The relationship Eric Harmer has with Foxy, his 1966 Pontiac LeMans, is well… complicated. Foxy’s history is complicated. How they met is complicated. How they’ve grown, and learned each other’s limits, are both… complicated. Yet, here they are, eight years later, still going strong.
Even Foxy’s 1966 heritage is, you guessed it… complicated. “The rear is a ‘66,” Eric told me. “The front’s a ‘67.” And that has a lot to do with Foxy’s history.
Somewhere along the line, a previous owner turned Foxy into a drag racer. Apparently the amount of horsepower available exceeded the stoppage power of the four wheel drum brakes Foxy had at that time. On one fateful pass down the quarter-mile, the brakes couldn’t stop her before she ran into the berm at the end of the track. “It taco’d her pretty good,” Eric said.
But Eric didn’t know Foxy back then. It would take an elderly man in Michigan, Clive, to bring Eric and Foxy together. Clive lived on his family farm in Michigan. He’d been there for years, and was a collector (understatement) of mechanical things. The living room had Harley-Davidson motorcycles in it. All of Clive’s barns (there were several) had cars, engines, transmissions, and parts in them.
Sadly, in 2013, Clive was being thrown off the property. The place he was moving to didn’t have room for his collection, so he was selling it all. Eric, who was living in Canada at that time, saw a 1967 GTO Clive had, and he headed down to Michigan to check it out. When he got there, Eric saw a Mach 1 leaving on a trailer, a Camaro being loaded up on another trailer, and a Torino that someone else was checking out. Eric estimates Clive had about 30 cars in total. He bought the GTO and headed back to Canada.
Eric told his brother Paul about Clive’s massive firesale. His brother had the idea to offer Clive a lump sum for the entire automotive estate. After some negotiation, an agreement was reached, and Eric and his brother started to bring cars back home.
“Then we had 2 weeks to get everything out,” Eric told me. “It was an eight hour trek one way between where I was in Canada and Clive’s place in Michigan. We ran three to four trucks per day, moving as many things as we could. In the process of doing that, I left the GTO on the street at my home and came back to find a letter on it that someone wanted to buy it – as is.” Eric had managed to upsell the GTO just by parking it on the street. He took the offer.
After several more trips to Michigan, the Harmers had moved everything they purchased. Eric and his brother were sitting around a bonfire having beers with Clive. Clive astutely pointed out that Eric didn’t have a car anymore, and asked Eric, “What about the old white LeMans?” He was talking about Foxy.
Clive had started putting the LeMans back together. He sectioned the front out a ‘67 Tempest he had. Sitting there, Foxy was essentially a rolling shell, but Clive had some ideas.
“He had 50 years of stuff in the barn, including engines,” Eric said. “We found an Olds 455 in the rafters. We found a Chevy 350 transmission. We found an adapter plate. And then we just kind of slapped it all together in one day. It was just a total mess.”
Over the next few years, Eric met Rachel, who is now his wife, and moved to New York City. Foxy mostly just sat around in Canada. But in 2107 Eric pulled Foxy down to New York and started working on her to the 455 dialed in and the TH350 sorted out. It wasn’t going well.
“I couldn’t get her to run right,” Eric recalled. “I took her to a car show just five miles away and she limped in there and then barely made it home. All my new friends in New York who thought I was a car guy saw me show up with my car for the first time and it’s this absolute piece of junk. It was just embarrassing.”
To Eric, the best solution was something he’d been wanting to do for years – an LS swap. Now most people, I think it’s fair to say, get a car, decide to do an engine swap, get an engine, and then get the components needed for the swap. But Eric went about it in a slightly different, dare I say… more complicated way.
He started collecting parts for an LS swap in 2011 because he knew he wanted to do one. “I just didn’t have a car,” he said. Then, about nine months before he brought Foxy to New York, he acquired an LS and a six-speed automatic out of a wrecked Pontiac G8. Now all he had to do was get rid of the 455.
He ran an ad in Facebook for the Olds big block. It was purchased almost immediately by a hot rodder in West Virginia, and who wanted to pick it up on Monday. Which was the next day. “OK,” Eric said. “I’m going to pull it on Sunday. And I did.”
To further, well… complicate things, the buyer did not show up the next day like he said he would.
Eric called him. “Dude, your engine is sitting on the sidewalk out in front of my house in Queens.” The buyer wasn’t concerned, saying he’d pick it up soon. “You don’t understand,” Eric told him. “People have to walk around it.”
Eric put a bike lock on the 455 to give the impression that someone actually owned it, and somehow it lasted five days on the sidewalk until the buyer picked it up. Eric thinks no one stole it because 1) it looked like a trap, and 2) it weighed about 700 pounds.
