.

 IMG_9915.JPG

IMG_9922b.JPG

IMG_9920a.JPG

 

 


 



-- Edited by 73SC on Monday 24th of December 2012 03:47:12 PM

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Uber Guru

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awesum car and story ray! hope you find your post car.

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Poncho Master!

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The car has never looked so good Ray!  Great write-up too! thumbsup.gif

"Ramble into Rumble, you'll see."biggrin

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Poncho Master!

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Great car! Having fun making it more to your liking. Although I still think it rides too high!

Thanks for the compliment!

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A Poncho Legend!

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It looks great! I love reading the car stories. Each one has such a unique background too!

Fun to see your car at the top of the page I bet, EH??? Way to go!

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Addicted!

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Glad i could help ray , she looks great.

Happy anniversary too.

mike.

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Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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Thanks cupedition,

Glad you came on here. Any photos of progress on your car? I am sure we'd all be interested in seeing a 75 LeMans GT Canada Cup under restoration and hearing about how its going. biggrin

-- Edited by 73SC at 10:29, 2008-08-04

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Ray White, Toronto ON

1973 LeMans 454 "Astro-Jet"

Built March 9, 1973 - Oshawa ON

 






A Poncho Legend!

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65Camino wrote:


Great car! Having fun making it more to your liking. Although I still think it rides too high!

Thanks for the compliment!



       Congratulations!!!  love the car and the story.. being a original 73 Lemans Sport owner, I have a soft spot in my heart for them, matches my soft spot, in my head...  I think it rides just RIGHT   Carl 



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Guru

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Nice car. Forgot the gems like this one, the 70s produced!

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65 Catalina 2+2 421 4bbl,  Auto, White, w/red interior, Buckets w/column shift.

66 Grande Parisienne, 2dr HT, 327 4bbl, Auto.

Had the 66 since about 83 and the 65 since 88.
Both still require a lot of work.


Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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Thanks for all the nice compliments fellas. It is really nice having the car featured but it is a true testament to the value of a site like this in all the wonderful and helpful people you meet on line and in some cases get to meet in person.

Having my car featured should give everyone a moral boost, it's not a trailer queen or show stopper by any stretch, its got its share of warts but to me it represents what the old car hobby is about, working on the car yourself with the help of friends and driving them! smile 

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Ray White, Toronto ON

1973 LeMans 454 "Astro-Jet"

Built March 9, 1973 - Oshawa ON

 






Poncho Master!

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73SC wrote:
"what the old car hobby is about, working on the car yourself with the help of friends and driving them! smile "


    Amen! Brother Ray!



 

  I still think it rides high, though I know I have to book a whole weekend just to fix it!



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Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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65Camino wrote:

  I still think it rides high, though I know I have to book a whole weekend just to fix it!



.......if we could find another one we could compare.....



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Ray White, Toronto ON

1973 LeMans 454 "Astro-Jet"

Built March 9, 1973 - Oshawa ON

 






Poncho Master!

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Looking great!!!

I fixed a gaggle of 76-77 Canadian Lemans cars that were insurance write offs back around 1980..
They were always a good seller but sadly it was often a '73 I killed to swipe the frame from...even used the '73 fenders w/ sidemarker lite sometimes too!.
The whole procedure usually involved three cars, one smashed low mile 76-77 Coupe to fix, one 73-75 Coupe for the frame etc and one 76-77 Wagon to rob the nose parts from..
The low miler coupe got the 73-75 frame and w'shld plus 76-77 wagon nose and was sold for real dough..
The wagon if a good car would get the 73-75 nose and was resold as cheap wheels..
The dead 73-75 Coupe stripped of anything else useful and sent to the boneyard..
Always loved how easy the radios were mounted and came out of these!.

On the springs, has someone maybe put A/C or Pontiac engined Lemans springs in it instead of the Chevelle ones it should probably have?.
Often the aftermarket spring suppliers supply the stiffer A/C springs for all applications too?.

Love that color...original or not!.

