‘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.

1983, 2000 and 2002 CETA Trans Ams of Ben Schwandt

My 1983 Trans Am is the car that got me started in my interest in Trans Ams. I grew up watching Knight Rider and ever since then I’ve wanted a Knight Rider style Trans Am. My dream came true in 2018 when I purchased mine sight unseen from a private seller in New York. It has 26,000 original miles and was the third gen Firebird forums November 2020 car of the month! I love the car and drive it as often as I can on the weekends and evenings when the weather is nice!

My 2000 Trans Am is the car I fell in love with in college but couldn’t buy new due to being in college. I found this car in 2003 in Rugby , North Dakota in a classifieds ad in the local newspaper and the rest is history! I have always loved the ram air look on these cars and think it is the most aggressive looking muscle car that GM has produced. The car currently has 18,000 miles on it and is seldom driven except to car shows where it has won many awards over the years.

My 2002 Trans Am CETA is a car I have wanted since 2002 when it came out. I have always wanted a special edition Firebird and I remember like yesterday when there was a 2002 CETA just like mine in the showroom of my local Pontiac dealer blocks away from where I lived. I’ve been hooked since. I bought my car in June of 2021 and received it in July. I bought it sight unseen from the second owner in Florida. The original owner owned the Pontiac dealership in Indiana and ordered it new. The car currently has 3,900 miles on it and is rarely driven. I love the convertible and is so much fun to drive with the top down!

I first learned about your club on the Internet just randomly searching about Trans Ams. Happy to be a part of this awesome group! I’ll send a picture of each one of my cars described above in a second email. Thanks again !

Ben Schwandt
Moorhead, Minnesota

2002 CETA Trans Ams of Ben Schwandt
2000 Trans Ams of Ben Schwandt
2000 and 2002 CETA Trans Ams of Ben Schwandt
1983 Trans Am of Ben Schwandt
1983 and 2000 Trans Ams of Ben Schwandt

’88 Trans Am GTA of Dave and Jodi Przybysz

A National Firebird and Trans Am Club featured car is the ‘88 Trans Am GTA of Dave and Jodi Przybysz of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Here is their story:

My wife, Jodi, and I have wanted our own collector car for years. Financially, it just never seemed to be the right time so we lived vicariously through my father, going to shows and car cruises in one of his classic or antique cars that he had restored.

Then one day, in the middle of a substantial home remodeling project, our contractor told us about this 1988 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am GTA.

He said it’s been in his buddy’s garage for years and he believed he would sell the car. We thought…”Wow! A true barn find!” Not really being in the position to purchase, we made arrangements to go see the car anyways.

It was gorgeous and with only 12k miles on the odometer, it was something we knew we just couldn’t pass up! The car was stored for 17 years, in a clean climate controlled garage (not really a barn find). It was sitting sideways in the back of the garage on wheel dollies. The owner just simply stopped driving it one day and began driving a different vehicle in their collection and so there it sat.

The stickers on the windshield indicated that the last time the car went through a Pennsylvania state inspection was 2003! A price was negotiated and arrangements were made to have a flat bed pick it up. We bought it without even knowing if it would run!

Thanks to our good friend, who is also a mechanic, all the proper maintenance and repairs were preformed to get her running again! We flushed the fuel and brake systems, replaced the fuel pump and injectors and all four tires were replaced. The air conditioning compressor was bad so we replaced it and upgraded the refrigerant. Finally we rebuilt the power antenna motor and then we fired her up. After 17 years she roared back to life!

The history of the car is kind of interesting. As I understand it, the car was purchased new in the Philadelphia area. At some point the car was stolen. It was eventually recovered although, I do not know in what time frame that this occurred. The GTA had sadly been partially disassembled. The radio and taillights were missing, there was a scratch down the passenger side, the windshield was missing and the VIN tag had been removed.

The second owner had purchased the car at an insurance auction.

Oddly enough, because the major components of the car were still intact, the car retains a clean title with a reissued VIN. The taillights and radio were replaced, as were the windshield and the paint was repaired.

