’81 Bandit Trans Am of Santiago Class

A National Firebird and Trans Am Club featured car is the ‘81 Bandit Trans Am of Santiago Class from Springville, Alabama. Here is the story:

I purchased my Trans Am in 1981 at a dealership in Montgomery, Alabama. She was originally white with a gold hood bird, tan interior and an automatic transmission. She has taken me all the way to Maine and down to Miami, Florida before finally settling back in Montgomery due to a divorce and prior military service.

Financial strain forced me to drop my insurance. As fate would have it on May 4, 1984 — just two weeks after dropping my insurance — I was driving to work about 5:30 in the morning when it started raining so hard I could no longer see the road in front of me. The car began to bounce violently.

As I reached over to buckle my seat belt, I heard a loud bang. The rear window exploded and hit me in the back of my head! Then, my T-tops flew off. As I looked up into the sky, I could see that I was now in the middle of a tornado’s funnel!

All around me, other cars (and even an 18-wheeler) were being tossed around like toys.

After my windows blew out, my car became a bit more stable.

Fortunately, my terror was over relatively quickly, but that same violent tornado went on to claim the lives of five local residents while cutting a path of destruction one-mile wide and several miles long.

Yes, we survived this event but it took years for me to get used to driving in the rain once again.

Meanwhile, the damage to my Pontiac was extensive. The paint on one side suffered thousands of rock chips. The rear window, driver’s window and T-tops were each gone, and my hood was bent in half. The Trans Am looked really beat up.

I eventually purchased another hood, replaced the glass and got a new set of T-tops, but that was all I could afford to fix at the time.

Fast forward to 2005 when I finally decided to undertake a full restoration. I was transferred to Miami with my job but kept paying for the restoration here in Alabama.

During a visit back home to check up on the Trans Am’s progress, I quickly discovered that nothing had been done in the past eight months. As I was speaking to the owner, bill collectors were hounding him on the phone. Obviously, something was wrong.

I then found a place in Miami called Trans Am Specialties who offered to take on my project, but I had to hire an attorney to get things moving. But, when my Pontiac showed up in Miami, all that arrived was a shell — no motor, transmission, front or rear end. The total loss was estimated at $18,000.

Trans Am Specialties proceeded to work their magic and replace all the missing parts. Just before they were ready to install the decals, I told them to stop — I decided to have the iconic Trans Am graphics [Airbrushed] here in Alabama by Impatient Creations.

During the resto-mod upgrades, I installed a 5-speed Tremec 600 TKO and FITECH fuel injection. The balanced and blueprinted 400 motor features Kaufman RAVI racing heads and a RAVI cam.

Exterior custom touches include sequential LED taillights and LED headlights. The cutout mufflers are controlled with a key fob.

All the pinstripes, lettering and ‘Bird graphics were airbrushed and then sealed with a ceramic coating. Four stone guards that mirror the wheel flares in front of each wheel were also added. They perfectly frame the 17×9″ Year One Snowflake wheels.

Inside, the original radio has been gutted and replaced with new internals featuring Bluetooth capabilities. A Dakota Dash provides modern gauges. The front seats have been replaced with Cordeaux units, and my shifter knob has had the numbers painted gold.

It took a total of 10 years to finish, but the wait was well worth it. My Trans Am has won various Best of Show awards plus First Place honors at the World of Wheels three different times.

Finally, at age 63, I have achieved my dream of having the ultimate Trans Am: Super Bandit 400.

‘Birds in Flight

by Mark E. Neumann

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

First-Gen Firebirds and George Barris: A dynamic duo

We all know the custom car builder George Barris for his crazy movie and TV show cars – the Munster Coach, the Batmobile, the Green Hornet, and lots of other eye-opening projects.

But Barris, who passed away in November 2015, also had a penchant for Pontiac power. He designed a motorized stagecoach for the rock band Paul Revere and the Raiders, known for their hit songs “Cherokee Nation” and “Kicks.” Called the Raiders Coach, the two 428 ci Pontiac V8s delivered 800 horsepower to the car. The band, which also did commercials for Pontiac when the GTO Judge debuted in 1969, took the Coach with them while touring (see pictures at the Raiders Coach Facebook page).

