1 of 304: 1978 Pontiac “Macho” Trans Am

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Tired of all the detuning of muscle cars in the 1970s, one Pontiac dealer decided to do something about it. Over three years (1977-79), they took 304 stock Trans Am’s and made some performance modifications, then sold them as “Macho T/As”. The name came from the use of the term “macho” which seemed to become part of our hip culture in those days. This ’78 Trans Am is one of those cars and we’re told it’s numbers-matching, but it’s going to take a lot of vision, work, and money to ready the car for the show scene. Located in Odessa, Texas, the opening bid of $8,000 here on eBay has yet to be cast, and – once it is – the reserve will also have to be met.

Interest in the Pontiac Trans Am picked up with the release of the first Smokey and the Bandit movie in 1977. Unfortunately, that was the same year that the 455 cubic-inch V8 was discontinued in favor of a milder (i.e., fewer emissions, lower insurance premiums) engine that had a displacement of 400 cubes. Mecham Motors in Glendale Phoenix, Arizona wasn’t happy with the changes, so they started hopping up the Trans Am once with adjustments to jetting, the intake manifold, and the addition of a set of headers, to name a few items. They wore special graphics and called them “Macho T/As”, selling them as used cars to get around Federal pollution regulations.

Of the roughly 300 built during 1977-79, it looks like two-thirds of them came about in 1978, the same year as the seller’s car. It’s been in storage for 20 years and it looks as though restoration isn’t going to happen on the seller’s watch. The original motor is out of the car, disassembled, and sitting on a pallet waiting for more attention. It’s accompanied by a 4-speed manual transmission, although we’re told 5-speeds were also available in the Machos.

The front end of the car was removed, rebuilt, and reinstalled, which could explain why those pieces are white rather than some version of brown like the rest of the automobile. There is no rust reported on the Pontiac, nor is there any hood, so the buyer will have to search one out. The seller puts other items on the “not included” list, such as a roll cage, Recaro seats, Hooker Headers, and the aluminum intake shifter. But there is a bunch of stuff in the trunk, such as new bushings for the rear end and brake parts. There is no title to change hands, so a Bill of Sale will have to suffice along with information from the car’s last registration (the 1990s).

I have to admit this is a version of the popular Trans Am that I was not familiar with before now. All the post-production work that was done to these autos added a 25 to 50% premium to the Pontiac’s sticker price. But the work was no doubt worth it as these cars were tested doing the quarter-mile at a little more than 14 seconds running nearing 100 mph. The Macho T/A was discontinued in 1980 when the Firebird was downgraded to a miserly 301 cubic inch motor that did not lend itself to being souped-up. The seller says he may consider a trade, so perhaps cash is not the only way to obtain this rare car.

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  1. 370zpp 370zppMember

    Even more rare and from the same time period was the “YMCA Trans Am” which featured a spunky 6 cyl. engine, column mounted automatic and self lubricating seat belts.

    Like 25
    • Bump52

      The ymca also came with your choice of costume. The all black leather biker had a mustache on the grill. The policeman version was rare.

      Like 7
    • 8banger 8bangerMember

      Ship ahoy, Skipper!

      Like 4
  2. Johnny

    The old Lincoln would grease itself. While you were driving down the road.

    Like 1
  3. AZVanman

    Car dealer Evan Mecham was briefly the Governor of AZ., just long enough for one key accomplishment–hanging a new “65 MPH Speed Limit” sign on I-10, I believe it was, in the mid-80s. A huge middle finger to Fed-overreach, and he will always have my respect at least for that.

    Like 22
  4. A heckler

    Russ, you are not familiar with a Macho T/A? You had 4 cars on April 11 (the last Macho T/A, a blue one) wow.

    Like 2
  5. sir_mike

    Doesn’t look very ”macho”now.

    Like 2
  6. Motorcityman

    I heard about the Macho TAs when I was living in So Cal from 86 to 19…….had a few 70s TAs over the years and went to a lot of car shows.
    There was a great Pontiac engine rebuilder in Grand Terrace CA. Near RIVERSIDE.

    Like 1
  7. Howie Mueler

    Two bids now, but reserve not met.

    Like 0
  8. Barry Johnson

    There were 334 Machos made for second gens. 24 in 1977, 204 in 1978, 98 in 1979 and 6 in 1980.

    There is a website http://www.machoregistry.com that tracks the known cars.

    Like 1
  9. Michael Freeman Mike FreemanMember

    Don’t know what they mean by rebuilt front end, just looks like they robbed an entire front clip off another T/A. There weren’t 10 bolts holding the whole thing on and you could pull the whole front sub off with just a bit more effort and roll it out. The skinnies on the front make me wonder if it was a drag car.

    Like 2
  10. Wayne

    I’m sorry, but I have driven several T/As in the past with the last one a 455HO.
    I think I am spoiled and a Macho would do nothing for me. This has no special interest for me.

    Like 1
  11. gaspumpchas

    who here would drive a firechicken that had the word Macho on the side? Another smogged down 70’s car.

    Like 0
    • Motorcityman

      You’re living in the 90s Gas pump late 70s TAs r worth good money now!

      Like 1
    • Dan

      I would! My best friend had a ’74 455SD T/A and his dad had a new ’78 Macho T/A. Both were the coolest cars in town.

      Like 1
  12. 455RAIV

    Hot Rod Magazine tested a 1978 Macho T/A W72 400 4 spd back in the day Exhaust was Hooker Headers into dual catalytic converters and Open shaker hood + Tuning mods only to stock engine – All emissions systems still there – Got a 14.29 @ 96 + mph in the 1/4 mile and you also got a Warranty . NUNZI did test a stock 1978 W72 400 4 spd T/A with open headers only – got a 13.8 in the 1/4 mile – you would have to go back to the 74 SD-455 T/A To get a Quicker car :)

    Like 1
    • joenywf64

      Gotta be makin more than 220 hp stock, even with 8.1 to 1 compression.

      Like 1
      • Motorcityman

        Nope, I’ve owned 2.
        Stock TAs of that era 77-79 made between 185-220hp with the stock Pontiac 400 or the Olds 403.

        Like 0
  13. 455RAIV

    77 -78 W72 400’s were underrated NHRA rates them stock at 285 hp :)

    Like 1
  14. PRA4SNW

    Ended at $8,200 with Reserve Not Met.

    Like 2

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