Chris Ryan’s Custom ’78 Trans Am Is As Much Epic As It is Unique

Chris Ryan’s 1978 Trans Am by Ryan’s Hot Rod & Kustom | POWERNATION

You may be familiar with Chris Ryan, a man who towers over the others when it comes to delivering the build exactly how you saw it in your head. Hailing from South Carolina, he’s considered the top builder from Ryan’s Rod and Kustom, and painter in the nation, which is easy to believe when you see his brilliance up close – especially the latest take on his incredible 1978 Trans Am.

POWERNATION has been fortunate enough to work alongside him on various projects in the studio. We were again excited to welcome him back to help Music City Trucks paint their Sea Foam 1974 Bronco. Ryan was on his way back to South Carolina with his Trans Am in tow and made a pit stop in Nashville, bringing the car into our studio to show off. We’re so happy he did.

Chris Ryan’s 1978 Trans Am by Ryan’s Hot Rod & Kustom | POWERNATION

Tommy Boshers from Detroit Muscle sat down with Chris to discuss the car and get all the details to find out how it turned out the way it did. The project’s initial objective was to build a black and gold Trans Am, similar to the Smokey and the Bandit tribute car we created in the past. However, after more thought, he wanted to do something more unique and stand out above the competition. As you can see from the pictures, he accomplished that goal.

Their first focus was on the back of the car, and Ryan wanted to take the “cheesy” 70’s plastic look out of it. He felt the bumper at the time was over the top, so he tucked it, dropped it, and put fiberglass in the rear. The car also has flush mount glass to clean it up and give it a modern feel. It allows the top to flow without trim, and they used custom prototype glass for the window.

Chris Ryan’s 1978 Trans Am by Ryan’s Hot Rod & Kustom | POWERNATION

The rear bumper somewhat emulates a stock bumper. Since the stock version fit horribly and was plaster, he wanted to make them wider and dropped quarter panels in the back to make it more level and get rid of the ugly kick up. In addition to that, the car has a full chassis, it’s tubbed, and has 325 rear tires.

The fender flares were originally fiberglass plastic garbage, so Ryan had a fabricator put all-steel flares. He also wanted to clean up the door handles. Ryan got his inspiration from a Nissan GTR and purchased a set from Japan. The rockers were also altered to give it the illusion that it’s lower to the ground.

Chris Ryan’s 1978 Trans Am by Ryan’s Hot Rod & Kustom | POWERNATION

The first thing you have to look at on the car is the nose. The headlights and grille are clearly not stock. Ryan wants you to know it’s a ’78 Trans Am, but he wanted to get rid of the square ugly headlights. He replaced the headlights with projector lights and halos, then cut off the grille and adapted it to the original housing. The main focal point though is the bird in the hood, featuring real silver leaf. Ryan said that piece of art took longer to create than he cares to mention.

The next thing you’ll notice is the red leather interior, which is all hand-stitched. The hand stitching took weeks to complete. Everything from the seats, console, and dash is of impeccable quality and appears to be machine-finished, but it’s not, which is hard to believe when you’re looking at it up close.

Chris Ryan’s 1978 Trans Am Hand-Stitched Leather by Ryan’s Hot Rod & Kustom | POWERNATION

Now, the engine. It’s unbelievably clean. It’s a functioning 6.0L that hides all of the “ugly stuff” under an engine cover. The front runner is one-of-a-kind and has a modified scoop and air cleaner to help it fit under the hood. It produces a respectable 600 horsepower and can hang with anything on the road today without breaking a sweat.

Chris Ryan’s 1978 Trans Am 6.0L V8 by Ryan’s Hot Rod & Kustom | POWERNATION

Lastly, the color – Ryan mentions that choosing the right color is challenging. It can make or break any car, so the decision to make it silver is one he didn’t take lightly, especially since it’s the most difficult color to paint. He just loved the combination of silver with a red gut. The gray he chose is a new BMW Nottingham gray, and it pops in the sun like you would not believe.

Everything about the Trans Am is a work of art. It’s visually appealing and stands out in a crowd. You can know absolutely nothing about cars and know it’s something special. His time spent in the studio was unforgettable, as it usually is, and the work they set out on the Bronco was flawless. Fortunately, the Trans Am was just a bonus, and we can’t wait until we see his next project roll through our studio in the near future.

Chris Ryan’s 1978 Trans Am by Ryan’s Hot Rod & Kustom | POWERNATION

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