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'Birds in Flight Column by Mark Neumann

these are some of his columns that appear regularly in the EAGLE

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Mark E Neumann 'Birds in Flight
by Mark E. Neumann

Editor’s Note: this is the ninth in a series of columns about interesting stories connected with Firebirds and Trans Ams.

If you had $440,000 in the bank right now, you could build that six-car garage you always wanted to store your Pontiac collection – and have enough left over to pay for a nice ’69 Firebird. Convertible, even.

Or, you could have been sitting in the bidder’s box at Mecum’s Harrisburg, Pennsylvania classic car auction in July and bought a nicely equipped 1977 Trans-Am. For $440,000.

Right, those zeros are correct.

At the auction, held July 27-30, Lot #S132.1, a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am SE with the 6.6L/Y82 option and the black and gold "Bandit" edition – and only 14 miles on the odometer – was the third highest price car sold. It was beaten out by a 2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT Black Series with 46 miles (1 of 1,700 produced) and a 1985 Lamborghini Countach LP5000S that sold for $467,500. Two exotic, rare, high-performance cars – and a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am.

The Trans Am had the automatic transmission, T-tops, factory Uniroyal tires, air conditioning, rear defroster, cruise control, AM/FM (but no 8-track). And do not forget that 14 miles on the odometer.

Trans Ams Bring Big Bucks

Is the Trans Am sold at Mecum’s Harrisburg auction the most expensive ever sold? If you do not include the influence of stardom, the answer is probably yes.

A list of the 10 most expensive Pontiacs sold at auction, published by Hagerty in 2018 (https://www.hagerty.com/media/market-trends/most-expensive-pontiacs-sold-at-auction/) , shows that a 1977 Firebird Trans Am used as a promotional vehicle during the filming of "Smokey and the Bandit" sold at the 2016 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction for $550,000 (this car was originally a ’76 T/A that had been modified to look like a ’77 model).

As Hagerty wrote at the time, "The premium for a Bandit car actually associated with the movie amounted to roughly 14 times what an ordinary Trans Am in this condition would expect to bring."

Back in 1977, you could have ordered a new Trans Am from your Pontiac dealership and paid about $8,500 for the car, according to PHS Automotive Services Inc. (http://www.phs-online.com) who can get you detailed information on your favorite vintage Pontiac.

That is quite far from $440,000. Like from Texarkana to Atlanta.

Strong Sellers

You read in my August "Birds of Flight" column that prices were climbing for low-mileage Trans Ams at auctions, particularly the special edition Trans Ams.

A 1979 Pontiac Trans Am, 10th Anniversary edition, unrestored with 38 miles, sold for $118,250.

We also highlighted a second, low-mileage 1979 Trans Am going up on the block at Mecum’s Glendale, Arizona auction on March 18. This car had 145 miles and the desirable 400 ci, four speed combination.

The price? The bidding started at $50,000 and went up quickly, eventually settling at $145,000.

PHS Automotive Services said 12,489 Trans Am with the Pontiac 400 block and the Y82 edition with T-tops were built in 1977. Pontiac sold another 1,217 Trans Ams with the 403 Olds engine.

But the $440,000 price for that Trans Am may not be the ceiling, according to John Kraman. He knows a few things about classic cars: he is part of the broadcast team for television coverage of the Mecum auctions held around the country. He is also a Pontiac fan, owning a ’64 GTO that he bought when he was 19.

"This (Trans Am) is likely one of the most valuable ones," said Kraman, who was in the broadcast booth when the car went up for bid. "We have seen some nice ones that are restored, and we have seen some original cars, but this one was unique."

Kraman said portions of the car, including the chassis and the engine compartment, were freshened up. The car had several previous owners, he said.

Despite that high end price for the Trans Am, "I don’t think they have topped out yet," Kraman said. "When we look at cars from the 1970s, this is the car. This is the signature car. It’s very similar to the (Buick) GNXs of the 1980s.

"As time marches on…I think the price will continue to go up and up. As expensive as that car was, I think that was a decent buy," Kraman said.

