1-of-8: 1978 Pontiac Macho T/A Turbo

One of the most surprising aspects of the Macho T/A story is not really the low build numbers, but how many of these have survived the years since. Of the 204 cars that were built in 1978, it is believed that as many as 180 of them could still exist, although I hasten to point out that some of these cars are in significantly better condition than others. For the 1978 model year, the Holy Grail was the Macho T/A Turbo, of which only eight examples were built. This particular car is one of those eight, and to add that further piece of exclusivity, it is the only example that was built equipped with an automatic transmission. The Macho T/A is located in Kaysville, Utah, and is listed for sale here on eBay. The BIN price for this rare classic has been set at $28,995.

The story of the Macho T/A is so interesting that it would nearly be possible to write an entire book about it. Essentially it boiled down to the ingenuity of two brothers,  Dennis and Kyle Mecham, who were selling new Trans Ams out of their father’s Pontiac dealership in Glendale, Arizona. Even though the Trans Am was still a respectable performer, they knew that there was untapped performance to be had, so in 1976, they set to work to release it by undertaking some very basic modifications to a standard T/A to help the engine breathe better. They succeeded in their endeavors, and without modifying the engine itself in any way, their efforts released an additional 50hp from the standard 400ci V8. The normally aspirated T/A was now certainly Macho, with around 270hp being churned out. The brothers circumvented emissions laws by selling the cars through the dealership as used vehicles and had formed their own company off-site, to perform the upgrades. In 1977 they produced 26 cars, and they sold almost as fast as they could hit the showroom. The brothers intended to continue producing the Macho T/A in larger volumes in 1978, but they also wanted to add some spice to the mix. To that end, they eventually built 204 cars but added a Turbo option into the mix. This was not a cheap option, and essentially doubled the price of a new Trans Am. However, there were eight people who were willing to lay their money on the line, because the Macho T/A Turbo revived muscle car memories, with a healthy 325hp now available to the new owner. The preference was for these cars to be fitted with the 4-speed Super T10 manual transmission, but there was one owner who decided that an auto was the way to go and that auto is this car.

Unlike the majority of special edition cars, the Macho T/A was available in a multitude of color combinations, so you rely on spotting the not so subtle graphics to identify a genuine car from the outside. These include the Macho T/A signs, and the decals on the fenders and rear spoiler which signify the build number of the car. In this case, this is car number 199. While this car looks extremely nice and clean, it did undergo a repaint in 2005. This is the first area where the car deviates from the original. This particular car rolled out of the Mecham dealership finished in red with black graphic, but the decision was made to change this. It is a change that I don’t personally agree with, for while this is undoubtedly a potentially nicer combination, it does destroy the car’s originality. Sure, it could be returned to original, but that’s a potentially expensive and time-consuming exercise. Having said that, in isolation, the T/A appears to be very straight, with no really obvious major faults to report.

Opening the doors of the T/A reveals a world of disappointment from my perspective. The original owner not only chose to follow the expensive turbo route, but they also chose the expensive Recaro seat option. If you’ve never sat in a Recaro, they really are amazing. Time has not been kind to those seats, and they seriously need new covers. Trust me, recovering a genuine Recaro is not the cheapest exercise in the world. The rest of the interior is generally in reasonable condition, and demonstrates some of the wear and tear that you might expect from a car of this age. The headliner is now sagging, which will need addressing, and the original Fosgate stereo is missing from the dash. In its place is a hole, so it would be a bit of a challenge to locate a correct replacement today.

The Turbo version of the Macho T/A really was something, but they could be a fussy engine when new. Today’s tuning techniques and specialist tuning equipment would no doubt improve this, but these early turbo installations that pre-dated electronic fuel injection were always a compromise. It’s when we open the hood that the next disappointment occurs. The original engine is no more, but it has at least been replaced by another 400ci V8. However, what resides here is very obviously not a Turbo T/A engine in any way. The owner does apparently have a lot of the original Turbo setup and spares, but looking under the hood of this car is a major disappointment.

In 1978, a standard Trans Am could be yours for around $7,500, but the Macho T/A Turbo would set you back around $13,000. It was a lot of money, but then, there wasn’t much rolling out of American showrooms at the time that could live with its performance. I have never hidden my love for the Trans Am, and as a car in isolation, this one is a reasonable car in need of some TLC. However, this is supposed to be a unique and very special car, and the major deviations from its original specifications will have a significant impact on its value. Due to the low build numbers of the Macho T/A Turbo, they rarely come onto the market, and the most recent one that I could find was an unrestored example which sold last year for just over $40,000. This one fits loosely within that category. However, my own personal feeling is that this T/A is going to require a fair amount of work to return the car to completely original condition. The fact that it is no longer a numbers-matching car does make the asking price a bit unrealistic in my book. What do you think?

