The Trans Am came to life in January ’87 at the Winternationals. Built By Steve Pluegar here in California. Tom Hoover ran the car during ’87, but its life was short, Texas Motorplex in September of that year was its last appearance in the U.S.
In November ’87, I flew to Minneapolis and met Tom with the intention of buying the car. He met me at the airport, but what I remember to this day is the shock of stepping outside into -15 deg F. air. That is 47 deg F. below zero. The next day we struck a deal with the car and my ears turned blue.
The car arrived by 747 at Heathrow on Christmas Day and Gary Page and I collected it soon after. In three weeks the car was ready to run. It was so different from the Panic car. Gary drove it at a few events before we loaned it to Tom to drive at the Cannonball and at Mantorp in Sweden. I was finally understanding very high octane of the fuel and what it takes to control it and with our tune-up, Gary ran 5.90 in August of ’88.
September was the biggest turning point in my life. I moved to Los Angeles to work for Jaguar Cars and sold the Silver Car to Roy Phelps / Santa Pod. I thought that maybe this was the end of my drag racing career. Obviously not. I got a call from Bill Sherratt, “Roy wants you to come and run the car” so I flew back and forth for the next two years, went to Sweden again and had a great time. At the end of ’90 Gary and I went our own ways. I again thought ‘oh well that’s the end of that’.
’91 came and I was feeling deprived. I called Tom, “Tom, I need another car”. I flew to Minneapolis again. (This will be the next story. The ‘Black Neon Car’). I called John Spuff and I’m back in business. Got a call from Bill again. “Roy is no longer in control of Santa Pod, he wants you to come and run the Silver Car at Avon Park.” Hmm, I am skeptical and agree cautiously. Anyway I went. John was to drive, but it rained. It turned out that Roy had sold Santa Pod and included in the deal was the Silver Car, and the new owners wanted it back. I obliged and we ran the following week at the Cannonball. We got to the final round but got beaten by Harlan driving Rune’s car! Never did get that figured out. I still think we should have won that day. John was getting to grips with the car and ran his first 5 at the next race. All the time, I had the “Black Car” in my garage back home?????
’92 came. The Black Car arrived and ran in the 5’s on its first pass. I was pleased. I then loaned this car to Tom and we ran the Silver car at the Cannonball. The weather was shaky but we managed to win. We parked the Silver car for most of ’92 and concentrated on the Black Car. In November we ran both cars with long time crew member Tony Pierson driving the Silver Car.
In “93 Tom sent a Dodge Daytona body, we fitted it to the Silver Car chassis and both cars ran at the Cannonball. John got to the final round and we managed to win with the Black Car.
’94 was the last year for the car. We repainted it blue and red and ran it at the first two races while we were repairing the other car. The last pictures of the car have “Test Vehicle” across the windshield. This idea came from John Force while he was in a development stage. We were in the same mode. The car must have known it was its last run because when I lifted the body after the burnout to turn on the clutch system, I caught the throttle linkage and it bowled me 10 feet down the track.
The body for the car is still in the Hanger at Santa Pod. The chassis is still around somewhere in England and could still run again.
Photos courtesy of Jon Spoard at www.ukdrn.co.uk