A Classic Pontiac Trans Am Worth Six Figures? Classic Car Values Skyrocket.

Attending the LeithCars.com Cars and Coffee Car Show at the Leith Auto Park in Cary, North Carolina, mid-December was a treat for the eyes and ears of any car nut. The number and variety of cars were stunning. The sound of various types of internal combustion engines revving was a thrill. But to learn the value in today’s market of some of the classics on display, especially that of a 1970s Pontiac Trans Am, was simply mind-blowing.

How about a classic Pontiac Trans Am Bandit Edition, for instance, worth six figures?! An astounding figure like that leaves you a bit weak in the knees if you once owned an old General Motors F-body classic (like myself), but have long since parted ways with it. There’s more to the story, of course, than what a rabid collector or shrewd investor is willing to pay for a car that listed for around $8,500 at the end of the decade of malaise, the 1970s.

While cars from the ’70s, like the ’79 Special Edition Bandit in our story, eventually entered the used-car market during the mid-1980s and were overshadowed at that time by similar muscle cars from the ’60s, by the early 2000s these ’70s cars began to rise again in popularity. The kids who lusted after the “Bandit Trans Am” when it was new were just entering their prime earning years some 25 years later. That’s when adult Gen X’ers, like myself, began searching for the cars of our youth.

So while an average 1970s Pontiac Trans Am with typical mileage for its age may go for around $8,000 to $10,000 now, a nice, clean, low-mileage SE Bandit Trans Am from the same period can run anywhere from $15,000 to $35,000. Throw in some super rare option combinations like cloth seats instead of vinyl, plus power windows, power door locks, a power trunk release and the WS6 suspension package, and the value starts getting even steeper.

Add to that, a one-owner, ultra-low mileage Bandit in concourse condition, maybe even signed by “The Bandit” himself, and you’re now talking in the $50,000 to $100,000 range. Now that’s a great investment.

But don’t just take it from me, watch our video edition of the Zero to Sixty Podcast where we interviewed Brian Manning, who’s not only the owner of a sweet, black, and gold Bandit T/A built in 1979, Brian also owns N.C. Auto Appraisal. He inspects and appraises classic cars every day, so he has to stay on top of the latest trends in the classic car market. In other words, when a rare Special Edition Trans Am catches his attention, he knows exactly what to look for.

Cars in the ’70s, like Brian’s SE Firebird Trans Am, came with what was called a “cowl plate” or build plate screwed to the top of the engine cowl at the base of the windshield. This plate, not to be confused with the VIN or Vehicle Identification Number, is where the manufacturer used to stamp a series of letters and numbers to denote special options, colors or features the car was equipped with.

Unfortunately, decades later, in a world where “cloning” a car (the process of creating a fake to resemble a special low-production or original) like Brian’s 1979 Bandit is an all too common occurrence, you have to know what to look for. Add to that, the ability to unscrew the original build plate on these older cars, give it a shiny re-paint, an interior re-do or engine swap, etc., and you can see why a verified original Bandit T/A has increased in value.

Another factor in the rising value of these types of cars is that they had a limited production run in the first place. For instance, only 1,107 Y84 Special Edition “Bandit” Trans Ams were produced in 1979, some two years after the car was made famous in the movie “Smokey and the Bandit.”

Want more proof? Brian contacted Pontiac Historical Services and requested (for a small fee) his car’s original build sheet and other documentation proving that it is 100% original. A resource like that, if you are seriously into the classic car or, in this case, the classic Pontiac Trans Am market, is invaluable.

In the case of the 1979 Bandit Trans Am Brian brought to the show, the PHS papers show that his car is a “Y84” which is not to be confused with a Y82 code. The “Y82” designation applies to a Trans Am manufactured after mid-1978 calendar year production. If the car, like Brian’s, has the Y84 code, that means that the t-tops (dual removable roof panels) were manufactured by Fisher Body.

Another rare and important option code is WS6 (special suspension package). The WS6 package was a performance upgrade for handling that includes slightly wider 15-inch by 8-inch factory snowflake rims, a thicker sway bar and a shorter steering box ratio. Brian’s Bandit T/A has all those goodies.

LeithCars.com is having another Cars and Coffee Car Show in the Leith Cary Auto Park in April 2022, so you just might see Brian’s Bandit Trans Am there too. If you do, tell him you heard about his car on the Zero to Sixty Podcast.

Written by Mark Arsen for LeithCars.com.



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