Auto Forms Sports Roadster
|Auto Forms was a company based out of Elkhart, Indiana
that performed convertible conversions on Firebirds. It is believed the
conversions began in 1983 and were performed through early 1986 with just
a few thousand converted total for all 4 years. We have recently discovered that Autoform was sanctioned by GM
and as such did conversions on both Firebirds and Camaros. The conversions were performed at two
different facilities: one in Elkhart, Indiana and the other in Shawnee,
Oklahoma. The conversion took about two weeks and cost an estimated $5500.
Auto Forms worked directly with participating Pontiac dealers and did not
accept customers off the street. New cars were drop shipped to one of the
facilities and then delivered to the dealer for delivery to the customer.
Year by year production is also not known but its believed that about 600
total cars were built between 1983 and 1986 including both Firebirds and Camaros.
The conversion used an extended rear decklid that extended through the rear seating area to the front seats. The decklid was formed with two bullet shaped bulges that sat immediately behind each seat that provided both support for the head rest but also served to enhance the euro style race car look. The decklid was comprised of a 2-layer fiberglass laminate and opened up and back from the front so the top could be retracted for stowage. The rear portion of the decklid functioned as a trunk lid swinging open an external chromed hinges support by the struts re-used from the original glass hatch. The design maintained the size and space of the original trunk.
The top itself was an unusual design. The base piece was also a 2-layer fiberglass laminate which was less prone to warping than other single layer designs of the time. The hardtop roof was reinforced with heavy gauge steel brackets for extra support. For visual appeal the outer portion of the roof was covered with a convertible top material. Using a but of ingenuity the Autoform engineers used the upholstery from the removed back seat to create a headliner for the top. The rear window in the top was plastic.
Interestingly, and unlike most convertible systems we are all familiar with, this design incorporated no automatic mechanism for raising and lowering the top. Its all done by hand. The hardtop swings up and down on a spring loaded steel arm that is part of a steel reinforcement cage that's installed vertically in the car behind the seats. The cage provided the necessary rigidity for the rest of the car that was lost when the top was removed. The cage welds into the vehicle at the door pillars and floor pan and is covered by a neat fiberglass cap.
To further improve structural integrity sub-frame connectors were welded in and an X-member was added that bolted to the lift pads under the car. Bolting, rather than welding, it in allowed for transmission or exhaust work to be performed. After being lowered the top was stowed down inside a plastic tub installed in the rear seat area. The tub included access holes so you could get to the rear shocks.
The upper body also received some visual accents to improve the overall cosmetic value of the package. The top of the windshield received a chrome plated steel reinforcement header attached with countersunk torx head screws. A fiberglass finishing rail was attached at the door pillars running back to the rear end of the fender and attached to the inside of the body with hidden screws.
For weatherproofing internal drains were built into the rear deck/trunk cover system to channel water out the back end of the car. Factory weatherstripping was retained wherever possible. The fiberglass panels came in stock Firebird colors: black, beige and red. Below is the original address of the company. Please note they have been out of business for many years.
I was recently contacted by an individual that purchased a converted 1983 Z-28 new from AutoForm and they were able to provide me with a few names from the original company: VP - Mike Gibler, Production Supervisor - Charles Kohlman, Customer Supervisor - Tina Plecther and Supervisor - Brad Sherman.
If you own one of these Firebirds or have information about one please
contact the firstname.lastname@example.org (remove the "1" when sending us an e-mail)
so we can document it here.
|Original Autoform Brochure
Pages 1 - 6 for the 1984 Autoform Firebird
Convertible. Images are large in the event someone
wants to print them so the file size is large on some of them as well.
Pics courtesy Jeremiah Cherwein
Brochure Folded Up
It's 1 page tall and 3 pages wide. The right side page would fold over the middle page, then the left side would fold on top of that. The "back side" (the side that would be somewhat out when it's all folded up) started with page 1, then page 3, then page 6. The "front side" starts with page 2 then has pages 4 and 5. When it's all folded up page 1 is on the front and page 3 is on the back.
