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Pontiac Trans Am leads '70s resurgence at Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas

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Pontiac Trans Am leads '70s resurgence at Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas

by Autoblog Staff (RSS feed) on Sep 24th 2010 at 5:59PM

This article originally appeared on SPEEDtv.com and is republished with permission. Check your local listings for SPEEDtv's live coverage of Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas, which continues today from 4PM–11PM EST and Saturday from 2PM –9:30PM EST.

Pontiac Trans Am at Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas – Click above for high-res image gallery

One thing you'll find plenty of at the Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas Auction is Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams from the late '70s. The same black-and-gold, "Smoky and the Bandit," screamin' eagle Trans Ams that beguiled so many adolescent gearheads in their day.

These flamboyant muscle cars have enjoyed a resurgence of late, moving away from disco-era kitsch and into the realm of bona fide collector cars. Not too many cars of that stylistic- and performance-challenged time have made the leap.

"The styling has endured for a long, long time," said admitted Pontiac addict Tom Knight of Albuquerque, N.M, as he eyed a 1976 Trans Am 50th Anniversary coupe. "I think there's been a resurrection now that Pontiac's dead."

Four of the classic Trans Ams for sale at Barrett-Jackson's three-day auction at Mandalay Bay were brought by one guy, Rick McLaughlin, who operates his own Pontiac Trans Am museum in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

"I bought my first new car when I was 21 years old, a 1978 gold Trans Am Special Edition," McLaughlin said. "I was hooked. These were the best-performing, best-handling cars of their era. I bought another new one in '79."

Since then, he's spent his life in the pursuit of primo-conditions Trans Ams, and he keeps a stable of at least 20 of them in his museum at all times.

"These are iconic cars, and we all know why," McLaughlin said, referring to the famed Burt Reynolds action movie where a black-and-gold Trans Am played a major role. "Yeah, he did a lot for my business."

All four of his Trans Ams at Barrett-Jackson in Las Vegas – three 1979s and one 1980 – are very-low mileage, one-owner originals with four-speed manual transmissions. He picked them out for the auction, he said, because they were the last of their breed.

"This was the end of the era," he said.

McLaughlin's first car, an all-original 1979 Trans Am with just 8,444 miles, sold yesterday afternoon for $33,000, including auction fees. The '76 50th Anniversary model sold earlier for $18,700, including fees.

McLaughlin has seen the recent surge of interest in Trans Ams, which is one reason why he decided to sell four cars in Las Vegas.

"These are the next up-and-coming cars in the marketplace," he said. "This is what people want to remember their youth."



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