Built to be driven hard, autocrossed often, and pushed to its road course limits on occasion, Daniel Stahlman’s 1977 Pontiac Trans Am is one hell of a unique retro build. Customized by the knowledgeable minds and creative hands over at Custom Image Corvettes, the components contained within this 800whp BadByrd are equal parts impressive and detail oriented.
Long before this vehicle landed in his lap, a teenage Daniel could be found hauling-ass around town in his first car, a 1979 Trans Am with wild intentions. Legend goes that at just 14 years-old, Daniel learned to drive in this vehicle, which provided the young man with an exciting, yet highly illegal commute to school every day. While in hindsight, Daniel admits that he was extremely lucky that he never got caught, another valuable life lesson emerged during that time, and it would be one that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
High school diploma obtained, Daniel foolishly got rid of his prized ride, a decision that has caused him to pine for the vehicle ever since. Flip-forward a few pages, and Daniel was far better off financially than he had ever been. With his family’s beekeeping business booming, and an insatiable desire to own another Trans Am behind his every thought, Daniel took the leap and sourced another late ’70s Pontiac pony car.
The 1977 specimen that would emerge, has been labeled by many as “one of the coolest Trans Ams ever,” and being that hot rods and honey are both Stahlman family staples, a balance between horsepower, handling, and honeycombs was an absolute must. In retrospect, waiting this long to build his dream car actually ended up working in Daniel’s favor, as modern advancements in the aftermarket community have made restomods far more lithe than ever.
This was around the time when build mastermind, Josh Powers of Custom Image Corvettes arrived on the scene. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the South Dakota powerhouse, it is worth noting that despite its name, this shop doesn’t just tinker with Corvettes, with Josh occasionally assisting with builds at shops like RideTech as a “guest builder.”
Based upon the previous builds Custom Image Corvettes had completed for the beekeeper, Daniel knew right away that this was the shop that was going to teach his BadByrd how to fly. Being that the shop was also located in the same state of South Dakota, the vehicle was sent over for a lengthy round of modifications, a shop with a hive mind that was already buzzing with ideas.
When asked about the car’s unique aesthetics, Daniel “buzzes” with excitement, as this dream of his has literally been years in the making. Being that he comes from five generations of beekeepers, it only makes sense that the South Dakota native should pay homage to the busy little workers that helped bankroll his automotive obsession. So look closely, because there are honey oriented “Easter Eggs” everywhere on this car.
Featuring a honeycomb grille, external accents, and interior upholstery to match, Daniel’s Trans Am looks pretty damn sweet. Clad in custom red paint and loaded with LED lights, Daniel admits that his one-off Trans Am catches attention everywhere it goes. With high-end interior honeycomb mods fabricated by industry magician Jordan Brown, and stealthy touches like hexagonal tow hooks attached, you can see why so many people are drawn to this BadByrd at shows.
But this muscle car isn’t all show either, with a fully built LT4 crate engine lurking underneath, whining happily under the pressure of a massive Whipple Supercharger. Packing a complete Billy Boat exhaust, an Accusump dry sump system, and a tune by Cordes Racing out of Tempe, AZ, Daniel’s Trans Am now puts down a healthy 800whp. Other drivetrain additions include a Bowler T-56 Magnum 6-speed transmission, a 9-inch rear end, and Currie Enterprises’ axles.
Handling upgrades are delivered via a full RideTech Track 1 suspension setup that’s been built around its own unique rear cradle, as well as its Instinct Electronic Adaptive Shocks and Tiger Cage. There are also Wilwood brakes at every corner, Detroit Speed Inc. frame connectors underneath, and Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber wrapped around all four Forgeline Spline Drive 19-inch RB3C wheels.
Closing features worth noting include a one-off custom front end with fully adjustable diffuser, notched wing, and tubbed rear fenders. Oh, and let’s not overlook all that carbon fiber, which constructs both outer and inner front fenders and hood as well.
When asked about how the car drives, Daniel modestly replies that while RideTech really leads the charge in the handling department, and power is plentiful, his Turn One steering setup is what turned it all into one incisive instrument. “The Turn One steering box is amazing,” Daniel says, “It really improved agility and response. It’s also very compact in order to clear steering, exhaust, and suspension.”
So there you have it. A BadByrd with a ton of classic Trans Am flair and a lot of sticky sweet one-off touches. A car that turns heads and isn’t afraid to sting a few modern muscle car egos along the way.