Tuned Trans Am: 1978 Pontiac Macho T/A

If we haven’t experienced it ourselves, we’ve all probably heard stories about people who decide to buy themselves a new car. They sit in the dealership agonizing over the options list, trying to decide what they really want. It seems that the original owner of this 1978 Pontiac Macho T/A didn’t suffer that fate. He chose to order his new toy with just about every option available. Today it remains largely unchanged and is now looking for a new home. Located in West Hartford, Connecticut, you will find the Pontiac listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has stormed its way to $22,700, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

The word “macho” is defined as meaning masculine in an assertive or an aggressive way. It was also a word that was very much of its time when this Trans Am was built. In fact, this particular Pontiac would have been rolling off the production line at about the same time that the Village People were roaring up the Billboard chart with a hit song entitled “Macho Man.” The Macho T/A resulted from some innovative thinking and marketing, and one look at it would seem to confirm that its appearance fits the stated definition. The vehicles were the brainchild of brothers Dennis and Kyle Mecham. Their family ran a Pontiac dealership in Glendale, Arizona. The brothers had become disenchanted with the ever-decreasing power being offered by the Trans Am at this time, so they decided to take their own course of action. They performed some fundamental changes to a standard car, and these changes unleashed some handy additional power from the standard V8. The problem for them was that these modifications now meant that the vehicles couldn’t be sold as new cars because they no longer complied with emission regulations. The answer to this dilemma was incredibly simple. The Trans Ams were sold to a company called DKM Mecham Performance and Design. This company was owned by the brothers and was a separate entity to the dealership. They then performed the performance upgrades before selling the cars back to the dealership. This meant that the vehicles could then be sold as used cars, which avoided those pesky regulations. The first of these cars rolled out of the showroom in 1977, and they chose to build a mere 26 in that year to gauge reaction. The reaction must have been positive, because, in 1978, production ramped up to 204 cars. As well as the performance upgrades, the vehicle received some cosmetic changes. The company offered a total of 24 different standard combinations of paint or trim. If none of these suited a potential customer, then an additional $150 brought with it an almost endless choice of combinations.

This Macho T/A presents exceptionally well. It did receive a repaint 15-years-ago, but this was completed in its original color combination. The Starlight Black paint shines magnificently, while the red and gold graphics provide a beautiful contrast. The panels are laser straight, and there are no rust issues with this classic. All of the graphics and decals are correct and show no signs of any fading or crazing. The alloy wheels look to be faultless, and the tinted glass is free from flaws. The car has a known ownership history, and it gives every indication of a classic that has been treated with loads of respect.

Emission laws were biting deep into engine performance in the mid-1970s, and no engine was hurting more than the American V8. It was this issue that was the catalyst for the development of the Macho T/A. The Mecham brothers applied some very basic street rodding techniques to their Trans Ams and managed to unleash plenty of extra performance. The Trans Am was ordered with the 400ci V8 under the hood. The original exhaust manifolds made way for a set of off-the-shelf Hooker headers. Gases are then fed through a dual exhaust with a pair of catalytic converters. The largely decorative hood scoop was opened up to allow cold air to be sucked into the engine, while the standard carburetor was re-jetted. A few tweaks of the distributor curve and the car was transformed. No specific figures have ever been quoted for one of these V8s, but a Macho T/A was nearly a full second faster through the ¼ mile than a standard Trans Am. With a view to making the car a total package, the front ride height was dropped by 1½ inches, and Koni adjustable shocks were fitted to all four corners. This car still retains all of those features, and it is a bonus that it comes equipped with a 4-speed manual transmission and a Posi rear end. Power steering and power brakes should combine to make an effortless driving experience. The owner indicates that the T/A has a genuine 34,900 miles on the odometer. The car comes with a substantial collection of documentation, so I suspect that this claim can be verified. Slipping behind the wheel and burying the boot is not something that will disappoint potential buyers. The owner states that it will lay rubber through 2nd gear and that the driving experience is incredible.

