Ted Goneos is a Porsche guy. He’s owned a number of them over the years, including the 1980 911SC still in his care. However there’s one car in his small, mostly European fleet that is a particularly American icon: his black-and-gold 1978 Pontiac Trans Am. It’s not just any Trans Am, either—this is one of the DKM Macho T/As that were among the few muscle cars to squeak through the Malaise Era with their core performance ethos intact.
“I was looking for a car to do One Lap of America at the time,” Goneos says. “One day, I saw Smokey and the Bandit on TV and I decided to look at Trans Ams to see if I could find one within my budget.”
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DKM had a contract with Pontiac to modify the then completely new '81 Trans Am. They created the MSE (Motor Sport Edition) series that were initially all white with black interiors. They added new springs, Koni shocks, urethane bushings, a custom rear wing, a new steering wheel, and a better wheel / tire combo. The "performance package" was a box in the truck consitsting of go-faster parts that they could not install, as these were all shipped to Pontiac dealers as new cars. Recaro seats and a few other goodies were options. Their racing program did very well, with Elliot Forbs-Robinson driving, they won the SCCA class championship (the street cars wore a wreath decal on the B pillar). The following year, EFR moved up in class and a new driver, Steve Saleen, took over.
I have a '78 T/A 400 4spd. that I love. It's underpowered, handles poorly compared to today's ANYTHING and usually they rattle to beat the band! Mine does not rattle and I don't beat it up like they ALL were... It has swagger for miles and sounds and looks great! I advise against "T-Tops" as they frequently leak, and were not factory installed and cause body twisting action because of the weakened structure.
A bulletproof and reliable car that I lusted after in high school...
The "Macho" series were impressive in their improved swagger and at that period in time, "Macho" did not have the unfortunate connotation (especially in Mexico) that it has now....
All in all, an iconic fun to drive engaging pony car...
WOW! The guy has NEVER done a "burnout" in a big block manual trans T/A!?!?!
That is what these cars were FOR!!! I treat my non-"Macho" T/A with total respect, but OF COURSE I've done a few "burnies" along the way!!
I mean, even the tires are cheap for this size! It's a cheap thrill for all to see to be sure!!!!
They are not that fast, handle only fairly well BUT have the most ICONIC image of the 70's!
God rest Burt Reynolds who glamorized this car to immortality with the swagger that he took with him!
Do a "burnout" proudly Mr. Geneos, it's in the car's DNA!!!!
Car and Driver tested a Macho T/A back in 1979, if I recall correctly, and found it to accelerate no better than a standard 6.6/4-speed; they also found that the lowered suspension really hurt the car's period-outstanding handling. It was basically for looks only, at that point.
As a T/A snob and three time owner, this just hurts to look at. I'm a purist and despise customs. That aside, whoever chose the 'Bird graphics chose the 79-81 screaming chicken and Trans Am wording graphics instead of 77-78. I see 77-78 models for sale on Hemmings with the 79-81 bird emblems and it makes me pull my hair out. If someone is going to create a custom, can said someone at LEAST be period correct on the basics of decals in a mod or restoration? If anyone needs to know what kind of screaming chicken that is needed for details, please just look up old Pontiac brochures online for the year of said Firebird. This used to not be an issue until the past 10 years or so when T/As become hot sellers again and younger generations started restoring them not even born when they were around.