‘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.

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