1977 Pontiac Trans Am SE which sold for $440K at the Mecum Auctions in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania John Kraman at the Mecum Auctions

1977 Pontiac Trans Am SE which sold for $440K
at the Mecum Auctions in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

John Kraman at the Mecum Auctions

Photos Courtesy of Mecum Auctions, Inc.

'74 buccaneer red Trans Am of Mark Neumann  About the author: Mark is the second owner of a Buccaneer Red 1974 Pontiac Trans-Am and serves on the copyediting team for the Eagle. Mark also owns a 1970 Pontiac GTO convertible and a 1973 Grand Am.


'Birds in Flight
by Mark E. Neumann

Editor’s Note: this is the eighth in a series of columns about interesting stories connected with Firebirds and Trans Ams.

In my last column, we reviewed prices of Firebirds and Trans Ams at auctions held early in the year. The two auctions we featured – Mecum’s extremely large Kissimmee (Fla.) auction and Barrett-Jackson’s in Scottsdale (Ariz.) – are both held in January at opposite ends of the country. Those are followed by more B-J and Mecum auctions in Las Vegas, Glendale (Ariz.), Palm Beach and Amelia Island (Fla.), and Indianapolis (Mecum’s second largest). The summer brings on an auction in Monterey, plus the MAG auction at Hot August Nights in Reno.

If you want to track the value of your ‘Bird, auctions are a reliable source. Websites like ClassicCars.com and Hemmings, the Bible for classic car collectors, will give you asking prices; auctions will give you "sold" prices. What is my car worth today? Head to an auction site. Of note: Hemmings has also gone into the auction business, holding them online.

January sets the stage

We saw some competitive prices for F-bodies at the Mecum and Barrett-Jackson auctions in January, including a 1973 Firebird Formula (400 ci, 4-speed) for $66,000 (Ed. note: I had one of these in the mid-1990s in Navajo Orange and rare ram air induction. I sold it for about $3,500.) A 1979 Trans Am 10th Anniversary car with the coveted 400 ci and 4-speed sold for $62,700.

And, of course, the penultimate: a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am, unrestored with 38 miles (maybe the ride home from the dealership?), sold for $118,250.

In my last column, we also highlighted a second, low-mileage 1979 Trans Am going up on the block at Mecum’s Glendale, Arizona auction on March 18. I was up front and close to this car, and watched it go through bidding on the Mecum stage. This car, a SE Black and Gold edition, had 145 miles and the desirable 400 ci, four speed combination.

The price? The bidding started at $50,000 and went up quickly, eventually settling at $145,000.

Checking in at mid-year

Did we see any similar prices for F-Birds during the remainder of the year? Here are some prices for cars sold at Mecum’s just ended Indianapolis auction in May.

This auction had $126.5 million in total overall sales—an 18% increase over the past Indy auction record of $107 million achieved at last year’s event.

Mecum – Indiana State Fairgrounds

1999 Trans Am 30th Ann. Convertible 2,820 miles (1/535 made) $51,700

1981 Trans Am Turbo SE 3,830 miles $159,500

1969 Trans Am 1/520 Ram Air III cars/4 speed) $165,000

1978 Trans Am (only year for Martinique Blue) $44,000

1977 Trans Am (T-tops) $187,000

2002 Trans Am Collectors Edition 6,200 miles/6 speed/T-tops $50,600

1997 Trans Am 9,881 miles (red) $28,600

The message from collectors and auction houses is that prices are doing well for Pontiacs, particularly the low-mileage copies. Keep those T/As in good condition!

East Bound and Down: Smokey and the Bandit hits 45th anniversary

It is hard to believe that 45 years have passed since Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed, Sally Field and Jackie Gleason banded together to give us "Smokey and the Bandit." When it was released in 1977 (I was 18 years old), no one expected it to do much in the box office. But it grossed $126.7 million, right behind Star Wars that year.

Smokey and the Bandit II proved successful as well, but the third reprisal was not. Reynolds and Field sat out while Jerry Reed became the new Bandit.

Reynolds had a knack for cashing in on props used in his previous movies (like selling the canoe used in the movie "Deliverance," in which he starred). He took advantage of the Smokey and Bandit movie’s success by selling off Trans Ams he received through the movie and promoted Black and Gold Trans Ams built by Trans Am Depot. The company, which uses Camaros as a base for their modern Trans Am editions, sold 77 Bandit cars to match the year the movie was released. Reynolds appeared in advertisements for the car and signed the glove boxes of each model produced.

