Can Am? Yes We Can!


Imagine you’re a ’70s lothario, and you’re looking for the car that fits your personality. You check out the Trans Am, but it’s a little too small for your disco moves, what are you going to do? Enter the Can Am, a Collonnade with cojones!

My buddy the film maker lives in Hollywood, where there are a number of fading stars wandering the streets. He managed to grab some snaps of this monster beauty before its Texas owner jumped in and fired up that big 6.6 in a tire-squealing Hollywood escape.
Well, tire-chirping perhaps, as while the 6.6-litre motor – whose shaker hood scoop is poking out there like the head of a frightened turtle – only manages a paltry 185-bhp. At the time, most of the country received their Can Ams with Pontiac’s 400-cid V8 which made 180-horses. As this car’s shaker lacks the identifying T/A preceding the 6.6 litre sticker it’s probably the 185-horse Oldsmobile 403 under the massive hood. That engine was offered in California and high-altitude markets due to the Pontiac motor’s inability to meet the more stringent emissions requirements there. Mated to either engine was the M40 TH in replacement of the LeMans’ standard Turbo 350. Pontiac Rally II wheels and a tuned suspension helped tighten the wallowing ride.

You may have seen those ALT/1977 images floating around the web this week of modern technology re-imagined with ’70s style. One look at the yellow to red gradations of the Can Am stickers and stripes and you will understand where that artist’s  inspiration. The inspiration for the Can Am’s color scheme came from the earlier Judge package hues, and the original tape and trim treatment was intended to bring back that nameplate, however Pontiac brass lowered the gavel on the idea.

What’s amazing is that all the decals are still intact and haven’t been eroded by years of car washes and funky-time hood dances. The interior hasn’t quite fared as well- the plastic bits being a little less impervious to the effects of the sun- but it still looks like a comfortable bordello parlor. Part of the reason for that is the Grand Prix dashboard, which is a lot more ornate than the stack LeMans piece. If you’re a fan of Smokey and the Bandit, you’ll recognize the steering wheel which is another parts bin piece- having come from the Trans Am.

Based on the LeMans, 1977 was the last year for the Collonnades and the first and last for the Can Am package. Issues with a broken spoiler mold at the sub-contractor building the Can Am cut off production at under 1,500.  In 1978 GM rolled out a new series of mid-sizers, cars with such notable design decisions as non-opening rear door windows and fastbacks for the higher-end Olds and Buick cars. The Can Am nameplate has never since graced a Pontiac model, and of course now the opportunity to do so is past. Even the LeMans name was dragged through the corporate mud, having been applied to a crappy Korean version of the Opel Kadett, an inglorious end to a venerated appellation.

This Can Am represents both an era and a level of style and expansive presence that hasn’t been seen since. While cars like this don’t go, stop or turn with the acumen of even the most pedestrian car today, it still carries a the pastiche of the ’70s. And whether as comforting reminder of that era’s realized dreams, or staunch warning of its failures, this Can Am stands today as a lone survivor, and for that at least we should be respectful.
Thanks for the pictures go to Hamish McCollester. Check out the trailer for his new movie, Jason’s Big Problem!

0 Comments

  1. On the other hand, the Can-Am has been my benchmark Pontiac since it came out. I have a deep abiding love for this car.

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