PCH, Post-GTO Jim Wangers Edition: 1977 Pontiac Can Am or 1976 Ford Mustang Cobra II?

Welcome to Project Car Hell, where you choose your eternity by selecting the project that's the coolest... and most hellish! Automotive marketing genius Jim Wangers didn't quit the car business when the GTO's reign ended.

I've been reading Mr. Wangers' memoir (review coming soon), and I've learned about some of the tape-stripe-tastic Malaise Era machinery he helped create for American automakers. His company, Motortown, produced the Foghat-approved '76 and '77 Mustang Cobra II and the shaker-scoop equipped Can Am option package for the otherwise lackluster '77 Pontiac LeMans. They're genuine, limited-edition classics now, the sort of of-their-time machines that just ooze transmission fluid history… and you can get 'em cheap!

The Malaise Era was all about harsh limits on cars, but the Can-Am racing series was all about tossing limits straight into the nearest trash can. Why not name a dressed-up '77 Pontiac LeMans after the series? Once Motortown got through making with the tape stripes, spoilers, Trans Am shaker hood scoop, and 200-horsepower Pontiac 400 V8 (or the Olds 403 for California-bound cars), the boring LeMans had been transformed into a Quaalude-enhanced sled that was sure to wow the valets at Studio 54. Fewer than 1,500 Can Ams were made, so you'd think a project-grade example would be tough to find… but wait! Here's one in oxide-friendly Vermont (go here if the listing disappears), and it seems to be more or less complete. The shaker scoop is gone, but that's a common-as-herpes-at-the-disco Trans Am piece; as for drivetrain stuff, you can practically buy those parts at 7-11! The seller knows he's got a real rarity and he's not talking price yet, but we're pretty sure the sight of your cash- not to mention the latest news from Wall Street- will make him eager to hand over this classic Pontiac at a reasonable price!

Was the Pinto-based Mustang II worthy of the Cobra name? Of course it wasn't, and with a 302-cubic-inch V8 under the hood it went pretty well for a Malaise machine. Not all of the first round of Cobra IIs (which were created at a tape-stripe-and-hood-scoop operation headed by Wangers) got the 302, but this one in Arkansas (go here if the listing disappears) is conveniently engine-free; you'll be able to build a Gerald-Ford-grade 134-horsepower 302 for it, or maybe even upgrade to more power if 100% correctness isn't your obsession. It's got the right Motortown colors, the interior components are mostly there (if on the icky side), and it's only 1,500 bucks. Imagine the withering glares respect you'll get when you roll up to the Mustang show in this little fastback!


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