The first 1983 Autoform conversion Trans Am on the site. This one was
recently purchased by Cedric Foucher in Texas and then shipped to France
where it remains. Cedric writes:
"Hi, I'm Cédric, I live in France and I bought this '83 TA Autoform in August (It was in Texas). It's an '83 Trans Am with the 305 Crossfire. Only 38,000 miles and this car is in great condition. No rust, all electrics parts are good."
This very unusual and rare Firebird is owned by Jeremiah Cherwein.
Not only is this Firebird a convertible, its also a two-seater. The deck lid
looks very unique when the top is down. Its very reminiscent of 50s and 60s
era open wheel racers. The company the performed the conversion is Auto Forms
in Elkhart Indiana. I'd be very interested to know just how many Firebirds
were modified by this company. Jeremiah writes:
"This is my 1984 Firebird, that was turned into a two seater Convertible by Auto Forms of Elkhart, IN. It has the 2.8l V6, with an Automatic, Power Locks, Power Windows Power hatch release (Used to pop-up the rear part of the body the top stores under). The top is very interesting because it attaches to the body with metal snaps. I don't know too much about Auto Forms...The most I've found was a brochure from 84...I've got scans of that if you'd like 'em. As for numbers, I've heard varying numbers, from 10 produced in '84 to 200...more than likely it was the 200 number..."
If anyone else has any info on these cars or the company Auto Forms, please let us know: email@example.com (remove the "1" before sending).
This 1984 Trans Am was recently restored and enhanced By Mark's Custom Kits.
The first pic in the series shows how the car originally looked, a red Trans
Am with black accents and the Autoform conversion. Mark and his group
performed a complete restoration on the car, changed the color to black, the
interior to camel and added cool "Knightrider" style nose and rims. They
also kept and restored the original Autoform conversion. This car is truly
unique in that there are probably no other Firebirds that have both the
Autoform conversion AND the "Knightrider" look. Mark graciously agreed to
display their pics here to showcase this amazing Firebird. What follows is
some information about this car borrowed from Mark's site:
"Some history of this car: its a 1984 Trans Am, which started out as a red hard-top from the factory. This car has a High Output, carbureted, engine that MOVES. Plenty of power and you will not need to activate Super Pursuit to get through traffic. It only has 57,000 miles on the clock and is still tight, but will be getting some part replacement as certain wear-type items are worn out such as ball joints, tie rods, etc."
"After 5 months of working on this car, she has finally been classified as "done". And as you can see, she came out a beauty! It has had a whole cosmetic makeover complete with body repair, new full interior carpeting, new door panels, new window rubber seals, a special custom front bumper without scanning or driving lights installed yet, new high gloss black paint, 15" turbine rims and caps, newly covered PMD seats, a brand new convertible top, one piece tail light cover. It has been turned into a piece of black gold."
Also if you already own one of these rare Firebirds and need some parts or some restoration work done on it, you may want to contact Mark as he is probably now the one of a very few experts on these cars throughout the country and has first-hand experience with their buildup. Feel free to visit Mark's Custom Kit's to contact him.
Photos and information courtesy of Mark's Custom Kits.
This 1984 Autoform TA Convertible is owned by Keith Thorson. Keith's TA
features the 5.0L LG4 with 4bbl carb which is good for 155hp and a 3 speed
automatic transmission. Its painted black with gold accents and features a
tan interior. This incredible convertible TA has only 42k miles on it. Rims
are 15" gold Hi-Tech OEM units wrapped with BFGoodrich 215/65R tires. A/C,
power locks, power windows, tilt and cruise round out the options list.
"Here are a few pictures my 1984 Trans Am convertible at a couple of cars shows I have entered. My name is Keith Thorson, I live in Sacramento and am a member of ''THE TRANS AM CLUB OF AMERICA'' Golden State Chapter. I bought this car a few years ago. My friend and I were just browsing on Ebay when it caught my eye. I have an 1984 Trans Am with T-Tops I've had since 1988 which is identical to it and I knew I had to have it. It has 49,000 miles on it. Although the convertible top took quite a beating from the wind driving it out here from Kansas, where the previous owner lives, the body is in very good condition. Excluding the recaro seats, it has every option that was available from AM/FM radio w/cassette player to electric side mirrors.