This month is the third anniversary of the 455 for LS swap which was completed solo by Eric, on the sidewalk, in Queens, New York. He says his back is still sore. “That was such a dumb idea,” he said, “but I was excited.”
The swap included the stock L76 engine and 6L80-E automatic from the G8. Eric used small block Chevy frame horns and engine mounts, with a Jegs adapter plate to get the LS installed in Foxy.
A set of stainless steel long tube headers from Speed Engineering feed into a full Pypes exhaust, also stainless. The headers feature 1⅞” primaries and 3″ collectors that come down to the 2½” tubes for the Pypes system that has an X pipe and Race Pro mufflers. Eric’s really impressed with the fit, finish, and value of the Speed Engineering headers and the Pypes exhaust.
Looking for a little extra horsepower, Eric recently installed a Stage 2 cam and upgraded valve springs. “Honestly I shouldn’t have done it,” he said. “I ran the stock LS2 cam for two years. It ran great. I should have left it alone, but I wanted a little bit more chop.”
The cam swap pointed out some mechanical problems that had to be addressed, and the need for a higher stall speed torque converter. Eric ordered an Elgin 1840 P converter with a 2400 rpm stall speed.
“It was a disaster,” he said. “When I pulled out the transmission I found out I didn’t have a crossmember anymore. The transmission was holding the crossmember in rather than the crossmember holding the transmission in.”
And the bellhousing was cracked. And the company he bought it from (not Elgin) sent the wrong converter. The one they sent had a 1900 stall speed, which wasn’t much better than the original one from the G8. And all that was just before Eric and his wife were planning to take two long car vacations in Foxy. It got very complicated, but Eric got it done.
Electrical control for the LS comes from a PSI Conversions wiring harness. Eric spoke very highly about the great customer service PSI has provided to him. To get Foxy’s original electrical system to coexist with the needs of the LS, Eric runs three different fuse panels.
Foxy still has the stock glass tube fuse panel from 1966 to control her headlights, horn, and wipers. Because, Eric said, “It works.” A second panel controls all the LS systems, the coil packs, injectors, fuel pump, and ignition. The third fuse panel is for the auxiliary items Eric’s added, including heated seats, air conditioning, and a phone charger.
Regular GHR readers might remember that Orlando, whose 1972 LeMans was featured last August, also lives in Queens. Eric was Orlando’s neighbor. It’s not too surprising that Eric and Orlando became friends and regularly get together to work on their Pontiacs. And although there were some… complications… with Eric’s LS swap, it worked out so well that the two of them have just about completed an LS swap on Orlando’s ‘72.
The 6L80-E six-speed automatic transmission drives a rebuilt 1965 Pontiac 10-bolt rear end. During the rebuild, Eric added 3.26 gears, an Auburn positraction differential, and chromoly axles.
Foxy had a four wheel coil spring / trailing arm suspension from the factory, but Eric’s upgraded it significantly. Foxy now features tubular trailing arms, coil-overs, and disc brakes at all four corners.
Mating the trans to the rear required a custom drive shaft, which turned out to be larger in diameter than stock. It’s large enough that it would hit the floor going over bumps – or during hard acceleration. Eric was looking for a good way to get some increased clearance, without having any luck.
Finally, out of desperation, he called QA1 to ask them if they could make him some custom shocks that were two inches taller than what he had. The QA1 tech support guy said, “Why don’t you just get 2″ extensions?” That was not complicated.
Foxy has factory power steering and power brakes. Eric’s using a C5 Corvette pump for the steering. He put adapters on the original 1966 Saginaw box to convert them to AN fittings. He also updated the steering box last year to convert it to a quicker ratio. The original ratio was 17:1, now it’s 12:1. The steering wheel used to take six turns lock to lock, now it’s just two and a half.
The steel wheels Foxy is currently sporting are going to stay for a while. For several reasons. “I’m not a ‘looks’ person,” Eric told me. “I really prefer performance, something that works well mechanically, rather than how it looks. And I’m really picky about wheels.” Foxy’s rims come from Wheel Vintiques. Eric got the sizes and backspacing he needed in a newly manufactured, and therefore strong, wheel.
From the work that’s been done underneath, it appears that Foxy has had several owners, with varying degrees of welding and metal skills. Eric reports that some of the work was impeccable. Much of it was not. Foxy still needs a floor pan and to replace two of the body mounts. About the motor mounts, Eric said, “One doesn’t even exist anymore, and the other shows up for work but it doesn’t do anything.”
Despite being taco’d at the drag strip, Eric said Foxy was pretty solid and rust free. “Well, it had no trunk,” he said, “but these cars never have trunks. It was one of the design flaws of them, the trunk always rots out.” For now, Foxy’s trunk consists primarily of a Long Island Rail Road sign. The piece of sheet aluminum that came off a demolished LIRR station, and fills up about 90% of the trunk.