And aren't the hoods w/ vents actually called NACA after the NACA ducts, not NASA?.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NACA_duct

My Dad went to Leaside high...I think in it's first year of being open?.

"Ramble into Rumble, you'll see!"

biggrin




-- Edited by Ghost Post at 14:01, 2008-08-05

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A Poncho Legend!

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Yes they are NACA. Ray is flying high so I didn't want to burst his bubble!

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Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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Thanks for your kudos Ghost Post,

Now we know where all the 73's went! Really though, thanks for posting such an enjoyable story to read.

The front end was a bit high, but once we took off the iron stock intake and put on that ZZ4 aluminum it really started to rise. I also ripped the entire AIR system out of it like in the first week I had it, brackets and pulleys and all, so she is a lot lighter up front than original. Good suggestion on the spring rates though, we'll have to look into that.

On the NACA / NASA matter, all GM Canada sales material refers to these as N.A.S.A. style scoops so I always refer to them as that. It is a marketing name that's all. As a matter of fact you guys are right the style of ducts were developed by NACA for aeronauatical uses. Pontiac called them N.A.S.A. for some reason, not unlike the marketing name Positraction for a limited slip differential I suppose.

I think LHS was opened in 1950, does that sound right:
http://schools.tdsb.on.ca/leasidehigh/Home%20Folder/new%20home%20Frameset-1.htm



-- Edited by 73SC at 14:30, 2008-08-05

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Ray White, Toronto ON

1973 LeMans 454 "Astro-Jet"

Built March 9, 1973 - Oshawa ON

 






Poncho Master!

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Yep, sorry for killing the '73 Coupes!.
They were cheap and plentiful then but any coupes available were just more often a '73 than other years?.
Always fixed only coupes and a coupe parts car was necessary not only for the frame but also the w'shld as cheap aftermarket glass wasn't available like it is today..
Sometimes I used a frame and glass from a Chevelle or other 73-77 A-body coupe but usually only if the 76/77 nose parts weren't required thus the wagon donor car not necessary either..

Although Lemans coupes were best to do being they were always fast sellers, I fixed a few other low miler A-body cars then too including one El' Camino I put a Laguna nose on!.
Did lots of 73-80 Chevy 1/2 tons back then too but when the '81 trucks first came out, it was hard finding the new nose parts so stuck w/ the 80 & older ones..

I liked the 73-77 A-bodies as they were the greatest cars to split apart and easy to work on..
Like many GM products of the day, every hole was in the frame for any Chevy or B-O-P drivetrain combination so in a matter of hours I could usually do the swap;
A 3/8" or 10 mil socket would pop the engine cowl side of the fusebox plug off and it would separate it into 3 pcs...one harness section went w/ the nose, one w/ the engine and the other w/ the body..
Undo the emerg. brk. main cable, both end fuel line connections and the master cyl. from the booster carefully laying the master down on the chassis without damaging the lines..
Undo the mounts and take off the old body, pull the old drivetrain, clean and paint the chassis and put the newer car drivetrain in.
Drop the newer body onto the chassis then whole doner nose w/ fenders and rad support as a unit.
Hook the electrical harness main plugs back up plus fuel and emerg cables also master onto the booster...and not even need to bleed the brakes!.
Sometimes I'd add a tilt column if the parts car had one too..
The hardest part was often cleaning the broken w'shld glass from the body of the car...I'd dump the lower hoses and stick the skinny vacuum snorkel down the defrost vents when the w'shld was out also run it for a bit to make sure it was all out..
A few snags would sometimes appear but being GM products was always easy to cure!.

On the Leaside High School thing, I'll ask Dad but think the first year would've been more like 1945?.

Do you remember the Ramble into Rumble jingle commercials?.

-- Edited by Ghost Post at 16:16, 2008-08-05

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Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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So Ghost Post, sounds like you're my man for swapping in a posi rear end 3.08 or 3.42 gears. Know where I might get one and then also add directions to your place! I assume you take payment for your services in 24's giggle.gif 

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Ray White, Toronto ON

1973 LeMans 454 "Astro-Jet"

Built March 9, 1973 - Oshawa ON

 






Poncho Master!

