Courtesy of Mecum Auctions

• Real Y84 Special Edition

• Original build sheet

• One of 1,107 built

• 4-speed transmission

• Numbers-matching 400/220 horsepower engine

• WS6 performance suspension

• Four-wheel disc brakes

• T-tops with original storage bags

• Original sheet metal with one quality repaint

• Authentic Bandit Trans Am

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1979 Pontiac Trans Am Special Edition
Years Produced:1976–79
Number Produced:11,554 (1,107 W72 cars) in 1979
Original List Price:$8,028
SCM Valuation:Base Trans Am, $10,500–$15,000; these options, $30,000–$50,000
Tune Up Cost:$200
Distributor Caps:$20
Chassis Number Location:Plate driver’s side dashpad, VIN label on driver’s side door, partial VIN on engine block and transmission
Engine Number Location:Suffix code and partial VIN on front engine block below left cylinder head
Club, Pontiac-Oakland Club International,
Alternatives:1979 Chevrolet Corvette L82, 1979 Dodge Li’l Red Express truck, 1979 Pontiac Trans Am 10th Anniversary
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot F179, sold for $54,000, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s Indy 2014 Spring Classic on May 16, 2014, in Indianapolis, IN.

When Bo Darville pulled over to sweep up Frog and rescue her from the clutches of Buford T. Justice and his son, Frog’s inept groom-to-be, history was made. “Smokey and the Bandit” became a hit movie and catapulted sales of Pontiac’s Special Edition (SE) Trans Am through the roof.

People called them Blackbirds, Georgia State Specials and Bandits. Now they’re calling them moneymakers, once again underlined by this car’s $54k sale price at Mecum.

Black and gold

Originally released in 1976 as part of Pontiac’s 50th Anniversary celebration, the Special Edition featured a couple of firsts for Trans Am: Starlight Black paint and Hurst Hatches, which were early T-tops added post-assembly at Hurst-Campbell Industries.

The Special Edition also featured a unique gold and black hood bird, German Gothic lettering on the spoiler and fender call-outs, gold engine-turned dashboard, gold bird bezels for the power-window crank escutcheons, a shifter emblem, and a special gold-anodized spoke Formula steering wheel. It was a stunning package, and when the same car appeared in “Smokey and the Bandit” with Burt Reynolds, sales went wild.

Pontiac kept the SE model in production right up to 1981, adding a Solar Gold variant for six months only in 1978. Although that car also broke new ground for Firebird with its color-coordinated interior, Fisher T-tops and WS6 wheels, a lack of movie exposure limited its appeal. There’s only one Bandit, and it’s black. The halo of Reynolds, Reed and Gleason is so strong that all Trans Ams are referred to as Bandits now, and many have been turned into Bandit clones.

Best of the bunch

1979 was a watershed year for SEs. It was the end of the run for the 400 Pontiac engine, and the division used up the last of their cache of 4-speed W72 high-performance mills. Naturally, a few Special Editions, such as our subject car, received the 400/4-speed combo, making them the top dogs among ’79 T/As.

The W72 performance engine started with a specially assembled block. They were batch-built with a couple of casting numbers that changed each year, as did the engine suffixes and VIN numbers. W72s used special parts such as 6×4 cylinder heads, chrome moly compression rings, satin chrome-plated valve covers, a baffled oil pan, slotted dowel pins in the main bearing saddles, and a unique distributor with the best vacuum advance curve available from Pontiac.

In 1978, a new camshaft profile was added. That helped it develop 220 horsepower compared with 185 in the standard 400. Not bad for the performance-starved landscape of the late 1970s.

The automatic version of the W72 engine was dropped by March 1978. For 1979, only 4-speed W72s were available, and in very limited quantities at that. Pontiac only made 1,107 Special Edition Trans Ams with the combo. The rest went into 10th Anniversary Trans Ams — a new package for 1979. The remainder W72s went into Formulas and regular Trans Ams.

This car

This example is a highly optioned car with a lot of things going for it. It has the build sheet authenticating factory Y84 SE status and options. It has the WS6 handling package with 4-wheel disc brakes, eight-inch wide snowflake wheels, super-thick sway bars, polyurethane rubber in selected suspension pieces, and a fast-ratio steering box. Notably absent are power accessories. Dealers usually packed the order forms on SE cars for profit, but this one has no air conditioning, power windows or door locks. It’s built to go.

Special Edition Trans Ams went off the radar during the mid- to late-1980s, as 1960s muscle cars enjoyed a revival among Baby Boomers. At that point, the SE was just a used car. Its boom started around the year 2000 and accelerated in popularity through 2007, which fit nicely with the peak earning power of high-school grads from 1979 to ’81. And that’s the real story here — a legion of original “Smokey and the Bandit” fans are paying good money to buy their dream cars, and younger enthusiasts are jumping on board as well.

You can find decent driver-quality SEs at $15,000 or less if you look hard enough, but a nice numbers-matching SE is often a mid- to high-$20k car depending on condition and options. It takes some special options or fantastic condition to bump an SE into 10th Anniversary Trans Am territory, which can sell in the low-$30k to mid-$40k range. This car is documented with the build sheet, but anyone buying an SE should ask for a Pontiac Historic Services package by sending in the VIN number to verify it is a genuine SE car. Cowl tags are screwed on and don’t have VIN numbers, making it an easy car to clone

While $54,000 is a lot of money for an SE Trans Am, it’s not a record. That honor goes to a 1980 Turbo SE (Lot 1235.1) that made $79,200 in 2009 at Barrett- Jackson’s Scottsdale sale. But this Mecum sale, and others, confirm a rising demand for 1970s Trans Ams, and SEs in particular.

This buyer got himself the Trans Am Trifecta: options Y84, W72 and WS6. With all that, he’ll never have a shortage of buyers looking to own their very own Bandit car. Given the bubbling 1970s Trans Am market, I’d call this a good deal for both parties.

(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.

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