Smokey and the Bandit have been in their last high-speed pursuit; Gleason, who played Texas sheriff Buford T. Justice, died in 1987 of colon cancer. Reed died in 2008 at age 71 due to complications from emphysema and the "Bandit" Burt Reynolds died in 2018 of a heart attack at the age of 82. Sally Field is now 75.

The re-release of the movie in May and June at select theaters across the country coincided with the dates this year for the Bandit Run, a tour put on for Trans Am owners and their cars by Restore a Muscle Car. This year the Bandit Run’s route followed that from the movie – Texarkana, Texas to Helen, Georgia. Over 160 Trans Am participated in the run.

Smokey and the Bandit 45th anniversary

Some of the key lyrics from the movie’s theme song, written and sung by Jerry Reed:

East bound and down, loaded up and truckin’,

We’re gonna do what they say can’t be done.

We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.

I’m east bound, just watch ol’ "Bandit" run.

We certainly did.

About the author: Mark is the second owner of a Buccaneer Red 1974 Pontiac Trans-Am and serves on the copyediting team for the Eagle.


'Birds in Flight
by Mark E. Neumann

Editor’s Note: this is the seventh in a series of columns about interesting stories connected with Firebirds and Trans Ams.

Most of you who read this column bought your Firebird or Trans Am to drive and enjoy. We’re not big fans of trailer queens. These pony cars were known for their good looks and great handling and beg for a twisty road. So, we oblige.

Nonetheless, we also like to know how the value of our cars are holding up in the classic car market. We all have heard the saying that "once you drive your (new) car off the dealership lot, it starts losing money." There are exceptions, of course, and that’s what this month’s column is about. With the stock market showing a lot of volatility lately, more people are investing in vintage sheet metal.

So I thought I would look at sales from car auctions on how our Firebirds and Trans Ams have fared since the start of the new year. Of course, there other ways to track car value, such as going on websites like eBay, Bring A Trailer, ClassicCars.com, Hemmings, etc. But auction sales have some advantages.

1. You can see and touch the car, look under the hood, start it up
2. You can find out after the auction take place what the car sold for
3. You usually get a good rundown of the car’s features and accessories

Certainly, there are challenges to BUYING a car at auction, but that’s material for another column.

Good pricing so far

The year always starts with the country’s two largest auctions: Mecum’s 10-day, 1,500+ vehicle auction in Kissimmee, Florida, and the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. In my home state, in fact, Barrett headlined four classic car auctions that took place in January, all during the week.

Here are some sample sale prices from both auctions:

Mecum (Kissimmee, Fla.)

Car     Details     Price

1973 Firebird Formula, 400 ci, 4-speed, $66,000

1968 Firebird Convertible, 400 ci, auto, $60,500

1976 Firebird Formula, 400 ci, 4-speed, $25,300

1969 Firebird Convertible, 461 ci, auto, $62,700

1987 Pontiac Firebird 2.8L, 5-speed, $11,550

1979 Trans Am 10th Ann., 400 ci, 4-speed, $62,700

2002 Trans Am Convertible 5.7L, 6-Speed, $36,300

1981 Turbo Trans Am SE 4.9L, auto (only 3,830 miles), $104,500

1979 Pontiac Trans Am, Unrestored with 38 miles, $118,250

Those last two Trans Ams, of course, got high dollars based on very low mileage (more on that later).

Barrett-Jackson (Scottsdale, AZ)

1976 Trans Am, 400 (stroked) auto, $42,900

1967 Firebird Convt., 326 ci, 4 speed ,$47,300

1977 Trans Am, 6.6L auto, T-tops, $110,000

1989 Trans Am 20th Anniv. Pace Car, 3.8l turbo, auto., $82,500

1969 Firebird, Ram Air III, $71,500

1977 Firebird Trans Am SE, (owned by Burt Reynolds), $495,000

Of course, celebrity status can increase the price quickly, as the ’77 Trans Am from the Bandit demonstrated (the car was only a show vehicle, and not used in the movie).

