#121 Of 150: Mecham Racing MSE Trans Am Survivor

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I’ll tell you right off the bat; the pictures in this post aren’t great. However, the car is cool and rare enough that I thought you folks might like to see it anyway, as did Barn Finds reader Robert M. who sleuthed this find out and was kind enough to send it in to us. It’s located in Phoenix, Arizona and is up for sale here on craigslist for only $5,000. By the way, it isn’t a pace car, despite the ad’s claim. I’d argue it’s even better!

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I’ll bet you are wondering exactly what a Mecham Racing MSE Trans Am is! That little 121 on the rear spoiler might give you a hint that this car is pretty special. As it turns out, Mecham was a multi-lot Pontiac dealer that sponsored race cars, and wanted to have some of that expertise and publicity rub off on some street cars. I found a lot of different sets of information as to exactly how these 150 (in 1982) cars differ from stock Trans Ams, but it looks like it was mainly suspension and cosmetic modifications, although some cars apparently received a “go kit” as well. Regardless, in “mint” condition (more about that later) and having only 19,000 miles, this is pretty special.

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The graphics aren’t for the meek, are they? Although in this white with black, it’s pretty classy. If you want to learn more about these cars, there are articles in the August 1985 Car Craft and April 1997 High Performance Pontiac, although I couldn’t find either in print online. There is a registry of sorts at this page for 1982 versions and here for 1983 ones. Mecham Performance is also still in existence, and still sells some of the fiberglass modified pieces that were from the racing cars.

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You’ll notice that the decals on this car are in stellar condition compared to many of the ones in the registry. It must have been kept indoors, especially if it’s been in Arizona. By the way, that 1982 SCCA Trans Am championship is the only time the Pontiac Trans Am ever won the series it was named after!

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It’s apparent the interior hasn’t received the same care, as the radio and steering wheel center are AWOL. I’m also concerned that the carpet dash top is hiding something. However, it doesn’t look too bad as long as you don’t mind an automatic. Yes, an automatic in a race-evocative car. I can’t say I’m a fan of that, but perhaps you are?

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Do you want your very own limited Motorsports Edition? Here’s your chance; remember, at one point in time Shelby GT350’s sat unwanted on car lots. Perhaps this is the next car to shoot up in value? $5,000 doesn’t seem that much to me. What do you think?

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Comments

  1. Tom Member

    My response to you “next to shoot up in value” comment is, I don’t think so. Mentioning Shelby in line with this car is a “bad tie and sport coat used car salesman” line. I read it and immediately pictures Kurt Russel in the movie USED CARS. Car is mildly interesting but that is about it and I am a huge Pontiac fan. if it sells cheap it is probably ok to buy. there were VERY FEW domestic cars in this era that will ever be collectible. Stickers never made any I car I saw go faster.

    Like 1
  2. gtojeff

    I have to agree with Tom. Your reference didn’t help it much. The only ones I see collectible are the 89 Turbo Pace Cars with the Pontiac reworked Grand National engine.

  3. grant

    Gotta disagree there. $5000 is about all the money, for an ’82 Firebird. Any 82 Firebird. Do have to wonder how the decals stayed so nice with the obvious sun damage to the upholstery.

    • Gnrdude

      That’s because those SEATS Are out of another CAR. Most likely 1991-1992 Trans-am.

  4. Bobsmyuncle

    Mainly suspension and cosmetic modifications.

    Ok so we know they weren’t re-engineering the suspension, machining new control arms or (add component here).

    I’m no expert but the body appears unaltered no use of the fiberglass that was used on the racecars.

    So am I correct that essentially they replaced the dampners, maybe coils (not likely) and added stickers?

  5. Mike

    Don’t these have some connection with Steve Saleen? That wing and numbering is exactly the same as the 84-86 Saleen Mustangs. The first few cars (Saleen Mustangs) actually received numbering on the wing, just like this one…but Saleen decided to drop it.

    I believe Steve Raced for this Pontiac dealer before he started his relationship with Ford. I know he raced for an Arizona based team for one year before he moved back to California and began work on his Mustangs.