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I'll keep an eye out for a rear for you..
Check every single 73-77 wagon, Camino, Grand Am, 442 or other performance A-body you see!.

Not what you need but if any 68-72 guys do, I saw a '68 Cutlass in the boneyard a few weeks back that had 12 bolt in it..
I didn't check on it being a posi or not also keep in mind an Olds will have the HD 10 bolt ring gear even though the 12 bolt cover..
The Olds units are heavy duty and different than the rears w/ the 10 bolt covers though and preferred over actual 12 bolts by some..
If anyone needs it, let me know and I'll ask as considering where it is, it'd probably be reasonable?.

biggrin


-- Edited by Ghost Post at 16:44, 2008-08-05

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Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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Ghost Post wrote:

I'll keep an eye out for a rear for you..
Check every single 73-77 wagon, Camino, Grand Am, 442 or other performance A-body you see!.


Is there any practical way to identify the axle ratio by looking at the diff ? Same for posi, how do I tell a posi from an open rear end ?



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Ray White, Toronto ON

1973 LeMans 454 "Astro-Jet"

Built March 9, 1973 - Oshawa ON

 






A Poncho Legend!

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73SC wrote:

65Camino wrote:

  I still think it rides high, though I know I have to book a whole weekend just to fix it!



.......if we could find another one we could compare.....



       If you want to ride on the ground, get a old Honda civic with a body kit... lol  



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Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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427carl wrote:

65Camino wrote:

  I still think it rides high, though I know I have to book a whole weekend just to fix it!



       If you want to ride on the ground, get a old Honda civic with a body kit... lol  



Ya give to him C2, his cars are so low the wheels rub on turns......nana.gif



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Ray White, Toronto ON

1973 LeMans 454 "Astro-Jet"

Built March 9, 1973 - Oshawa ON

 






A Poncho Legend!

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73SC wrote:
 

On the NACA / NASA matter, all GM Canada sales material refers to these as N.A.S.A. style scoops so I always refer to them as that. It is a marketing name that's all. As a matter of fact you guys are right the style of ducts were developed by NACA for aeronauatical uses. Pontiac called them N.A.S.A. for some reason, not unlike the marketing name Positraction for a limited slip differential I suppose.




-- Edited by 73SC at 14:30, 2008-08-05



I stand corrected. It just goes to show (once again) that I should learn that not everything I hear or read is correct! I had never seen the sales lit that calls them NASA. Interesting... Nice to know that there is proof in writing. I have taken it from people that it was NACA. Two sides to every story, once again!

 



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Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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Carl Stevenson wrote:


I stand corrected. It just goes to show (once again) that I should learn that not everything I hear or read is correct! I had never seen the sales lit that calls them NASA. Interesting... Nice to know that there is proof in writing. I have taken it from people that it was NACA. Two sides to every story, once again!


Well Carl it is one of those things, I don't think you are really wrong on this, the scoops were developed by NACA but then in 1958 they changed names to NASA. In my 1973 GM Canada sales literature on page 15 it shows the 1973 GTO and it says as part of the equipment, "Dual Hood Scoops - NASA type" so to me it is clear, they are NACA scoops BUT GM Canada called them NASA type. When you look at the US sales litertaure however the GTO equipment merely lists "hood scoops". Some Pontiac purists can't deal with this and an argument ensues every time the topic comes up. I think my explanation is a good one. One thing for sure, if someone calls it a NACA or NASA hood, we all know what they are talking about.

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Ray White, Toronto ON

1973 LeMans 454 "Astro-Jet"

Built March 9, 1973 - Oshawa ON

 






Poncho Master!

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What would N.A.C.A. stand for?

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-and a bunch of other muscle cars...


Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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Northern Alberta Curling Association?

Actually;
National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics

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