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.
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.