Barris also did custom paint work and body mods on several first-generation Firebirds for TV shows in the 1960s and 1970s, including “Groovy,” a teenager situation TV series.. He customized a ’67 Firebird and made a guess appearance on one of the episodes. He also produced a customized ‘Bird for “A Boy, A Girl” – a movie starring Dino Martin (son of Dean). The convertible was basically stock except for a wild, flamed paint job.

Another Barris-customized Firebird crossed over the auction block recently at Mecum’s Chattanooga, Tennessee auction. It was a 1968 Firebird convertible customized by Barris for the “Sounds of ‘68” variety show on ABC-TV. Barris built three copies of the car as giveaways at the end of the show’s season to the best “Super Teen” musical talent.

The one that went on the auction block is believed to be the last remaining example; it was authenticated by George Barris and Barris Kustom Industries in 2006.

The styling cues that Barris developed for the car may have inspired some of the design work by Pontiac for the 1969 Firebird Trans Am, according to the car’s information sheet.

The car has a matching number 400 c.i. motor and factory teal interior. PHS Services documentation and a build sheet indicate the car was assembled at a GM plant in Los Angeles and originally sold by a Sherman Oaks, California Pontiac dealership. It has an automatic transmission with Posi traction, air conditioning, tilt wheel, and it was priced at $5,072.16.

Barris’s custom additions include simulated side air scoops, adjustable trunk mounted spoiler, unique hood, sequential taillights and unique bumpers front and rear, along with a side pipe exhaust.

In an interview with High Performance Pontiac in March 2008, Barris said he picked the Firebird for the “Sounds of ‘68” show because the car was “very youth oriented. I thought that car was the cat’s meow for that show, and I could make the car even more appealing to the 15-35 age group through design and styling upgrades,” he told HPP writer Christopher Phillip.” I loved the car. It was really great.”

Bidders took the car to $60,000 once it hit the auction block at Mecum, but it did not hit the reserve..

Clearly not a Raider’s Coach, but a nice one-of-kind collector car with the George Barris touch.

Barris Customized Firebird
Barris Customized Firebird
Barris Customized Firebird
Barris Customized Firebird


Barris G. and Featherston D. “Barris TV and Movie Cars.” MBI Publishing, 1996.

'74 buccaneer red Trans Am of Mark Neumann Mark enjoys taking rides in his 1974 Buccaneer Red Trans Am and serves on the copyediting team for The Eagle. He lives in Chandler, Arizona and belongs to the Valley of the Sun Pontiac Club. ( www.valleysunpontiacs.com ).

’99 Trans Am of Ben Schwandt

Greetings! I recently sold my 2000 T-top WS-6 Trans Am and decided I needed another to replace it! I found this beauty advertised for sale in your Eagle publication, spoke with the seller and the rest is history!

I had it shipped from New Jersey to my home in Minnesota sight unseen. It’s a beautiful car with only 21,000 miles on it. It is 1 of only 48 red WS-6 Trans Ams with a 6 speed. This Trans Am is a great addition to my black 1983 Trans am and my 2002 Collector edition convertible.

Ben Schwandt, Moorhead, Minnesota Editor’s Note: Photos of his 1983 and 2002 Trans Ams have appeared in the August 2022 issue of the Eagle.

99 TA Ben Schwandt of Moorhead, Minnesota
99 TA Ben Schwandt of Moorhead, Minnesota

1989 Trans Am GTA of Josh Weaver

If you’re a purist, this car isn’t for you. I’ve always loved 3rd gen Firebird’s, and when I started looking for my own there were some things I really wanted; T-tops, L98, digital dash, and flame red metallic paint just to name a few. Unfortunately, these aren’t common because the digital dash was only available in 87/88 and the 5.7 with T-tops was only available after ’89 (this is according to the GTA source page – except for export, so you could find this in Canada). Either way, it would be a tough find, but I did stumble across one with an intriguing story….The previous owner to this car had a flame metallic red ‘87 GTA with 58K miles and totaled it in the early 90’s, but purchased it back from insurance hoping to repair it. After tearing into it, he saw that the body was too far gone, so he started searching for another car. He came across a theft recovered ‘89 gunmetal gray GTA, with 52K miles in New Jersey. The car was fine, but NJ law required it to have a reconstructed title, even though there was no damage. He checked it out and agreed to make the purchase. However, between the time he saw it and when he picked it up, someone stole the engine. He negotiated a new price with the insurance company and took it home.