The most notable part of Foxy’s exterior is her yellow hood. It’s her fifth one. Eric went to see a Pontiac guy in New Jersey to buy some heads. The cylinder head transaction did not work out in Eric’s favor, but while he was there he also got the new hood. “All of her hoods have always been mangled,” Eric said. “This is the best hood I’ve ever had.”
Eric told me his penchant for spending money on performance instead of looks is why Foxy really doesn’t have paint. “For the amount of money paint costs,” he said, “I could do so much more with the car.” But that may be about to change, as he’s contemplating three options.
The first is a garage paint job – or jobs – at home. “The car’s become a DIY car,” he explained. “I do everything myself. I didn’t start out wanting to do that, but there’s pride in having done that. So I’ve looked at the Plasti Dip kits. I may Plasti Dip it a different color every year. That sounds like fun.”
The second option is inspired by that GTO Eric got from Clive. It had what he described as “a 1970s bowling ball blue color sparkle, crazy like an old motorcycle helmet.” Eric’s combining that idea with Foxy’s current color combination. “The yellow hood and the black fenders remind me of an old bowling shirt I had,” he said. “I’ve been looking at a metal flake root beer paint for the rest of the car. Keep the yellow hood and keep it two-tone.”
The third option is to run bare metal with a clear coat. He’s actually tried that already with one of Foxy’s previous hoods (shown below), but it seems like the climate in the Northeast is too wet for the bare metal. But Eric hasn’t totally eliminated it yet.
You won’t be too surprised to hear that Foxy’s interior, specifically her seats, have been – yep – complicated.
Clive had put a pair of 1984 Olds Toranado seats in Foxy. Eric said, “they were big white poofy things. I absolutely hated them.” He wanted something cool, something with a low back. Naturally, Clive still had the original seats up in one of the barn lofts.
“They were all mouse ridden,” Eric said, “and someone had done a 1980s velour job on them. They were falling apart and stank. But they were comfortable. They were ugly and disgusting but they were done so well they were comfortable.”
After using those seats for a while, Eric rebuilt them to factory specs. But after a cruise down to Ocean City, Maryland, he decided they needed to be replaced. Eric found a used set of Pontiac seats that were in good shape but they weren’t comfortable either.
Next (I told you this was complicated) a buddy found Eric a set of used Pro Car low back buckets. They worked great for a year, but then Eric started getting some back pain. When the cam swap kept Foxy off the road, and Eric out of those seats, for two months, his back pain went away.
So now another set of seats were needed, and his buddy Orlando came to the rescue with a set of 2008 Grand Prix seats. “He knew I liked them,” Eric told me, “because I used to have an 08 Grand Prix and to this day it’s still the best highway car I’ve ever had.”
Eric dyed the seats black, built a set of brackets for them, and installed them in Foxy. The results have been excellent. “Out of all the complaints I have for the last 1000 miles,” he said, “the seats aren’t one of them.”
He loves the Dakota Digital dash he’s installed. Foxy was originally an air conditioned car from the factory, but that was removed back in her drag racing days. Eric’s replaced the discarded Pontiac system with a Vintage Air system. He’s already added some Dynamat on the floor, and will likely add more to the door panel, and the roof when he replaces the headliner.
That Grand Prix made such an impression on Eric that in many ways he uses it as a template for how he wants to build Foxy. “It’s about keeping your eye on the goal,” he said. “My goal was to make a grand touring car in an old car.”
All the work Eric’s done is entirely for enjoying the ride. He’s gone on the Northeast Rod Run, a 5-day 4-night cruise to Maine that’s like the Hot Rod Power Tour. He’s done the Ocean City cruise with a car club from Queens.
But don’t get the wrong impression. That LS motor is putting out enough horsepower to send Foxy on a 12.9 second quarter-mile time during the Pontiac Nationals in 2019. And that LS horsepower also helped Eric determine that the wind shear speed for the upper windshield trim for one of these cars is just over 130 mph. I’ll let him tell the story:
“I was going over a closed track in a testing facility over a bridge at about 134 mph. There was a cross wind of about 45 mph as I was going forward. That’s when the entire front end of the car came up, and came down pointed in a different direction. After that I heard the rattle. I thought I threw a rod. Turns out it was the upper window trim leaving.”
Twelve second ETs and high speed runs on test tracks are great, but they’re not the reason Eric built Foxy. It’s the camaraderie of the hot rodding community that brings him back. “Everyone’s a friend at these things,” he said. “There’s a lot of support in the car world.”
There have been some ups and downs, but now Eric’s got a classic Detroit car, that he’s upgraded himself with current technology, and he uses to cruise with his wife and friends to enjoy the hot rod community.
You know what… it’s really not that complicated after all.
Photos courtesy of Eric Harmer
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You can follow Foxy on Instagram via ‘thefoxypontiac’