I came across something on YouTube that brought back memories of a car I once owned – and which someone else just found.
Well, he found one just like it.
In a Texas field, left to rot – a 1976 Trans-Am. Similar to my current Trans-Am but identical to the one I used to own, a long time ago.
The prototype for what became the most famous – and very common – Trans-Am of all.
A 1976 Limited Edition 50th Anniversary Trans-Am.
These were the cars that served as the thematic basis for the Smokey & The Bandit movie cars, which generated Trans-Am fever across the country back in 1977.
Mark that – 1977.
That was the year the movie came out – and it featured a back and gold ’77 Trans-Am (several actually, as the filming of the stunts in the movie cost at least five Trans-Ams their lives, according to reports).
But it was the ’76 LE 50th Anniversary car which inspired the movie cars.
It featured a paint scheme that first appeared two years earlier, at the Chicago Auto Show. On display at the Pontiac stand was a 1974 Trans-Am decked out in black metalflake paint, with gold stripes and gold “Trans Am” lettering in gothic German fonts. This car also had an SD-455 V8 under its hood.
The SD was the very last true high-performance V8 of the muscle car era, which pretty much ended the following year (1975) when catalytic converters ended the party for good. No more choppy cams, big valve heads and headers.
But paint palettes hadn’t yet been outlawed by Uncle and Pontiac knew they had a good looker on their hands. 1976 was also Pontiac’s Jubilee Year – its 50th anniversary – and cause for a new party.
So the black and gold colors were draped over a 1976 Trans-Am. And while Pontiac couldn’t slip an SD-455 under the hood, it was still possible to get a 455 in there. Just a few of the very last of them.
There weren’t many – all were left over from 1975 and Pontiac wasn’t making any more new ones. They weren’t high-performance, either; just 200 horsepower out of 7.5 liters and the big V8 was basically the same V8 used in appliances such as the Bonneville and Safari wagon.
But it was still a 455 – which was 150-plus cubic inches bigger than any V8 you could get in a Chevy – which had foolishly cancelled the Z28 Camaro after 1974 – and offered nothing larger in even the Corvette.
It was sold only with the 4-speed manual transmission, too – as part of a performance package that also got you 3.23 gears in the rear axle.
You could also get that drivetrain in a regular ’76 TA, too – like my current ’76 (which is Carousel Red, a wonderfully lurid orange-pumpkin redddish color).
But the LE 50th Anniversary cars – especially the ones with the 455/4-speed – were doubly rare. Of the 2,590 total 50th Anniversary cars made, only 110 cars had the big V8 (a 400 V8 was standard) and the Hurst T-tops, which were a short-lived option due to dealing/leaking problems but were nonetheless the first Trans-Ams to come with T-tops as a factory option.
The ’76s were also the last TAs to come with single round headlights – the ’77s got the four square ones – and the polycast Honeycomb wheels, which were gold-painted exclusively with the 50th Anniversary cars, as were the headlight bezels and grilles and the famous engine-turned prismatic dashboard inside the car.
I had one one of these – until its life was ended by a guy in an old van who ran a light and T-boned it to vehicular Valhalla. I still have the shaker, which hangs in my garage – looking down on my current TA, the ’76 Carousel Orange – aka The Great Pumpkin.
My ’76 LE was a beater compared with my current ’76 but it was special and I had some good times in that car.
Today, it would be a very valuable car – as he guy who found the car in the Texas field pointed out. Restored, a ’76 LE 50th Anniversary car with the 455 and T-tops might go for six figures – right there with an SD-455 car from the earlier years.
Rarity, as always,makes it so. And, historicity.
They will never make cars like that again – not until after the Great Re-Set, at any rate. Which probably none f us now living will be alive to see.
But it was nice to see someone find – and rescue – another ’76 LE 50th, of which there probably aren’t more than 50 or so left and maybe less.
It will be as heartwarming to see this one brought back to its full glory as it was heartbreaking to leave the remains of my T-boned ’76 at the salvage yard all those years ago.
. . .
Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!
If you like what you’ve found here please consider supporting EPautos.
PS: Get an EPautos magnet (pictured below) in return for a $20 or more one-time donation or a $5 or more monthly recurring donation. (Please be sure to tell us you want a sticker – and also, provide an address, so we know where to mail the thing!)
My latest eBook is also available for your favorite price – free! Click here.