He then decided to install the engine from his ’87 into the ’89 and while he was at it, also swapped the interior. He liked the Flame red metallic so much, that he repainted the 89 in this color (you can still see the gray behind the door panels). There were only 644 GTA’s in ’89 that were painted gunmetal gray. Keep in mind this was the mid 90’s and nobody had a clue what these cars would be worth, and nobody cared about the build numbers at this point. So, over the course of 4 years, he swapped the engine, interior, and painted the car in his spare time. When he finally finished it in the late 90’s, he had lost interest and put it in storage.

20 years later, he pulled it out of storage and decided to sell it. We made a deal and I brought it home and began a month’s long cleanup process. The first stop was to my local mechanic, who couldn’t believe the detail the guy went through on the engine swap. He said there are things that the previous owner kept and installed that most guys would not have reinstalled. He did a full service on the car, gutted the cats and installed frame connectors. Next, it was detailed with a ceramic coating and tuned with a new PROM. Then I spent months working on the odometer and DIC trying to correct the displays while not driving it to preserve the mileage until it was corrected.

It’s probably a one-of-a-kind bird. Like I said, not a number matching pure car, but I feel one with some of the best options. It has about 55K miles (engine has about 4KBen Schwandt more), runs great and is a blast to drive! Thanks for checking it out!

Josh Weaver, Strasburg, Pennsylvania

1989 Trans Am GTA of Josh Weaver from Strasburg, Pennsylavania

’99 Trans Am of Ben Schwandt
Greetings! I recently sold my 2000 T-top WS-6 Trans Am and decided I needed another to replace it! I found this beauty advertised for sale in your Eagle publication, spoke with the seller and the rest is history!

I had it shipped from New Jersey to my home in Minnesota sight unseen. It’s a beautiful car with only 21,000 miles on it. It is 1 of only 48 red WS-6 Trans Ams with a 6 speed. This Trans Am is a great addition to my black 1983 Trans am and my 2002 Collector edition convertible.

Ben Schwandt, Moorhead, Minnesota Editor’s Note: Photos of his 1983 and 2002 Trans Ams have appeared in the August 2022 issue of the Eagle.

99 TA Ben Schwandt of Moorhead, Minnesota
99 TA Ben Schwandt of Moorhead, Minnesota

2000 Formula WS-6 of Andy Cain

A National Firebird and Trans Am Club featured car is the 2000 Pontiac Firebird Formula WS-6 of Andy Cain from Biloxi, Mississippi. Here is the story:

This is our 2000 Pontiac Firebird Formula WS-6. The build date was January of 2000 and my wife and I are the original owners. From the numbers I can find it was 1 of 233 Formula WS-6’s built in 2000, 1 of 151 with the 6-speed manual transmission and 1 of 23 in bright red. The car was a daily driver until 2010 and currently has about 91K miles on the odometer. It was ordered from the factory pretty much loaded with leather 6-way power driver’s seat, 6-speed manual with Hurst shifter, traction control, t-tops and the Monsoon Sound System with the cassette player. The car has since been upgraded to the Monsoon Sound System with CD player and trunk 12-disc CD-changer. The engine mods are modest, I’ve swapped out the LS1 intake manifold for a LS6, installed a ported and polished throttle body, coolant by-pass mod, oil catch can and SLP Cold Air Intake with a K&N filter. To stiffen up the frame I installed the strut tower brace, sub frame connectors and Detroit Speed Fender Flange kit. I had to replace the t-top sail panel band due to an issue with the glue bleeding through and bubbling the paint and leaving black streaks on the band. I had the MAGG Performance replacement sail panel installed and it fits and looks great. As far as suspension goes I upgraded to Bilstein shocks and slotted and dimpled rotors when the time came to replace them. I purchased the car to replace my 1994 Firebird Formula because I was concerned Pontiac was going to close down the Firebird line soon. Of course they didn’t do that until 2002, but they did stop producing the Formula WS6 after 2000.