  6. AMCFAN

    A little more then meets the eye here. GM made the car. Dennis Mecham of Macho Trans AM fame (also a renowned race car driver in his own right) tweaked and marketed this car. His father was a Pontiac dealer and he used his connections at GM to make this project viable.

    Several problems with it. Dennis Mecham doesn’t have the name recognition of Steve Saleen although both were doing basically the same thing. When Dennis quit Steve kept going. So to almost everyone today his association with this car means nothing.

    Next GM was selling these cars faster then they could build them. These were very popular when they came out. Most enthusiasts were in a stupor because the car this body replaced was in production for a solid 11 years and everyone had to have one. So popular in fact TV producers chose it to play the Night Rider. So with that thought who would pay a premium for a unique barely advertised MSE over a stock T/A? Your answer as to why there were only 150. Dennis is still around and has a website. He is very approachable. You could call him and ask questions I bet and may still have original docs for the car.

    The steering wheel is correct and is specific to the MSE package. It will have custom gauges not found on regular production cars. The rear wing is like the ones used in Trans Am racing it too is specific. (It is now being reproduced and this style looks better in person. Not reserved like the oem.) It should have a number plate on the console . If anyone knows what they are looking at the huge sway bars and bushings are a major upgrade. The wheels are from a newer GTA and still a nice touch.

    I think for a cheap unique under the radar performance car (at the time it was made lets not forget) not sure how you could go wrong. If parked next to a regular production Firebird look at the instant bragging rights. As far as price not sure how firm the seller is but at asking, stock Gen III’s values are not too far off. Good find.

    Like 2
    • Joe Conger

      I owned #120 from 1988 to 1997. T Top Black and gold. It did have the “Go Pack” and 5 speed. It had the “Talon” suspension and can say from experience the car handled amazing. I had it topped out at 147 mph (confirmed by CHP radar, OUCH) No they aren’t like the new cars GM is offering but for the day they cost more than a corvette but looked better (my opinion) and performed better.

      Like 1
  7. Todd Zuercher

    Dennis is the son of Evan Mecham, our infamous ex-governor here in AZ (we actually have several of those). His dealership is long gone but was a big player in the auto market back in the day. AMCFAN’s synopsis is very good – I think this is a good buy too even though it may never approach the notoriety of a Saleen.

  8. Prowler

    Right from the movie…used cars…mrs.Garcia…this car is perfect for you..the color of the tires matches you’re hair
    Pretty shady

  9. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    “Mrs. Garcia, the color of this car matches your hair now, 30 years later. White!”

  10. Lee

    A smart buy especially as it is mostly complete. The correct wheels and seats will be a bit of work to locate (those are mid-’86 thru ’92 16″ GTA/TA wheels). The early 3rd Gen F-Bodys are actually harder to restore due to some one-year only options and parts for both ’82 and ’83. ’84 has its quirks but things get much easier for ’85-’92 models. It is a relevant piece of Pontiac and F-body history and will fetch a respectable price when restored back to 100% original condition. I’d garner $10-12K with $15K being a very high-water mark. But give it 10 years and it may go up a bit. A nice find and I hope it finds a good home.

    Like 1
  11. Andrew

    Wow. never heard of one of these. Now another one has popped up on “another” website

  12. Todd Zuercher

    Yeah I’ll be curious to see how much that one goes for at auction. Looks to be much nicer than this one and a 4 spd to boot.

  13. OhU8one2

    While I can and do agree,these special Trans Ams have nothing near the original Macho T/A’s. Those are the top of the heap. In reference to Mr. Saleen,he did in fact tell me personally,that his start in racing was with Mecham Pontiac. And that is where he got some of his ideas for his Mustang’s. One added footnote, Saleen is building 7 Limited Edition S7’s,with a MSRP close to 1 million U.S. Dollars. Want to see Mr. Saleen in a dazed puzzle solving thought? Tell him that RACECAR spelled backward is still RACECAR. Like giving Pop-Rocks to penguins. Hilarious

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