We scouted the Spring Nationals for the newcomers, cars in the recently expanded eligibility age range
Tom Evans and Mike Lamberth have been classic car enthusiasts for more than a few years, but they’d been shut out of participating with the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association because the cars they liked and collected were produced after 1972, the long-held cutoff date adhered to by what is likely the country’s largest car club, both in number of members and number of shows.
But last year, Goodguys announced it was expanding the date range for its shows, through the 1987 model year, so this past weekend Evans and Lamberth were among those who got to display their vehicles for the first time during the ninth annual Spring Nationals, held at WestWorld of Scottsdale, Arizona.
Evans showed his 1975 Pontiac Grand Am and Lamberth his 1977 Pontiac Can Am — and, no, that’s not Trans Am or Grand Am, but Can Am, a special one-year-only LeMans-based coupe.
Both had been to WestWorld before for Goodguys shows — the club stages shows populated with about 2,500 custom cars at the location each spring and fall — but except for one Sunday when any American-made car was accepted and Evans brought a ’73 Pontiac he owns, he and Lamberth only had been visitors, not participants.
“I’m glad they opened it up,” said Evans, who has owned the Grand Am since 2008, when he bought it from the original owner, and has felt “excluded” by the Goodguys “for the longest time.”
“It was a special-order car, with 26 options,” he said. Among those options were a split front bench seat (instead of the usual buckets), and opera windows for the landau-style roof. Until proven otherwise, Evans is convinced that his is the only car from that year with the same set of factory-installed features.
The car, he said, was ordered by a man as a wedding gift for his bride. Like many couples, they had a home in Phoenix and a summer place up in the cooler mountain community of Pinetop, and occasionally would drive the car from there into the Valley of the Sun. Thus, the car had been driven only 58,000 miles since new when Evans bought it. He’s put another 4,000 on it.
Evans’ taste in cars traces to his high school days. He had a ’68 Camaro back then, as well as a ’73 Chevrolet Laguna that he eventually drove for 300,000 miles.
In addition to the Grand Am, he owns a ’73 Pontiac Grand Am, a ’73 Chevrolet Chevelle SS and a ’75 Chevy Laguna.
Lamberth also owned a ’73 Grand Am at one time when he was a younger man back in native northern Illinois. He liked that car a lot, but the car he fell in love with was a Pontiac Can Am that he saw in the late 1980s at the Beloit Autorama, just across the state line in Wisconsin.
Later in life, Lamberth set out to own one of the Can Am cars. He’d bought a 1989 IROC Camaro new, but has put only 32,000 miles on it, and realized that everyone at car shows seems to have a Camaro or Chevelle, and “I didn’t want a car like everyone else’s.”
So therefore, his quest for a Can Am. But it wasn’t an easy quest, since only 1,100 of the high-performance cars had been produced. And Lamberth didn’t want just any of them but one with bucket seats and floor shifter and the 6.6-liter Trans-Am engine, in other words a car just like the one that Jim Wangers of GTO fame had showcased when the Can Am was unveiled as a one-year special model.
Lamberth searched for six years before securing his car four year ago. As it turned out, the car was owned by a friend who had purchased it from the original owner but then had simply left it sitting for eight years. It took Lamberth a lot of work to get the car cleaned up and back in running condition.
With the Goodguys’ range of accepted vehicles so new, cars such as Evans’ and Lamberth’s were few and far between at the Spring Nationals. I saw a highly customized 1976 Buick Limited with a “for sale” sign and also a 1976 Chevrolet Impala and 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme that were part of a special lowrider showcase.
The Goodguys will be back in Scottsdale in November, and it will be interesting to see then how many more later-model cars have joined the party.1 comment