Wrecked Trans Am Gets Second Chance

Oct. 1, 2014
Shawn Williams breathed new life into a badly broken bird

Shawn Williams has a specific taste when it comes to renovating cars; he wants a challenge.

In his personal collection sit five Trans Ams and three Camaros, all from the 1970s and ’80s. The cars live in various stages of disarray or repair. They aren’t easy to fix and parts often take time to track down.

“The older cars don’t have measurements on them like the new ones do,” Williams says. “You have to go find the older cars and measure them yourself and put it on the frame rack and start pulling it until things start fitting together.”

But Williams, who owns Unlimited Paint and Body in Quincy, Ill., didn’t know how tedious the process would be until 1999 when he stumbled upon his first 1975 Trans Am at a local junkyard. The front end had been hit hard, but the rest of the body was nearly immaculate, save for one dent in the side. So, for $1,200, he took it home and started repairing it, piece by hard-to-find piece.

“If I knew then what I know now, I would have done more research,” he admits. “I had a lot of people telling me I couldn’t do it.”

It took nearly three years just to get the frame back underneath the car and add an engine. He was so excited the first time he got it to run that Williams remembers calling his wife from the shop immediately to share the news and let her listen to the hum of the engine. Unfortunately, at 3 a.m. in the morning, she wasn’t quite as enthused as he was.

After that, the rest of the car took about a year to finish. The entire front end had to be replaced using panels and parts from five other cars, but the rest of the body was original. He blasted and repainted the car its original silver. 

During some of the restoration, the car lived at the shop, when there was room. At other times, he would do the work in his garage at home. In all, Williams predicts he spent between $10,000–$11,000 on parts and invested around 300 hours into the project.

The time and money and four years that it took to bring his ’75 Trans Am to its original luster—screaming chicken hood design and all—didn’t deter Williams, though. If anything, it energized him.

“Now I have guys calling me up, looking for parts or wanting me to buy their car because they know I can fix them,” he says. 

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