But ultimately, low mileage is a major price mover. Here is one that went on sale at Mecum’s auction in Glendale, Arizona on March 18. We’ll share the final price in our next ‘Birds of Flight column, but here are the details:

1979 Trans Am, 110 miles, 400 ci, 4 spd., We’ll see!

Mecum says "this exquisite example must rank as one of the lowest-mileage and most original of the 1,107 units produced" in 1979.

"Finished in its factory-applied Starlight Black with a Camel Tan Custom interior, this particular Y84 Trans Am SE came with the 400 T/A 6.6 V-8 and floor-shifted, close-ratio 4-speed, as well as power steering and power 4-wheel disc brakes, a tilt steering column, AM/FM stereo with dual rear speakers, power windows and door locks, Special Performance Package and a limited-slip differential."

And there are more auctions to come in 2022.

FL22_Mecum Kissimmee 2022_1973 Pontiac Firebird Formula_K89
FL22- Mecum Kissimmee 2022: 1973 Pontiac Firebird Formula - K89

AZ22_Mecum Glendale 2022_1979 Pontiac Trans Am_S188
AZ22-Mecum Glendale 2022: 1979 Pontiac Trans Am - S188

Photos Courtesy of Mecum Auctions, Inc.

About the author: Mark is the second owner of a Buccaneer Red 1974 Pontiac Trans-Am and serves on the copyediting team for the Eagle.


'Birds in Flight
by Mark E. Neumann

Editor’s Note: this is the sixth in a series of columns about interesting stories connected with Firebirds and Trans Ams.

Winter Greetings from the American Southwest, where the timing of our car show events runs counter to our East Coast and Mid-Western ‘Bird fans. Whether it’s my home state of Arizona, or California or Nevada, the Sun Belt offers fabulous winter weather – great for beautiful sunsets and weekly car shows, cruising-in’s, classic car auctions, vintage car rallies, or just riding down the road in your Firebird or Trans-Am.

It’s always interesting to follow Facebook pages this time of year as Ponti-ackers get their cars ready for winter storage and we start enjoying our 70-degree days following a furnace-like summer. While the hardy ones with good A/C and cooling systems can head north to Flagstaff during the hot months, most of us wait it out until the fall.

Nothing like a Sunday drive during Thanksgiving weekend in you T/A after a hearty slice of pumpkin pie! Photo courtesy of Paul Albinger

Nothing like a Sunday drive during Thanksgiving weekend in your
T/A after a hearty slice of pumpkin pie! Photo courtesy of Paul Albinger.

With three main Pontiac clubs in Arizona – two chapters of Pontiac Oakland Club International and a chapter of the GTO Association of America – along with a separately-organized club for the last-gen GTOs and a Firebird/Trans Am group – we like to keep our ‘Birds at the front of the pack.

Some examples:

• In late October, Trans Ams, Firebirds, GTOs, and G8s took off for a three-day trip to San Diego from the Phoenix area and Tucson. The weather was perfect. We joined over 200 other Pontiacs along the bay front for a beautiful show.

Activities director Paul Albinger, his wife Barbara and their ’79 Trans Am in San Diego. Paul is coordinating our New Year’s Day cruise.  Photo courtesy of Paul Albinger.

Activities director Paul Albinger, his wife Barbara and their
’79 Trans Am in San Diego. Paul is coordinating our
New Year’s Day cruise. Photo courtesy of Paul Albinger.

• On November 18, we had a Pontiac club meeting in Mesa, AZ – outside on the patio. Great attendance as we planned activities for the winter months. Such as …

• For Dec. 4 and 5, we have had two car shows – including a Toyz for Totz run to Wickenburg, Arizona. A club after-Christmas party is in the planning stages for late January – also outside.

And just for kicks, activities director Paul Albinger, owner of a 1979 10h Anniversary Trans-Am, which he drives to car shows and took part in that 600-mile round-trip to San Diego, is organizing our first annual New Year’s Day Cruise.

Other plans call for working as drivers for the MAG auction in Scottsdale in March and our annual Buick-Olds-Pontiac-Cadillac Show in March.

When you put the parka hoods up, we’ll be putting the tops down. Stay warm!

