Mullet Missile – Chris Ryan’s 1978 Pontiac Trans Am
If you’re familiar with Chris Ryan and his shop, Ryan’s Rod & Kustom, you know he has a knack for turning out smooth, traditional-style customs, like his gold ’49 Cadillac or candy red ’56 Continental. So, consider our double-take when he rolled into York in this sleek 1978 Pontiac Trans Am muscle machine.
“I am a product of the ’80s,” Chris says. “Yes, I had a killer mullet, along with my buddies. After watching ‘Smokey & the Bandit’ 200 times, we all wanted one of those bad Trans Ams. None of us could afford one – we could only dream of it.”
When Chris decided to finally build that T/A, he says the goal was to build something “relatively inexpensive.” As a creative pro, though, things naturally got out of hand and he ended up with this badass “Mullet Missile.”
Chris turned to RideTech for a Tru Turn front suspension and four-link rear to support the Currie 9-inch rearend. Four-wheel Wilwood disc brakes and a Borgeson steering box were part of the package, with the crowning touch being one-off 18×10- and 19×12-inch wheels whittled by Mike Curtis.
Updated power comes from a 6.0-liter LS engine from Bouchard Racing, detailed in bright red paint and topped with Holley Sniper EFI on an Edelbrock intake. A Billet Specialties accessory drive system and MSD ignition are some of the key support components, while power is sent through a 4L80E transmission.
The Ryan’s Rod & Custom team put a lot of time into sharpening all the car’s body lines. They also built custom steel spoilers and flares to replace the fiberglass and plastic pieces, narrowed and tucked the bumpers, reshaped the rear quarter panels, and built custom extended rocker panels. Nissan GTR door handles were incorporated before the brilliant Axalta silver finish was laid down. Jeremy Senor painted the iconic bird on the hood, which features hand-turned silver leaf details.
Speaking of details, check out the custom aluminum grilles from Alumicraft that incorporate round projector headlights. And Chris worked with Fesler Built and Pilkington glass to fit a flush-mount windshield and back glass.
Inside, Chuck Hanna and his team at Hot Rod Interiors wrapped red Relicate leather over nearly everything, highlighted with hand-sewn white stitching. It’s complemented with a custom-wrapped LeCarra wheel, Dakota Digital gauges, a Lokar shifter, and a host of one-off details.
Chris says he’s proud of how well his hot rod and custom sensibilities translated onto a newer muscle car build. “I believe we were successful in retaining the spirit of a 1978 Pontiac Trans Am, while taking all the plastic gaudiness out,” Chris says. “We just refined the entire car.”
Photos by John Jackson, Damon Lee, Todd Ryden