The seventies were an absolute goldmine of independent tuning companies. Newcomers flourished left, right, centre, while those which had their roots in the sixties – often through their involvement in motorsport – used the frenzy for both mechanical tuning and not least optical tuning to establish themselves as leaders within the tuning scene.
This was most certainly the case in Europe where companies like AMG and Alpina were joined by a multitude of upstart companies such as BB (to this day I still adore their prolific rainbow striped 911 Targa Turbo) and not least Koenig with their outrageous side strakes and widebody kits. But it most certainly wasn’t limited to Europe, as car enthusiasts all around the world craved the same individuality for their chosen steed. Of course, you can always trust the Americans to take it up a notch. After all, if someone is intent on bringing a vividly coloured 6.6-litre V8 Firebird with a huge screaming chicken plastered across its broad bonnet to the next level, then it will invariably end up being somewhat extreme.
And this is precisely what DKM in Phoenix, Arizona set out to do.
The company DKM came to be in 1977 when brothers Dennis and Kyle Mecham – sons of a Phoenix area Pontiac dealer – started modifying Firebirds. They had become frustrated with the constant decline in performance as more and more power-sapping emissions equipment was legislated across the 50 states of the US. Even so, the Trans Am was arguably still the closest the Americans had to a performance car, but it was barely a shadow of the true Muscle Cars of the sixties and very early seventies.
They started off with the 400 cu. in. W72 engine in the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am T/A 6.6. They re-jetted the stock Quadrajet carburettor, played around with the distributor’s curve, opened up the stock faux hood scoop to create a proper shaker and added a set of Hooker headers which got bolted up with a 2.5 inch dual exhaust and two catalytic converters. This treatment added a rather impressive 50hp to the stock 220hp of the W72. Oh, and just in case this wasn’t enough to stimulate your need for power, there was of course an optional turbo-charger available too, which delivered 7 psi of boost to the induction. Heady stuff back in the seventies…
But they didn’t stop at just adding more horsepower to the equation. The suspension was stiffened up too with 1.5 inch lower front springs and Koni shock absorbers on all four corners, adding up to much more sporty handling characteristics. If all of this wasn’t enough for you, there were optional extras too, such as a fibreglass hood which was claimed to deduct 60 lbs. from the heavyweight American. Inside you could choose either Recaro or Scheel seats and not least a top-end Fosgate stereo system. And last put not least you had an option of lurid custom paintjobs to make sure that your modified Firebird wouldn’t go unnoticed.
But this is where your jaw will positively hit the floor! So what did the Mecham brothers decide to call their performance Firebird? Well, it was the late seventies after all, so perhaps we shouldn’t be so shocked. But even back then, surely it would have raised a few eyebrows when they launched it as the Macho T/A. Heh… what were they thinking? Whatever spurred them into this, they certainly went all out on the idea as bold letters spell out Macho T/A along both door bottoms and across the rear spoiler. If nothing else, I suppose it goes well with the garish paintjobs.
Now unless you are both profoundly comfortable with your own sexuality whilst also possessing a decent sense of humour, you might want to skip the video below altogether. The Village People – a late seventies American disco group – are hardly likely to join the ranks of The Beatles or David Bowie in music history, but their hit single Macho Macho Man is to be honest quite hilarious; if perhaps a little sickening too. Regardless, I can’t help but wonder whether it says anything about the type of man (go ahead, call me a sexist pig, but I’m going to assume no woman has ever bought a Macho T/A…) would have been your typical customer at DKM back in the late seventies?
But as utterly ridiculous as the name might seem now, it didn’t keep the Macho T/A from receiving rave reviews in period publications such as Hot Rod magazine and Motor Trend. The American enthusiasts apparently likened a bit of macho in their lives too, as DKM sold 26 cars in only their first year. However, to get around the emissions regulations, DKM had to sell them as used cars, as federal law prohibited any new car to be sold without emissions equipment. So their father’s dealership, Mecham Pontiac, would sell brand-new Firebird Trans Ams to DKM who would title the cars thus technically making them a second hand car. Then they would carry out the modifications and sell their Macho T/As to customers as used cars with deliver mileage. It seemingly worked a treat and the operation quickly grew to sell an impressive 203 cars in their second year. With a total number of 330 Macho T/As having been produced by 1980, production ceased as the new 301 engines in the Pontiacs proved virtually impossible to modify without blowing them skyhigh. Today, these cars have of course become quite collectable among fans of the second generation Firebirds.
ViaRETRO bonus information: In 1979, DKM added the Macho Z to their range. This was effectively more of the same recipe only this time applied to the Firebird’s F-body sibling, the Chevrolet Camaro Z28. It’s also claimed that DKM built two modified examples of the 1979 Chevrolet Corvette L82.