To learn more about car shows in Arizona, check out CruisinArizona (https://sites.google.com/view/cruisinaz/home) Roddin’ and Racin (https://roddinaz.com/); and Arizona Car Shows (www.arizonacarshows.com/carshows.htm).

About the author: Mark is the second owner of a Buccaneer Red 1974 Pontiac Trans-Am and serves on the copyediting team for the Eagle.


'Birds in Flight
by Mark E. Neumann

Editor’s Note: this is the fifth in a series of columns about interesting stories connected with Firebirds and Trans Ams. See previous issues of the printed Eagle for the other columns.

When he was a teen, Tod Warmack and his brother Scott watched their dad pull up to the house one day in Tallahassee, Florida with a just-bought 1978 Gold Edition Pontiac Trans Am. "Of course, we knew we had to have one, too." Warmack recalled in an interview with The Eagle.

Tod had seen a 1978 Martinque Blue edition pull into his high school parking lot one day and knew that was the one he wanted. He found one with T-tops and a four speed, and the W72/WS-6 handling package. Scott also found a Trans Am for himself. It was Trans Am fever, family style.

"My dad had Corvettes, Chevelles, Impalas, and then we got into GTOs," Warmack said. "We were always around muscle cars."

The last Trans-Am was built in 2002, and Pontiac disappeared eight years later. But that love for the pony car never left the family.

Today, the brothers are owners of Trans Am Worldwide, which builds Trans Am conversions using the Chevy Camaro as the base model, and Trans Am Depot, which does restorations work on vintage Firebirds and other muscle cars.

"We started Trans Am Depot first as just a place to restore our own cars. But them we started getting customers and the business grew," Warmack said. Later, after seeing renderings from designer Kevin Morgan in Hot Rod magazine showing how a Trans Am would look as a conversion at the debut of the fifth generation Camaro, Womack developed the idea of building a new Trans Am using the Camaro as a donor car. The look of the ’77-’78 Trans Am models were considered a base for the redesign.

"We get the CAD data of the Camaro from GM, and then we design the new body panels for the Trans Am from there," Warmack said. Most of the body panels are carbon fiber now, and the company builds them in-house, along with most of the motor work.

The company’s 20 employees have churned out close to 200 of the Trans Am conversions, including the Super Duty, which offers up to 1,100 horsepower and a 9.3 second ET on the drag strip. The 50th Anniversary model and the Outlaw edition are also available.

One of the company’s signature cars was the Bandit edition – a tribute to the "Smokey and the Bandit" movie with a limited run of 77 cars to honor the year the movie came out. Burt Reynolds, who starred in the movie, was involved in promoting the car.

Where it started

Trans Am Worldwide debuted in 2010 at the Trans Am Nationals. "It was a crude prototype," Warmack recalls.

Pricing for the cars vary by customer-requested options. "When we first started the company, our entry level was $70,000" which included the donor car, Warmack said. "But we didn’t sell any of those. Most people ask for fully optioned cars, and that brings prices up to around $140,000." That include added performance, paint, and custom interiors. "Prices of materials have gone up, as well as the cost for the donor cars, "Warmack said.

The customer base is generally older, but also is made up of folks who are big Pontiac fans. And the cars are appreciating in value. "We have seen Bandit edition models that sold for $130,000 to $165,000 now selling for $230,000 on some occasions in the secondary markets; Super Duty’s are selling in the mid-$200,000," Warmack said.

One of the special cars that Tod and Scott worked on together was a gold Trans Am conversion in memory of their dad. Ted, who passed away in 2018. Tod’s son also helped with the development of the car. Then Tod had an Indian motorcycle customized with Trans Am paint and logos to match the car. "It’s a special car," Warmack said. A YouTube video called "Gold Rush" that details the building of the special gold Trans Am and the motorcycle. It includes Warmack talking about the founding of Trans Am Worldwide and the cars they have built. See it on the company’s website at https://transamworldwide.com/gold-rush-a-trans-am-documentary/

About the author: Mark is the second owner of a Buccaneer Red 1974 Trans-Am and serves on the copyediting team for the Eagle.

50th Anniversary Edition Trans Am Worldwide


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