Walking into Rick Armijo’s garage was a bittersweet experience for Bill Avila. He had the chance to buy a very rare muscle car, but the owner, who had passed away, had been his friend. “Rick was a salesman at a Pontiac dealership locally [in El Paso, Texas] for years and years. He was very knowledgeable about Pontiacs, and then he went to work at Rudolph Chevrolet, and he was the Corvette guy,” Avila says.
Born in 1957, Armijo’s interest in muscle Pontiacs had been as high as ever before his passing. His garage at home held a 1972 Trans Am and a 1969 GTO convertible. “When I walked in, [the Trans Am] had boxes and parts and books and catalogs stacked on top of it. It was a storage shelf, is what it was.” Armijo had been focusing on a ground-up restoration of his GTO. Although the Trans Am was “put in the corner,” it was obvious from looking around that Armijo had also been gathering parts for it. “We found so many parts, in the bedroom closets, in the attic. He had parts—carpeting, trim, honeycomb wheels, a valance panel, all kinds of stuff—stashed in every room of the house.”
Avila looked over the car. He was impressed to find a Lucerne Blue Trans Am with white stripes and the reverse-facing shaker hood scoop for the 455 HO, the one engine available that year. Bill had seen this 1972 Trans Am at several local car shows, but he had never really inspected it. Armijo was “very active” in car shows in the El Paso area. The Trans Am was one of many muscle cars and Corvettes Rick owned over the years. Talking about Camaro and Firebird F-bodies on the assembly line in Norwood, Ohio, Avila explains, “1972 was the year of the strike. By the time the strike was over, the 1973 smog emissions had come into play, and they couldn’t put [the 1972 models] up for sale, so they scrapped more than 2,000 cars.”
As a consequence, the 1972 Trans Am became a very low production run—the second lowest in Trans Am history—at 1,286 units, divided between 458 with the Muncie M22 Rock Crusher close-ratio four-speed manual and 828 with the Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic transmission, of which this car was one. Inside, the pleated stock blue Morrokide vinyl showed some wear but was not cracked or ripped. The three-spoke Trans Am wheel was intact, and the dash pad was also in good condition.
“Mechanically, we started the 455 HO. It sounded smooth. As far as everything else, I’m not sure. But the overall condition looks good. The paint? It sat outside. In El Paso the sun is bad for anything plastic or paint, so that’s pretty well shot.” Avila wasn’t looking for a Trans Am. He did ponder the purchase, but he had “to move” on the car if he wanted it. A car like this, so original and rust-free, wouldn’t last long. “The more homework I did on the car, the more I looked at it, the more I thought it would be worth getting into. So, I got it, and I’m happy I did.”