I’ve been a Pontiac guy since my high school days and as you can probably tell, I really enjoy this car. One of the strange things about the car that I’ve never been able to figure out is the paint in the engine bay is clear coated. I thought initially it was due to the car being a WS6 with a different hood so they clear coated the engine bay as it went down the line and then installed the WS6 hood. But after seeing many Trans Am and Formula WS-6’s without clear coated engine bays. I am not so sure. If you know the answer please let me know.

‘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 Photos Courtesy of Mecum Auctions, Inc.

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

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. Mark also owns a 1970 Pontiac GTO convertible and a 1973 Grand Am.

2022 Trans Am Nationals

Story and photos by Paul Albinger

The 37th Annual Trans Am Nationals was held in Fairborn Ohio form August 26 to the 28th, 2022. Each year funds are raised through silent and live auctions and 50/50 drawing “A Special Foundation” helping to make a dream come true for children with life threatening illnesses. This year nearly $20,000 was raised.

This is a show where the best of the best Firebirds and Trans Am gather. This year was the 3rd largest show of all time with 516 cars from 32 states and Canada attending. Nightly cruises are held along with seminars featuring former Pontiac Motor Division executives sharing their knowledge, expertise, experiences, and memories. This year Jim Mattison, Herb Adams, John Schinella, and Bill Davis shared priceless information with us. This all culminated by meeting and renewing friendships … even known to last all night as the fellowship under the entrance of the hotel continues on and on and on all day and all night.

The swap meet for all Pontiac parts, memorabilia, apparel, etc. lasted all 3 days.

Truly one of MUST DO / BUCKET LIST SHOWS for Pontiackers to attend with or without a car. Next year show dates are August 25 – 27, 2023.

Editor’s Note: Paul Albinger lives in Gilbert, Arizona and owns a 1979 10th Anniversary Trans Am and a 1969 Firebird 400 convertible. Also thanks to Mark Neumann for his help in getting us this story and photos while on the road.

2022 Trans Am Nationals
2022 Trans Am Nationals
2022 Trans Am Nationals
2022 Trans Am Nationals

2022 NJ Trans Am / All Pontiac Run

story and photos by Ben Deutschman

The weatherman was threatening horrendous rain, nuclear bombing by Putin, who knows, maybe even snow, but the morning of July 9, 2022, was nothing but clear skies, bright, and very warm sunshine, and a heaping helping of humidity.

Our troop gathered by the Edison New Jersey, Rt. 1 South McDonalds in the Crossroads Plaza Shopping Center starting around 1:00 p.m., and close to on time, departed around 2:00 p.m. The NJ Trans Am/All Pontiac Run took Rt 287 to Rt. 22 East, and followed Terrell Rd into Fanwood, New Jersey, turning on to South Ave, and shortly thereafter, arriving at Fabios Bistro. Once at our destination, everyone found themselves a place to park, and the waiters and waitresses brought out menus, took the food orders.

Once everyone was done enjoying lunch, we assembled in the parking lot of Fabios Bistro, a free Raffle commenced, and a number of items donated by the National Firebird Trans Am Club were raffled off to some lucky winners.

The next and last item on the agenda, was the presentation of the Best Trans Am, and best Pontiac trophies sponsored by myself. The lucky winners were picked by the owners of Fabios Bistro (Greg Kowalczyk), and his partner.

And so, another NJ Trans Am/All Pontiac Run enters the history books.

2022 NJ Trans Am / All Pontiac Run
2022 NJ Trans Am / All Pontiac Run
2022 NJ Trans Am / All Pontiac Run
2022 NJ Trans Am / All Pontiac Run

National Firebird and Trans Am Club – For owners of all year Pontiac Firebirds, Trans Ams, GTAs and Firehawks