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Hoghead's Bandit Trans Am Page

If you have looked at the Hoghead Garage, you probably know that we are very devoted to Special Edition Trans Ams and other Trans Ams with rare appearance packages and options. We are going to devote this page to sharing some of our knowledge on these cars.

Potential collectors face confusion about what Special Editions are and whether one's particular car was originally a "Bandit Edition". We have 3 pages we want to you see:
Bandit Trans Am History - Read Pat Smith's excellent articles. Part II added!!
Bandit Trans Am Myths - We're bustin'em
Bandit Trans Am Hard Questions - These are the not-exactly-myths

What are they?

The 1976 (50th Anniversary Pontiac) Limited Edition and 1977-81 Special Edition were appearance packages that Pontiac used on the Trans Am. Specifically, these had options Y81, Y82, Y84, or Y88. Most people call these cars Bandits, while others call them Blackbirds. Pontiac didn't use either term, so I'm going to use the term Special Edition on this page. They were black with gold pinstripes, which was one of GM design chief Bill Mitchell's favorite looks. For part of 1978, the color scheme was reversed to a gold Trans Am with dark pinstripes (Gold Special Edition or Gold Edition for short). Pat Smith has written a fine article about the early history and development of the Special Edition and you can read Pat Smith's Article on the history page.

Ever since 1977, when Smokey and the Bandit became a surprise box office smash, there has been a lot of attention focused on Special Edition Trans Ams. They were the ultimate alpha-male car back then, and they're highly collectible now. Because of the movie, many thousands of Trans Ams have been painted black and pinstriped in the last 25 years. On the other hand, lots of real Special Editions are owned by people who didn't know the difference. So the picture has been very confused, about both the definition and the features of a Bandit Trans Am.

How can I spot one?

About 15 years ago, Crawford Smith founded the Bandit Trans Am Club to collect a registry of the cars, create a network of owners, and share information. For many years, the club had an excellent web page on "spotting that Special Edition Trans Am". My purpose is not to duplicate that here. Our club website is currently at www.bandittransamclub.com. Fred Schramm's Pontiacpower.net has a correct page on this, but it's not finished past 1978. There are other pages on this that I would link to if they were correct. Here's a 1977 window sticker that gives, in the shortest way possible, an explanation of what you got for that $1174.

There's an outright lie on this window sticker, if you assume "special" means "unique to this package". Can you spot it? It's just a Madison Avenue lie. It's the "Special" wheels. It should say, "Gold Cast Aluminum Wheels that are also available on any Firebird or even a Grand Prix." Everything else on this list marked "Special" was, in fact, unique to the Special Edition.

If you want to buy a Special Edition

Sad to say, most web pages about this have some errors, but they're not half as bad as what people will tell you at a car show. Check out all the "Bandit Trans Ams" for sale on ebay- assume they're all fake except for the ones with displayed documentation that you can read. The cars are in demand by collectors, so making fake ones is once again a going industry. Especially in Pheonix, so it seems. It's perfectly okay to have a fake one, and they're just as much fun. So if you're buying, just make sure you don't get fooled and don't overpay.

More than once, we've seen ebay auctions with build sheet or PHS invoice that clearly show the car is not a Special Edition, along with the statement "see here my documents proving my car is a Special Edition". Run away!

As if that wasn't bad enough, tens of thousands of people are "living the dream" bragging that they have a rare car or some rare option when they really don't. This is not something that afflicts just Pontiac owners. These people don't want to wake up. They want the beautiful dream to go on forever. If you are trying to buy a Special or Limited Edition, there are two imporant things to decide about this:

  1. We're not buying a Shelby here and we do not have to listen to any stupid story. Documentation from Pontiac Historical Services or Pontiac of Canada will show what the car had when it left the factory. Period. We don't care what granddad told you about his pink Trans Am with purple stripes.
  2. If you insist you have a Bandit and refuse to document it, you already suspect it's not. You can't stand for the dream to end, and another motivation would be taking my money. You can fool yourself, but not us.
In the decade or so we've been banditclub members, there have been dozens of people who claimed they had extremely unusual cars that would have been really cool. For example, Gold Editions with no t-tops or mirrored Hurst tops, orange, red, or blue Special Editions, and cars with supposedly unavailable drivetrains. These would have been extremely valuable, beautiful, possibly one-off cars, yet the owners can't seem to cough up $35 for PHS to back them up. Why do you suppose that is? When people want to feed you a long story instead of the documentation, hang on to your wallet.