Today she sits in our garage. It goes out on nice days to car cruises or for drives in the country, sometimes just to go get ice cream and occasionally to work. Since we’ve owned it, it’s never even seen the rain.

Now, she’s not perfect. There are small details and imperfections that we will enjoy detailing as time goes by but, she is better than anything we ever dreamed that we would own!

Recent events in our lives have proved to us that there is never a right time and that life is too short. The timing, financially, was definitely not right for us to purchase this car but, it is a dream come true and a continuation of a family tradition…in fact…our Trans Am bares the Pennsylvania Antique license plate that was originally registered to my father’s first antique car…a 1930 Chevy.

‘88 Trans Am GTA of Dave and Jodi Przybysz of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania
‘88 Trans Am GTA of Dave and Jodi Przybysz of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania
‘88 Trans Am GTA of Dave and Jodi Przybysz of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania
‘88 Trans Am GTA of Dave and Jodi Przybysz of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania

‘Birds in Flight – Auctions

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.

1974 Trans Am of Perry Pegoraro of West Bend, Wisconsin

I found this car in 1997 coming home from dropping my daughter off at college. I saw it at a Classic Car dealership. I stopped, it was raining, I gave it a quick look and went home. I thought about it for a week. I had purchased a 74 Trans Am brand new and kept it for ten years. This was the car I had when my wife and I met. Always regretted selling it. I went back the following Sunday and the car was gone. I called them the next day. Apparently the car had been there for two years and the owner just took it back. They said mostly kids wanted it and they did not have the money. They wanted $8500.00.

I called the owner and went over to see and to drive the car. It had surface rust on the roof going back. The dealership had broken all the flares driving it up onto one of those raised racks for display. The owner was a large guy. He was linebacker big. He said he didn’t want the car because it’s too small for him. I asked him how much and his reply was $7500.00. I countered with $7000.00 and the deal was done.

I immediately began to restore things. Everything was loose. They said the A/C worked. Well I pulled it off to do some engine work and there wasn’t an o-ring to be found on any of the lines. Later I also found out all the AC ductwork under the dash was missing. I had the car completely repainted as close to Buccaneer Red as we could find. I reinstalled all the decals. We joined a local car club and have been having a fantastic time with the car. Over the years it has accumulated over 200 awards, including five best in shows. Every year I think about modifying the car and I am about to retire so I will finally have the time. Keep the hobby alive for future generations.

1974 Trans Am of Perry Pegoraro of West Bend, Wisconsin

Featured Car – ’68 Firebird 400 of Wes Hardy

A National Firebird and Trans Am Club featured car is the ’68 Firebird 400 of Wes Hardy from Nahant, Massachusetts.  Here is his story:

Reading the latest issue of Eagle, reminded me that I’ve been meaning to send some pics of my restored 1968 Firebird 400 Convertible.

While not “numbers matching”, it is a “period correct” ‘68 400, with a 4 spd M22 transmission & Hurst Shifter and a 355 Posi Rear End.

The original “somewhat frame off” restoration was done approx 15 years ago by a mechanic in NJ, who I bought the car from in August of 2019 after it had been “backed into” while being stored. Upon receiving the Bird, we (my mechanic & I) noticed a number of other “issues”. It went into the shop and went through a “real” restoration at one of the area’s best local shops – Louis Restoration and Repair in Salem Massachusetts.  The engine was totally rebuilt and all of the fenders, quarter panels, doors, etc were taken off, taken back to bare metal, re-primed and realigned to better than new. Though the new restoration took over 6 months (and totally blew my budget!) the car is now approaching “show quality”. As the attached pictures show, the beautiful new paint job is immaculate and “Blue” turns heads wherever I go!

Wes Hardy

68 Firebird 400 of Wes Hardy from Nahant, Massachusetts
68 Firebird 400 of Wes Hardy from Nahant, Massachusetts
68 Firebird 400 of Wes Hardy from Nahant, Massachusetts
68 Firebird 400 of Wes Hardy from Nahant, Massachusetts

‘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.

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

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