My friend was told before I bought it that there were only 16 Trans Ams converted in 1984 although I'm not sure of her sources. I would love to find out if this number is correct. Either way, it always turns heads when I'm driving it and I have received a lot of compliments. But I would appreciate any information I can get on this."
Pics courtesy of the Trans Am Club of America, Golden State Chapter.
||This 1984 Autoforms Roadster came equipped with a 5.0L engine equipped with a 4-bbl carb. The exterior color is white and the interior color is Lt. Gray. It also comes with A/C in case you get caught in the rain. Nothing else is known about this car at this time.|
Rex Edwards owns this 1985 Sports Roadster TA and its in incredible
condition. Rex writes:
1985 Pontiac Trans Am
Miles: 14,700 original miles
Owner: Rex Edwards, Austin Texas area
Options: Tuned Port Injected 305, power mirrors, performance suspension, AM-FM Cassette radio, power windows, power locks, tilt cruise, and automatic transmission. (these are all that I know of)
"Here is a link to the online garage with a lot of photos. The interior looks like brand new. Exterior super nice. All original belts and hoses. Car has always been garaged. The only thing I did to it was put on new tires due to age. I think that's about it. I will keep you up to date on others I find. I know I recently ran across another one. It seems the Trans Am might be pretty scarce compared to the Camaro. Below is one sample photo. There are tons more on the link above that you can click on for full high res photos."
This 1985 Trans Am conversion is owned by Thomas Knapp. Tom writes:
"Hi, I just found the info on Autoform Corp. Quite interesting, but I haven't read it all yet. I have an 1985 Trans Am red convertible with 92,000 miles. It has a 5.0 automatic and is in pretty decent shape, however, not quite a show car, but nice. I live mostly in CA but have family in Ohio. I was thinking about selling, but not sure now. I purchased in 1999."
||A 1985 Trans Am converted to a two-seater convertible by AutoForm. The owner is unknown and I have almost no information on this car. Its possible as many as 200 of these were made in 1985. I do know this car had the 5.0L engine it. It was sold recently so hopefully the new owner will contact us with more info.|
A 1985 Firebird converted by AutoForm. Its currently owned by Donna Schulze
and is for sale. Donna writes:
"This is a 1985 Firebird 2.8 liter V6 Custom Cut by AutoForm for the dealer. Not many exist. The car has 19,250 original miles and has passed all emissions. I'm the only owner of this vehicle. The car is Red with Red & Gray interior. The car was never driven in the Rain or Snow, stored in
the winter and only taken out in the past 8 years for emissions testing. The car has all original parts including the original Tiger Paw tires, only the battery has been changed. NO RUST at all anywhere. Air-conditioning (blower works but needs Freon), Power Windows, Automatic, AM/FM cassette Stereo."
Long-time friend of the Gallery, Gilbert Carreon, owns this 1985 Autoforms
Convertible TA. Gilbert writes:
"It's a 1985 Trans Am 2 seat roadster, made by Auto Form Corp. back in the 80's when Pontiac stopped making the Firebird convertibles. Sporting the classic black with gold trim design, the rear seat area is now covered with bullet like head backs, like the batmobile. In great shape with only 74K, it now becomes the 10th Pontiac we own here in our house. It arrived safe and sound the first week of July 2005. Lots more pictures of this rare bird when I have the days off work to clean and polish her up."
Gilbert has been a heavy contributor to the models section of this website supplying with me great images for the majority of the kits I have on display. Recently, Gilbert finally took the time to send me some pics of the several different Firebirds he owns. He also owns:
1969 Firebird 400 Convertible seen over at '69 Firebirds Lot#3
1996 Firehawk seen over at Firehawks Lot #2
1998 Formula seen over at '98 Firebirds Lot #2
1999 Firehawk also see over at Firehawks Lot#2