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1977 Pontiac Sprint by the Wisco Corporation
You have to know about four cars to tell the Can Am story. First, in 1976 came two prototype cars, a LeMans and a Ventura. These were both 1976 production cars delivered to Pontiac Motor Division-Engineer CA, Columbia Ave. Gate, to be turned into Can Am prototypes, from these two a decision would be made as to what body style to use for the Can Am. The Ventura had already been pulled in, to make a Smokey and the Bandit Ventura, so it was black and loaded with options, posi, pw, pdl, cruise, deluxe interior, there are 57 items listed on the build sheet. So when the Can Am project came up it got a white coat of paint. Both cars had painted bumpers, black on the bottom, white on the top. This matched the paint scheme of the car. The LeMans had louvered quarter windows, so a fiberglass cover for the Ventura quarter windows was made that went over the window to give it the same look. Both cars had a shaker scoop and a rear spoiler and red, yellow and orange striping. The colors on the stripes were not in the same order on the prototype cars as on the production Can Ams, nor was the style of lettering. Also the Can Am decals had a star in the center, maybe because it was the bicentennial year. The LeMans had white painted snowflake wheels while the Ventura had painted rally II wheels. The 76 Ventura was fitted with a 77 nose, and the side marker lights were filled in, because they were not needed with the new lights on the 77 nose. There were some other particulars, but that is the basics of the two prototype cars. The LeMans survives today only in pictures as far as we know. The Ventura had the window louvers, spoiler and shaker removed, and because it was not heavily modified it was probably sold to an employee, as sometimes was the custom. It now resides in my back yard in pretty rough shape, waiting to be restored.
As you know the production Can Am was made from LeMans Sport cars. These were made only at the Pontiac home plant. Outfitted with a Grand Prix dash, a Trans Am 6.6 motor (some with the Olds 403 for California and high altitude areas, these said 6.6 Litre on the shaker) and a turbo 400 transmission and RTS. They were then sent to Motortown, there they were fitted with stripes, shaker and spoiler. The spoiler was supplied by a third company. At the time Motortown was engaged in doing the same work on the Mustang Cobra IIs. Although the Cam Am was a very well done appearance package, I feel after owning and taking them apart that Motortown was sort of unprofessional in their work. For instance, the holes in the tail light pieces that were made to bolt on the corner pieces of the spoiler look like they were put there with a blow torch instead of precisely drilled. It looks like they took a cardboard template and placed it under the hood, then sprayed blue paint around it to mark where to cut the hole in the hood. Another is the fact that under the spoiler of one of the three Can Ams I have owned it said in magic marker "I'm a darkie from darktown" (I have no idea what this means, I didn't write it one the car, so take it at face value, it happened). I can only guess that the place was really jumping, doing the Cobra II, then Pontiac come in and said that they were bringing them thousands of Can Ams. They were probably dragging people off the street to get the work done. This of course is only speculation on my part. As you know the outside company that was providing the rear spoilers had problems with their equipment and could not supply them any more, then the end of the production year came and that was it for the Can Am.
Well, there you have three of the four cars, the two prototype cars and the actual production car, what's the fourth? The 1977 Ventura Sprint. After Pontiac dropped the idea for the Can Am on the Ventura, another company picked it up and ran with it. The Wisco Corporation produced a package that was a direct take-off of the Ventura prototype car. The stripe color combination was the same, the rear spoiler, the shaker was left off, and it was called a Sprint. This car does have the shaker which was installed by the second owner. This was a name Pontiac had used on earlier Venturas. After getting a package together, Wisco then sent flyers out to each Pontiac dealer, I can only imagine that this was all done with Pontiacs consent. For $115 you could order the package and either have Motortown put it on the car or the body shop of you local Pontiac dealer could do it, cost extra. In the particular case of my Sprint the salesman who sold it new remembers that the dealership was doing well at the time and after receiving the paperwork he ordered it just for grins, and Motortown did the work. It could have been applied to any color car, and either body style, the trunk, or hatchback version. We have made numerous attempts to find out how many were made but because of how they were ordered, it has been impossible, and Wisco is long gone. I have only been able to find cars or parts that have belonged to four of these cars plus the one in the pictures on the flyer they sent out. Having been a Pontiac nut for so long, and only finding that few I can only say that I believe them to be very rare.
There you have the story of the four cars that make up the Can Am, I left ot a bunch of stuff, this is the short version. One day Verne Howard and I are going to do a little book on it.
Later, Tim Dye
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