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Comments

  1. King Al

    Too many changes and disappointments. $5K with parts included.

    Like 15
    • LARRY

      As it sits…its a regular 400 ci trans am automatic with some stickers on it..way too much $$ asking for this.

      Like 8
  2. gyates

    Why would anyone take a super rare car and change the color combo? Makes no sense..

    Like 13
  3. Dave

    Almost impossible to restore it to original, so replace the 400 with a built 455 and go have some fun.

    Like 6
    • OhU8one2

      The turbo unit was from HO Racing from Hawthorne,Ca. Not sure if the company is still in operation though. I know this only because when I was 15 years old, my Dad’s friend Scott had a 76 Firebird Formula 400 4pd that he had DKM install the same turbo kit ran on the Macho T/A’s. One day Scott took my Dad and myself with my brother on a quick drive. Been a huge fan of Pontiac’s ever since. That very day I was bitten by the car bug, and I’m still working in the automotive world to this day.

      Like 10
  4. TimM

    $29k for a non turbocharged car that’s supposed to be 1 of 8 turbo cars built in 78!!
    No thanks!!

    Like 16
  5. Matt steele

    Color scheme a little busy with all the gold..black and gold looks good but this is over done & it seems tacky

    Like 6
    • Jeremy

      I agree. It’s actually part of the Macho package and I’ve always thought it was a little over the top, even by “disco era “standards 😀

      Like 2
  6. Jeremy

    Between the non-original paint scheme, non-original engine and no turbo plumbed up, it just takes away from what the Macho option was. May as well be a “clone”.Also, I’m more of a manual transmission kinda guy so the automatic transmission kills it for me

    Like 7
  7. Rosco

    Body and paint look great, and while it is “busy” and “over the top”, that’s exactly what the Macho was intended to be. Have to agree that the color change was a bad idea, and non-turbo a major factor that will make it a tough sell.

    Like 3
  8. DENNIS MESTON

    This car has lost all it’s collectible status by the modification that have taken place. Paint looks good, but not the original paint scheme and the replacement 400 non-turbo would dramatically reduce the value and there-fore the asking price should be also reduced. Big mistakes in my opinion.

    Like 3
  9. Bob McK Member

    I hope the new owner has lots of gold chains to go with this paint job. Man, that is ugly! To me anyway.

    Like 4
  10. Tom Bell

    Great well-detailed write-up. Thanks.

    Like 2
  11. v

    the TA is still 199 of 208. its still an automatic . its still the only turbocharged automatic. in fact its like the lost son who has been gone for ages and is back from the dead. we should all be rejoicing that the things this vehicle has gone through equivalent to maybe no legs or no arms or lost sight has made it through the gates of hell. should we slam the door and say not mine or rejoice the car is not dead and has returned to us. society has the mentality of throwing the baby out with the dish water. what car among us has not changed at all. dwell on this for awhile. it has survived and now has a worthy survival story to tell. who would walk away from this cars story, personally i want to hear more about this car…and the choices the owner or owners had to make. things are not all rosy in the world.

    Like 1
    • Rosco

      Sorry, but I have to disagree with pretty much everything you stated, other than it being #190 of 208 and a turbo automatic.. I don’t think the car or owner’s story is really the issue. The BIN price of $28,995 for a vehicle with so much non-original is where in my opinion it’s over priced.

      Like 6
      • v

        i understand what your talking about. but if the car was pieced out in indivdual parts it would easily surpass the asking price for this vehicle. the only problem with piecing the car out is the trickling of cash you would have to wait for. but as usual the buying public is the price that will be accepted or declined. im sure if there were more macho original parts that came with the car i think the value would increase. restomod forever???

  12. Larry

    Hey Adam … just curious, and tell me if I am wrong, but WHERE is the Turbo on this car? Looks like a normal engine in the photo. IS this a REAL Macho Turbo T/A? If so, the seller needs to get the hardware and hook it up! Is the Turbo even ON the car, or just stickers? Need more info on this before a person buys it without being sure!

  13. Jeff

    Has anyone heard of a 1979 Califorinia Outlaw TA…Very simular build.

  14. Skippy

    Meh…..

  15. Del

    I agree with first comment.

    5000 with all parts included.

    Colour combo sucks.

    Is it a bowl of Gelato ???

    • Rosco

      Anyone familiar with 2nd gen Trans Ams know you can’t buy a ’78 in this condition even with the non-original parts for anywhere near $5000!

      Like 1
  16. Mike Nadherny

    Agreed.

    Unfortunately time has victimized this 1 of 8…maybe not really worth even 10k sadly

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