One Stair at a Time: 1970 Pontiac Trans Am “Protomachine”

Riley Stair likes to think of himself as a pretty normal guy most of the time, even if his automotive creations tend to be anything but ordinary. The former pro BMX rider turned Trans Am enthusiast is a firm believer in hard word, dedication, and improving upon his fortes in life. For the longest time, this approach was applied almost exclusively to all things BMX, all the way up until a severe injury ended Riley’s high-flying career.

Riley Stair LS Swap Custom 1970 Pontiac Trans Am “Protomachine”

But instead of wallowing in defeat, Riley Stair took his misfortune as an opportunity to reinvent himself. Determined to sink huge sums of time and resources into a half-century-old chassis, Riley set out to source the ultimate slice of American nostalgia. Which is precisely how he came to set his sights on the 1970 Pontiac Trans Am. Riley tells us that while there were other chassis’ worthy of consideration, it was this vehicle that brought forth memories of time spent with his father, a guy who always had some sort of American project sitting around.

Nostalgia set aside, this car proved to be quite the test. Not just in skillset, but in mindset as well. Turning a classic chassis such as this into an extreme machine, complete with push-rod suspension and endless amounts of custom fabrication. But Riley needed a prototype that could serve as a rolling billboard to those who might be interested in his shop’s services. And in order for a career to manifest, Riley first needed to craft the best business card he could muster, which is why we are here today to talk to you about his 1970 Pontiac Trans Am: Protomachine.

While the entire chassis frame has been TIG welded, noded, and space framed, things like control arms are a custom hand-built affair, with suspension arms, bellcranks, rear differential cradle, sway bar arms, and motor mounts all receiving zinc-plating. Speedway Engineering adjustable splined sway bars sit both front and rear, and Protomachine’s aforementioned inboard push-rod front and rear suspension utilize a custom Performance Shock Inc setup with Ohlins TTX36 double-adjustable coilovers and Eibach ERS springs.

While we could go on about all of the other custom mods made to Riley’s bonkers Trans Am Protomachine, it’s worth noting his reasoning for going with Gforce Performance Engineering axles.

“I used Gforce components because early on when the car was in concept, I had planned on building my own IRS, which meant custom axles were likely going to be needed,” Riley explains. “I didn’t want to make any compromises in building this car… so I did my due diligence and did some research as to what axles could hold up to the power figure I was after.”

Riley laughs, and admits that although his Trans Am Protomachine’s power outputs are pretty measly when compared to what the Gforce Performance Engineering axles can handle, the brand’s ability to provide a custom solution was a huge selling point. Even from the get-go, when research was Riley’s primary day-to-day focus, Gforce remained on his radar.

“Gforce came up time and time again, so I called them up,” Riley tells us. “They were absolutely fantastic to deal with, had great advice and expertise, and they took the time to hear me out and listen to what it was that I was after. They told me that once I got the project going to give them a call and they could make what I was after a reality. The axles are exactly what I was after, fit like a glove, and I’m certain will put the power down for years to come.”

About the author

Micah Wright

Raised on LEGOs by grandfathers who insisted on fixing everything themselves, Micah has been a petrolhead in training since age four. His favorite past times include craft beer, strong cigars, fast cars, and culinary creativity in all of its forms.
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