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Spotless Survivor: 1978 Pontiac Macho T/A

Ah, 1978! Space Invaders appeared, the Susan B. Anthony Dollar was minted, a lasagna-loving cat called Garfield first showed his face, and crowds were flocking to the cinemas to see Grease and Saturday Night Fever. It was also an era when American performance cars took an almighty performance hit at the hands of tightening government regulations. Pontiac tried to swim against the tide, but some people believed that their efforts fell short of the mark. It was against this background that two brothers from Arizona took matters into their own hands, and thus, the Macho T/A was born. These classics were built in limited numbers, and while they spent some time in the wilderness during the 1980s and 1990s, they are now considered a desirable classic. This 1978 model is 1-of-204 cars produced during that year, and it is a stunning survivor. The owner has taken the tough decision to part with it, so he has listed it for sale here on Craigslist. It is located in Coto de Caza, California, and the owner has set an asking price of $48,000 for the Pontiac. I have to say a huge thank you to Barn Finder Pat L for referring the Macho to us.

The Macho T/A was the brainchild of two brothers, Dennis and Kyle Mecham. Their family owned a Pontiac dealership in Glendale, Arizona. They knew that while the Trans Am offered better performance figures than its competition, there was more to be found with some simple tuning. They also wanted their offerings to stand out from the crowd, so they treated the cars to their own unique brand of exterior enhancements. The Macho was offered with a total of 24 paint and trim combinations, but if a buyer handed over an additional $150, they could have something more personalized. This Pontiac is finished in Martinique Blue, a shade that only appeared on the Trans Am color palette in 1978. It presents superbly, with no signs of dings, dents, or flaws. The paint shines beautifully, and all of the distinctive stripes and graphics that were an integral part of the Macho package are in superb condition. The beauty on this one isn’t merely skin deep because it has managed to remain rust-free during its entire life. This one also features a T-Top, and its condition appears to be just as impressive as the rest of the exterior. The alloy wheels show no signs of staining or damage, while the glass appears to be flawless.

If you walked into a Pontiac dealership in 1978 and slapped down your cash on a Trans Am, you could choose one that delivered 220hp. This was comparable with Chevrolet’s Corvette, but if you wanted to consider the Trans Am’s natural competitors, you would be looking at the Camaro Z28 or the Mustang Cobra II. From a power perspective, it was no contest. The best that the Z28 offered was 185hp, while the Ford made do with a paltry 139. Pointing the four cars at the ¼ mile yielded ETs of 16-seconds for the Pontiac, 16.1 for the Corvette, 16.8 for the Z28, with the Ford lagging at the back with 17.4 seconds. That made the Trans Am a clear winner in standard form, but the Mecham brothers knew that there was more on offer with some very basic tuning. The problem was that the tuning they had in mind would see the cars fail any new car emissions testing. The answer was elegantly simple. Dennis and Kyle formed a company called DKM Performance and Design. This company would purchase the Trans Ams from the family’s dealership. It would then perform the tuning work and sell the cars back to the dealership. They could then be sold as used cars, which technically, they were. That circumvented those pesky emission laws and allowed the boys to weave their magic on the Pontiacs. These were the days before fuel injection and computer chips, and the reality is that most of the work they performed was simply basic tuning. The original carburetor was re-jetted and blueprinted. The decorative hood scoop was opened so that the engine could inhale copious amounts of clean, cold air. The distributor curve was modified, and the standard exhaust system made way for a set of Hooker headers and a full dual exhaust with a pair of catalytic converters. None of this was rocket science, but it yielded measurable performance gains. Nobody has ever confirmed how many extra ponies were unleashed, but that ¼-mile ET was slashed from 16-seconds to 14.3-seconds. The Macho package added a considerable amount to the price of a Trans Am, but the result was a car that offered considerably better performance. The Mecham’s wanted the car to be a total package, so they dropped the front ride height by 1½ inches, fitted Koni shocks to all four corners, shod the car in 60-series tires, and set the wheel alignment to their own specifications. That endowed the car with handling characteristics to match its straight-line performance. This Macho is a numbers-matching car, and it is in excellent mechanical health. Bolted to the back of the original V8 is an automatic transmission that sends the power to a Posi rear end, while the car also features power steering and power brakes. The engine has recently received a rebuild, and a Ram-Air IV camshaft was installed at that point. That should have unleashed a few more horses, which is never bad in a car that is as under-stressed as the Trans Am. The owner doesn’t provide any specific information on how well the vehicle runs or drives, but it all looks pretty encouraging. It does come with a collection of original paperwork, including the DKM Production Sheet.

The Pontiac’s interior is close to showroom fresh, with no issues or problems to report. The original radio has made way for a CD player, but there have been no other additions made. The console wears the DKM numbered plaque, indicating that this is car #101 of the 1978 build total of 204 vehicles. There is no noticeable wear on the seats and no marks or stains on any of the upholstery. The carpet is spotless, as are the dash, pad, and other plastic trim items. As well as the CD player and T-Top, the buyer will receive air conditioning, power windows, the usual comprehensive set of Trans Am gauges, and a tilt wheel.

