He's a Pontiac man

Louie Brown loves Pontiacs. It's as simple as that.

"I bought a '63 Grand Prix and that sold me on Pontiacs. I've driven Pontiacs ever since then. Nineteen of the 22 cars I bought since then have been Pontiacs," he said.

But it took him a while to find the exact Pontiac he was after, a 1972 Firebird Trans Am with a 455-cubic-inch big block V-8 under the "shaker hood scoop." In fact, he went through a pair of '71 Trans Ams before he found the '72 that he's now owned for more than a quarter of a century.

"I found it in Hemmings in 1984. We flew out to Albuquerque and it looked like it was in pretty good shape, just some surface rust in places," he said.

"It was more than I wanted to pay for it... $6,000 and I thought at the time that was a ridiculous amount of money," Brown said.

But he bought the car anyway and headed back to Kansas in it. "It rolled over 32,000 miles coming through Pratt," he recalled with a smile. "I'm the second owner."

The odometer now shows more than 124,000 miles logged in the low-slung coupe. "I've driven every one of those miles and enjoyed every one of those miles," he said.

Some of that mileage was racked up a quarter-mile at a time, as Brown drag raced the Trans Am at tracks in both Wichita and Arkansas City. He still makes an occasional pass down the track.

"The farthest we ever drove it was to Tulsa, and that was before I got carried away and put the horsepower in it," Brown said. He called on Bob Musgrave at RPM Motorsports to bore the engine out .060" and had a roller cam, aluminum heads and a high-rise intake added. It runs a Turbo 400 automatic transmission with a vintage Hurst Quarter Stick shifter and a 3.73 set of gears in the Positraction rear end.

In an effort to get the car to hook up off the line, Brown added wider 8-inch factory rims equipped with Mickey Thompson cheater slicks. But he says the 4,000-pound Trans Am is still a handful to control because of wheelspin at launch.

But the car remains essentially a street machine. "I drive it every day when there's not foul weather. I still run the air conditioner in it in the summer. It's either original or I have the pieces saved so it could be restored back to original," Brown said.

He and his wife Carolyn also own a 1955 Pontiac Safari wagon, which he said he bought from the actor who played "Rodney" on the old "Host and Rodney" television program.

The two-door wagon, Pontiac's version of the sporty Chevy Nomad, is up for sale. "I've got too many projects and I'm running out of time," Brown said.

But there's not much chance he'll be getting rid of his cherished Trans Am any time soon.

"It's kind of an unusual car. They only built 1,286 of them in '72 because GM had a strike," he said. "I've had people run me down and stop me and say, 'Boy, that's a great-looking car,' " he said.

"And that's the major reason you do this, is the looks you get. You sure don't make any money at it. But it sure is fun."

Related stories from Wichita Eagle