Up in the frigid hinterlands of Minot, North Dakota, lurks Tom Karpenko's badass '74 Pontiac LeMans. Taking a break from the frost (and trading it for rain) at the '98 CC Summer Cruise in St. Paul, Tom debuted this obscure land-yacht GM A-body alternative--one of the coolest cars we saw at the show.
Stance is the key element that makes Tom's LeMans look so good. It's achieved with 2-inch drop F-body spindles, '73 Grand Am front springs with a half-coil cut from them, and Monroe shocks. At the back are '72 LeMans springs and a 7/8-inch antisway bar to complement the 1-inch front bar. Air Lift rear air bags provide some suspension adjustment. Tom says, "Several times I swapped different springs in the car until it sat right."
Tom wanted to build a real 455 Super Duty and spent nearly two years acquiring the parts. "By the end of 1996 I had gotten all the parts to build the motor. I found bits and pieces all over the U.S. and spent lots of money doing it," says Tom. Once together, the 0.030-over 455 (a 462) took the place of the car's original 400. The four-bolt block, crank, rods, and heads are gennie '74 SD items and are accompanied by a custom-ground Rock 'N' Roll Engineering cam with a 0.530 lift and 232/237 duration. Standard Poncho 2.11/1.77 valves are moved via Crane 1.65:1 roller rockers. Even the top of the mill is Super Duty derived with an NOS intake and an 800-cfm Q-jet carb. Spark is provided by an MSD 6AL and an HEI with a sleeve to fit the Super Duty block, while exhaust is removed by Hedman headers, a Dr. Gas X-pipe, and Flowmaster mufflers.
The cabin looks factory fresh. The Hurst Competition Plus shifter is bolted to the original Muncie M-20 four-gear, which turns a '73 Buick GS 10-bolt with a 3.42:1 ring-and-pinion.
The Kinesis wheels are 17x8s in front and these 17x11s out back. The Goodyear Eagle GS-C skins in front are P255/45ZR17s; out back are special European market Goodyear Eagle F1s in a steamrollerish P315/45ZR17 size.
The body is all stock except for "SD455" decals below the front side marker lights and the 455 emblem in the grille. Tom had the Ram Air setup completed less than a week before the car's first showing at the St. Paul Summer Cruise. During its first ever contact with the road (that being the 1,300-mile round trip from Minot to St. Paul), Tom reported a liveable if not economical 12 mpg from the torque monster 462--that's at 80 mph with the A/C on. CC