Whenever the Halloween season rolls around, things can tend to get a bit ethereal. Case in point; Ken Fritz's 1986 Pontiac Trans Am.
All three of its owners purchased the car during the month of October.
The original owner took delivery on Oct. 18, 1985, in Rockford. The second snagged the car on Oct. 19, 2006, and Fritz took possession of the keys on Oct. 31, 2009.
Fritz found the car stuffed in the back of an Antioch garage.
"Because of its past, the previous owner had christened the car Spooky," he said. "She only agreed to sell me the car if I promised to keep the name."
When it came time to order license plates, SPOOKY was taken, so Fritz settled for SPOOKEY.
The Gurnee resident brought the 29,000-mile vehicle back to his garage and waited until the following summer to tackle the needed mechanical work.
"I stripped off the unnecessary stuff that was slowing it down and it came roaring back to life," Fritz said. Parts on the chopping block included the air pump, cast iron headers, air pump injectors and catalytic converter. With those restrictive elements gone, the factory 5.0-liter V-8 engine found previously untapped power, aided by a newly installed set of MagnaFlow exhaust and headers.
Now that the Firebird was ready to roll, Fritz wanted to get the Pontiac's exterior looking factory fresh. In 2011 he took the vehicle to Sudden Impact in Mundelein for a full cosmetic makeover.
The body was media blasted back to bare metal and then repainted in the original glossy black hue. "I wanted to keep the color as it goes with the spooky theme," Fritz said. The body shop was able to retain all of the factory rust-free sheet metal but made one substitution.
"The car came equipped with a factory rear spoiler, but one made out of plastic-covered metal. I swapped it for a lighter fiberglass unit."
Another visual addition can be found on the hood. "The car didn't come with the 'screaming chicken' graphic but I wanted it installed. It's so iconic of the Firebird model."
To add some sparkle to the Trans Am's stealth-black look, the wheels were stripped and repainted in the original silver hue. The interior and cloth upholstery was in remarkably good shape and left alone.
Final completion of the project arrived in 2012 and since then, Fritz hasn't been frightened to drive his Pontiac.
"The car rides and travels as good as my new daily drivers. It's a car that if I bought it today at a dealership, I'd still enjoy it and be satisfied. You'd never know it was 27 years old," he said.
After racking up serious miles and despite the car's ominous name, Fritz has reported only mild "eerie" experiences. "During several cruises, the car has died out in the middle of nowhere for weird reasons, but nothing too serious."
He doesn't dwell on the macabre, even seeking out a kid-friendly passenger that fits the theme.
"I searched for months to find our stuffed toy ghost. Kids at car shows love seeing animals, whether real or fake, looking back at them from inside the cars," Fritz said. "Now when they look in my TA, there's a fun, friendly face to greet the little enthusiasts."