If I’m going to be disappointed about anything with this Macho T/A, then it has to be the edge wear on the front seats. This is higher than I was expecting and detracts from what is an otherwise spotless interior. The rest of the trim and plastic is in excellent condition, while I can’t spot any problems with the dash or carpet. There is a CD player fitted in place of the original AM/FM radio and tape player, but that seems to be the only addition. The car comes equipped with air conditioning, power windows, power locks, a power trunk release, a tilt wheel, a rear defogger, and a clock.

The 1978 Macho T/A was a car of its time. Giving a car a name like this today would be completely unthinkable. However, the 1970s were a very different time, and this is a car that resonated with potential buyers. It was by no means a cheap car because the Macho T/A package added a significant $1,995 to the sticker price of a normal Trans Am. Today, a good example will easily fetch $32,000, while a pristine one can push beyond $50,000. You might be able to walk into a GM showroom today and buy a new car that offers equivalent (or better) levels of performance for less money than you would potentially pay for this one. However, you have to question whether it will have the same level of “attitude” that this one has. You also have to wonder whether that new car will have the same sort of impact when it is 42-years-old that this one has right now. I doubt that I’ll be about then to know for sure (although I can always hope), but this car is available here and now. If I had the money, I know which one I would choose. What about you?

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Comments

  1. RoughDiamond RoughDiamond Member

    This is a beautiful Macho T/A and with the performance tweaks sort of reminds me of the early GTOs getting the Royal Bobcat treatment offered by Ace Wilson’s Royal Pontiac dealership in Royal Oak, Michigan.

    Like 18
    • Michael Brown

      I’m Pontiac born in ’58 and raised in Lapeer my brother !

      Like 4
  2. alphasud Member

    My how things have changed since the 70’s. I’m willing to bet the Macho editions would not be a hit in today’s society. Didn’t the Mecham’s also make a Macho version in the Corvette? Good write up and as always I learn something new reading the Barn Finds stories.

    Like 11
    • Barry Johnson

      Yes, they made two macho versions of Vette’s. Only one is known to exist. I believe they made 7 Macho Z28 variations as well.

      Beautiful cars then and now.

    • Skorzeny

      Today’s society is not a hit in today’s society. Maybe we could cram 4 oof in this and go back a couple of decades.

      Like 10
    • Kh4fan

      I believe they called it a “Macho L82” and they also offered a “Macho Z” on a Z28

  3. Jcs

    gysot!

    Like 2
  4. Troy s

    The thing about nostalgia is more than just cars, a lot more really. It’s about an entire lifestyle, or the way it was, I really dont know how to put it. Seems to me that kind of drifts after the late seventies. The eighties, nineties, heck fifteen years ago was 2005….feeling nostalgic yet?
    Neat idea behind the TA here, hard to believe an exhaust system and a few tuning tricks could drop it a full second, but that would’ve been low 15′, I’m guessing here. And I remember the California versions being even more….restrained. I keep thinking that’s an aluminum intake hidden in there.

    Like 1
    • Jef Fowler

      Nostalgia is the period when you thought you were less miserable than you are now.

      Like 6
    • S

      Nostalgia is about more than just cars, but having an older car is a good way to recreate the feeling. It can be done through music, through clothes, through old technology, etc. The thing was that back then, a larger portion of the population was into cars as a hobby. More people were mechanically involved with their cars, too. People knew the different brands and what they represented. People now don’t care. If anything, they are anti-car. They are more pro-environment. So that’s why you have people driving Priuses and they think they’re cool. I wouldn’t be caught dead driving one of those. People are also so technology oriented. Sure, technology offers a lot of convenience – but we were just fine without all of it. Before, most people couldn’t wait to get their driver’s license and experience the freedom having one could offer. Now, younger people don’t even care about getting their driver’s license. The have a smart phone with the uber app on it and they get one of those, and someone comes and gets them and brings them somewhere. No need to pay in cash when it automatically goes onto your credit card. We may like the 70s because we were there and remember how it was. If you’re 20 now and can’t imagine the pre-internet days, do you care? It’s sad if you ask me.

