Flipping the ‘bird(s) – a collection of 1978 Macho Trans Ams heads to auction
Photos courtesy Mecum Auctions.
The late 1970s were hardly a time of optimism for performance fans of the Pontiac Trans Am, but thanks to the efforts of two brothers from Glendale, Arizona, the period from 1977-1980 wasn’t as bleak as it otherwise could have been. Sensing a demand performance beyond what Pontiac offered in showrooms, Dennis and Kyle Mecham founded DKM, Inc. to build hot Trans Ams bearing the ultimate ’70s moniker: Macho T/A. Rare ‘birds today, on Friday, September 8, four of the 204 Macho T/As built in 1978 will cross the block in no-reserve auctions at Mecum’s Dallas sale.
The business began with an experiment. Starting with a new 455-powered 1976 Trans Am, Dennis Mecham and friend Mike Garrett tuned the engine, added headers and aftermarket wheels, then offered the car for sale through Mecham Pontiac, a dealership owned by Dennis’ father, Evan. It sold in three days, so Dennis and brother Kyle quickly formulated a business plan: they’d buy new Trans Ams through the dealership, tune them, then resell the cars as used inventory through the family dealership.
1978 Macho T/A, #11.
A name for the enhanced car was needed, and as Dennis explained to Mike McNessor in an October 2008 Hemmings Muscle Machines story, “At that time, macho was the ‘in’ word in the Southwest. Everything was macho. In desperation, I said, ‘Why not call it Macho T/A?’ It was almost tongue-in-cheek. It may not be the best name, but how can you forget it?”
It stuck and, in 1977, the brother’s DKM, Inc. sold 26 Macho T/As through the family dealership in its first full year of operation. Demand for the cars was greater than supply, so for 1978 the company ramped up production to build 200 Macho T/As (ultimately assembling 204), each with a unique identification number stamped on a custom console tag. Distribution of the Macho T/As expanded beyond Mecham Pontiac as well.
1978 Macho T/A, #104.
Performance-wise, each was built to a defined script. With the 455 disappearing in 1977, DKM focused on Pontiac’s W72 400-cu.in. (6.6-liter) V-8, and began by changing the jets in the stock Quadrajet carburetor to enrichen the mixture, altering the distributor’s curve to hit 36-degrees of advance by 2,500 rpm, opening up the Shaker hood scoop to enhance breathing, and bolting on a set of Hooker Headers and a custom 2-1/2-inch exhaust with a crossover tube and a pair of catalysts, but no mufflers or resonators. Buyers could choose between the stock four-speed manual transmission, a Doug Nash five-speed manual, or a Turbo Hydra-Matic three-speed automatic, tuned for quicker shifts.
Suspension tuning was improved as well, beginning with a 1.5-inch drop in front ride height. Koni shocks were fitted all around, urethane bushings replaced the stock rubber ones, and 60-series tires were mounted to stock wheels before DKM performed a custom alignment.
1978 Macho T/A, #87.
The changes under-hood reportedly added about 50 horsepower to the Macho T/A, and period road tests show the car was capable of running from 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds, on the way to a 14.29-second quarter-mile at 98.79 mph. While that might pale by modern standards, compared to a stock 1978 Trans Am’s quarter-mile time of 15.2 seconds at 96 mph, it was a notable improvement.
Outside, the Macho T/As carried their name and number in fender, door, and trunk graphics, offset by contrasting paint. Roughly 24 color combinations were available from DKM, though, for another $150, customers could special order just about any color combination desired. Most other options were performance-oriented, including a fiberglass hood that saved an estimated 60 pounds, Corvette disc brakes, a turbocharger, and an oil pressurization system that prevented starvation in high-speed corners. With a starting price of $9,610, over $3,700 more than a stock Trans Am’s base price of $5,889, the Macho T/A certainly wasn’t targeted to the budget-minded enthusiast.
1978 Macho T/A, #192.
It isn’t clear how many of the 204 Macho T/As built in 1978 survive today, since most led hard lives and, until recent years, weren’t really perceived as collectible. Finding one for sale can be a challenge, which is what makes a collection of four being sold at the same time particularly noteworthy. The cars being offered include #104, a black with red trim example with a four-speed manual transmission; #87, a white with blue trim example with an automatic transmission; #192, a gold with brown trim example with an automatic transmission; and #11, a white with red trim example with a four-speed manual transmission. Each comes with a Mecham Design letter of authenticity, and each will be crossing the auction stage without a set reserve price.
Mecum’s Dallas sale takes place on September 6-9 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. For additional details, visit Mecum.com.