June 8, 2007

Q: What Is The Pontiac TransAm Type-K Wagon By Pininfarina, Alek?

And the answer is, "What The Bandit and Snowman would drive if they ever came out, settled down, and adopted an adorable, little Guatemalan baby." I'll take Alternate Endings To Burt Reynolds Movies for $600.


Gromit was right, the ultimate find in the Joe McMullen Car Collection auction this weekend is Lot 265, the 1985 TransAm Kammback. It's the last remaining evidence of GM's longrunning, oddball flirtations with turning out a station wagon version of the Pontiac TransAm.

There must've been a couple of serious shooting brake enthusiasts in the engineering division somewhere, because the Kammback or Type-K concept resurfaced at least three times between 1970 and 1985, when this test mule was outfitted with a drop-on, squarebacked lid that "bolted right on in place of the all-glass hatchback of the production Trans Am, including the latching."

Wouldn't it have been so easy, then, to just offer the Kammback as an accessory? Or as an aftermarket option? Did the JC Whitney folks let us all down 22 years ago? Why does the Pontiac TransAm station wagon enthusiast have to content himself with a $60-80,000, fully restored but unlicensable test mule? [update: apparently not. the 85 Kammback sold for $66,000.]


Maybe the Kammback didn't happen in '85 because deep down, everyone knew that the pinnacle had already been reached, back in 1977. That's the year GM design VP David Holls asked the Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina to whip up a couple of prototypes, a Type-K Firebird and a TransAm with incredible, glass gullwing hatchbacks. The Pinin originals were made of factory steel, but the low-production model being contemplated would've been out of fiberglass. As a TA enthusiast on Indiemonkey put it, "The gold wagon [the Firebird] has been destroyed reportedly due to internal company issues." [Yeah, like some Firebird guy's head was gonna explode at the idea of a wagon.]

The silver one's still out there somewhere, though. And while it's no Pininfarina, it was reported that "The Deco International Corp. of North Hollywood, Calif., began building Type K replicas in May 1980. Conversions cost about $15,000 and consist of fiberglass over a steel framework. Side windows raise electrically on gas cylinders."


That is where Lot 230 in the McMullen sale comes from. Turns out some guy in Texas got a Deco Type-K conversion, which McMullen picked up in 1993 from a fellow dealer, and then put into the pristine showcar restoration machine. Take out the custom-fitted luggage, and this street-legal 1979 TransAm has room for a car seat AND a stroller. And it has an estimate of $100-125,000. [update: and holy smokes, it sold for $154,000! I hope they threw in a free Bugaboo for the trunk. ]

Maybe somewhere in the San Fernando Valley is another Deco conversion, just waiting for you to rescue and restore. Properly outfitted and full of baby gear, you could raise the gullwings and crank the Raffi. Freddie The Screaming Chicken.


Lot 265: 1985 Pontiac TransAm Experimental Kammback [rmauctions.com]
Pontiac Firebird Station Wagon Concept Cars info page [indiemonkey.com]


Joe Dirt, your car is ready.

Bitchin' Camaro Firebird, dude.

But wait, there's more. Not sold in any store, Chevrolet produced a Kammback version of the magnificent Vega, which Car and Diver, high on goofballs, called not only "the best handling car ever sold in America," (take that, Lotus), but "one of the finest-looking compact sedans in the world."

It was built by robots! Robots, I tell you! It had all-alloy 2.3-liter power! It dissolved into a pile of rust when you exhaled!

'Thing is, the ScreamingChickenWagon probably should have happened; millions of Vegas had been sold already, and think of all the dads who could have said, 'but sweetie, it IS practical.'

[and the line between a Kammback and a Gremlin gets increasingly blurry. Personally, I'd rather risk scorn in Detroit and go with the Volvo 1800 ES Fastback. But that's a dealbreaker. There was a State Farm commercial or something a few years back that showed a young black dude trying to shoehorn a carseat into the back of a Volvo 1800, while his pregnant wife waits patiently. She finally asks, "Should I call my dad?" It was about the need to put your 2-door days behind you. -ed.]

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