      Like 11
      • Gary Taylor

        You truly wrote pretty much everything I think and feel about contemporary society. It is sad to me as well. What happened to our society? As Frank Zappa once asked: “Whatever happened to all the fun in the world?” How anyone can look at a hideous, gutless, monstrosity like Prius and actually spend thousands to buy one is beyond me when there are cars like Challengers, Mustangs and Camaros out there. As soon as a time machine is created, I am getting in line. God bless you.

  5. Rj

    I’ve never heard of these but as I am already a trans am fan this thing is amazing !!!!

  6. JoeNYWF64

    I’m surprised Mecham didn’t deal with JUST non A/C cars. A/C back then added a lot more weight to the front end than a steel hood did over Mecham’s optionally avail fiberglass one(not on this car tho). Also, i’m surprised the shaker was not replaced with a taller one from a ’73-76 that had a bigger opening & was easier to open up too.
    I wonder if 1 could request the “Macho” letters be left off, but all other decals retained.
    Were the dual cat converters AFTERMARKET & more freeflowing than the stock one? The dual converter no muffler or resonator exhaust on these cars was said to be almost as quiet as the stock exhaust! So i wonder how quiet the stock exhaust & what the performance gain would be with 1 converter & no mufflers or resonators.
    Looks like there was a 50% shortage of chrome pedal dressup back then?

    Like 5
    • brettucks

      Being located in glendale (Phoenix) AZ you kinda need AC.

      Like 6
  7. Adam

    Edge wear on the seats? Heck, I think this happened to this kinda fabric the first time you slid your polyester- clad backside across them. Hobnail cloth really sucked for this malady.

  8. CCFisher

    Today’s equivalent to this car is the Ford Raptor – both purchased by guys who need a vehicle to convince people they’re manly men.

    Like 6
  9. v

    to bad they dont make color swap option black where the red is and red where the black is

  10. Btombraider0791

    I cant speak for the raptor even know its totally bad a** with alot of power for off road on top of speed to go fast. I can say or ask because I dont know if you have ever seen a movie called smokie and the bandit. But besides that this car is beautiful and if your any body that has ever been in one of these cars the fact is you pull up any were and it’s an automatic turning of heads the sounds of muscle as well as getting to thrown back in your seat as a kid as a teenager or an adult or being the driver your self its the feeling behind it its like nothing else. Its not because some one is compensating for some thing. This car deserves to be on a high market for sale it deserves that kind of respect. Now granted not me nor cc fisher can ever afford it lol. And yes you could get a rich man or woman to buy who will either put it in a parking lot some were and never drive it. Or an old man thinking he can get woman who is rich lol who is compensating for something lol. But in general any body who knows these cars or loves them knows they are worth it. Also there not made any more so it sucks that we have only four generations of the car. And they are going to become a rare thing to have.

  11. AZVanMan

    Always admired the Mecham boy’s old man for helping to abolish the 55 MPH speed limit!

    Like 1
  12. Stan Marks

    Bidding is up to $34,200 & climbing.
    Selling price is $38,000.

  13. Rj

    It was over 100° today, it gets to hot out here to be without A/C. Look up how many days in a row Phoenix was over 100, over 105 etc, and you’ll realize removing A/C is not a performance option out here. Over-All I would say it was above average summer but I don’t believe we broke any record highs.

    Like 1
  14. Dave F

    I was in high school back in the late ’70’s, & pretty much everyone I knew thought the name was stupid(most had stronger, non-pc present day repeatable!)as it pandering to disco, but the concept was solid.
    Since performance was pretty much in the toilet for most vehicles then, we were deluged with a whole raft of tape stripe package & pointless “aero” add-on wannabes, but if you looked past the stupid name on this one, it was a solid performer. We just couldn’t afford it then!

    Like 1
  15. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    NOT SOLD for a top bid of $35,600.

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