I have always believed that Pontiac deserved to survive as a manufacturer. If it was going to close, it should have gone out in a blaze of glory. Here was a manufacturer that was at the cutting edge of the muscle car scene. Even at The Malaise Era’s height, Pontiac pushed the envelope to produce cars with a touch of excitement when vehicles like the Camaro and Corvette had become much softer and slower. That two brothers were willing to risk their own money and reputation to produce the Macho T/A says something about the esteem in which the brand was held. Pontiac is now a distant memory, but the Macho T/A lives on in the form of survivors like this one. Today, a tidy example will command at least $32,000, but a pristine one can sell for over $50,000. This one is close to pristine, and I believe that the asking price fairly reflects this. Buying a 1978 Macho T/A is not a cheap exercise, but doing so provides admission into an exclusive club that would only have had 204 members at its peak. It also allows the buyer to relive a time when disco was king, and before the world had this thing called the internet. If all of that sounds tempting, maybe this is the classic for you.


  1. Jim

    Nothing says ‘Macho’ like a 4000 pound baby blue base model firebird making 200hp. 50K? Yeah, I guess that makes sense here in Clown World.

    I need a new hobby, this one has lost its mind.

    Like 24
    • Marshall King

      These made considerably more than the stock 200 hp. Never saw the hp figures, but just the 1/4 mile time drop from 16 seconds to 14.1 indicates a fairly healthy upgrade, especially considering the time it was built.

      Like 13
    • Superdessucke

      I understand the values of these a lot more than I do the 1993 Mustang Cobra, which completely mystifies me. They were very fast for their time and they’re also very rare, which drives the price.

      Personally, it’s not my cup of tea but when you have low volume like this and the history, prices will be high. Especially now.

      Like 8
  2. Terry

    I never was a fan of the Pontiac “Thunder Chickens”, and 1978? Frankly, based on the movies and music, it sucked.

    Like 7
    • Poppy

      Yes, ’78 had some low spots, but at least CHiPs was still on TV!!
      Great watching old episodes and seeing all the car chases that usually ended in huge pileups and/or explosions.
      Frank Poncherello’s Firebird had both a shaker scoop AND formula scoops.
      How’s that for macho??

      Like 9
      • Tom

        I especially like the scenes where they’re cruising down the highway on their motorcycles and it’s obvious they’ve riding on a trailer…

        Like 2
  3. Ralph

    Didn’t the same car get posted here about a week or so ago?
    Something about this one seems very familiar.

    Like 5
    • Steve R

      That was a 79, with a 4spd.

      Steve R

      Like 6
  4. Allan Styve Member

    You obviously didn’t read the entire article.

    Like 1
  5. Troy s

    Macho at the time, oh no! Remember that Village People song, “macho macho man!”….. put that way out of my mind and just focus on the car. Ram Air IV camshaft in it now will make it idle like a bad boy and run hard for sure, at least it should run strong anyways,
    No smog tests back then but a few years later the biannual inspections started here in Cali, I clearly remember seeing one here in southern Cal many years ago and just kind of laughed at it. Had no idea it was tuned. Not legal here anyways.

    Like 1
  6. old buzzard from the 70s

    Susan B. Anthony dollar debuted in 1979.
    Saturday Night Fever was 1977.

    Like 5
    • Dave

      December 12, 1977, so technically you’re right. The film, and its soundtrack, would dominate pop culture for most of 1978 and 1979.

      Like 3
  7. JCA Member

    Macho by the pics, Beta in the slips

    Like 4
  8. Frank Sumatra

    “The Macho T/A was the brainchild of two brothers, Dennis and Kyle Mecham.”

    I would say the Brothers Grimm from the looks of this nightmare. $4800 is too much.

    Like 3
  9. Michael Freeman Mike Freeman Member

    I think this one, and that dog at the top both had the “better” of the two Pontiac 400’s from back then. The 77 I bought new had the higher horsepower version and if original it came with the T/A 6.6 decal on the shaker and the cheapest set of chrome valve covers anyone ever made. Looked like a cheapo $20 set.
    Both of these have them.

    Like 1
  10. Jack in RI

    So much hate for a car and an era, todays cars and music is sooo much better… $100k Hyundai’s and some satellite music

    Like 7
  11. JoeNYWF64

    I expected to see a DKM horn button medallion.
    & are SILVER bolts under the hood correct to secure the fender/upper nose valence to rad support braces?
    & why is the chrome brake pedal dressup missing? – those are not only indestructible, but also extend the life of the rubber brake pedal pad.

    Like 0
  12. Patrick Faria

    I wonder why this thing wasn’t called “Manly” T/A. Sounds a bit pathetic in english, for something that even women could’ve made it better at their hands? Ah, hand me an standard Firebird with 400 engine and 5-speed box.

    Like 0
  13. Chris

    I think the car is Awesome & the color is even better . I would drive that car to all the cruises. Its perfection reserved for wheels of what the times were. Different strokes for different folks . I would drive that everywhere !!!

    Like 1

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