Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The 1977 Pontiac Can Am


Welcome to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and to have some fun in the process. Today’s feature dates back to 1977. General Motors was in the midst of rolling out their new “downsized” full size cars, which shed a lot of weight, but maintained the interior dimensions. However, 1977 was also a record year for the “intermediates” that were not only larger (in exterior dimensions), but in most cases, a great deal heavier than their “full size” counterparts. During this time, Pontiac introduced a limited edition package available on the LeMans Sport Coupe, the 1977 Pontiac Can Am.


By 1977, decals and tape stripes had replaced the raw, visceral power of the 1960′s musclecars. For example, there was the Mustang Cobra II, but its 302 could only manage 127 horsepower. Dodge had the hot black and gold Warlock truck, but this was before most people thought of a truck as a performance vehicle. Chevy reintroduced the Z/28 after a two-year absence, but its 350 was a shadow of it’s former self. Overall, when you consider the choices that existed for an affordable, American performance car in 1977, Pontiac was a big player. Its Trans Am was a huge sales success that year, spurred on by the popular movie, “Smokey and the Bandit”. But the Trans Am wasn’t the only performance car they offered that year. So, Pontiac introduced the 1977 Can Am, and was designed from the beginning to be a limited-production performance car, with an anticipated production run of 5000 units. The name for the car came from the Can Am (Canadian-American) racing series.


For the total sum of $1,214.43, the Can Am Option Package could be added to a LeMans Sport Coupe with the louvered quarter windows. The package consisted of the following:
T/A 6.6 400-cid 4-barrel Pontiac V8 (or Olds 403 if sold in California)
Power front disc brakes
TH400 heavy-duty automatic transmission
Power variable-ratio steering
Rally RTS handling package
GR70x15 radial tires
Body-color Rally II wheels
Twin sport mirrors
Cameo White paint with special tri-color striping
Blacked-out moldings, and black lower body-side accent stripe
Grand Prix instrument panel featuring the Rally gauge cluster with in-dash clock.


Pontiac built each car slated for conversion with all of the mechanical bits that made the Can Am unique. Due to the limited planned production run of 5000 units, they outsourced the remainder of the work. Jim Wanger’s Motortown Corp. was contracted to fit the cars with the striping and rear spoiler, and modify the “bonnet” to make room for the “Shaker Hood” assembly. For some reason, every Can Am came with a 1976-style shaker, which had a different shape than the shaker offered on the 1977 Trans Am. A partial listing of options available on the Can Am included:
Air conditioning
Front seat console with buckets
15×7 Cast aluminum wheels
“Saf-T-Track” rear axle
GR70x15 White letter tires
Custom Sport steering wheel
Soft Ray glass
Color-keyed seat belts
Interior decklid release
Interior hood release
Am/FM/8-track radio
AM/FM/CB radio
Instrument panel tachometer (replaces clock)
Power door locks and windows
Glass or steel power sunroof


A review of the new mid-year Le Mans Sport Coupe option in the May 1977 issue of Motor Trend said, “The Can Am is the ideal car for the person who likes the Firebird Trans Am or Formula but needs extra space. It provides good handling and steering response with a pleasant, firm, but never jarring, ride.” The same article listed a 0-60 performance time of 10 seconds, with a quarter-mile time of 17 seconds at 84 mph. Okay, it’s not a Judge, but considering the time frame, the Cam Am was a screamer, all things being relative. In comparison, a mid-size 1975 Pontiac equipped with the 455 V-8 turned the same 0-60 10-second time.

JH Joe's Can Am

Unfortunately, Can Am production ended prematurely, when the mold used in manufacturing the unique “duck tail” spoiler was accidentally damaged. It’s interesting to note that the exact same circumstances surrounded the discontinuation of the duck tail spoiler that was produced (in very limited numbers) for the 1972 GTO. There is some controversy over exactly how many Can Ams were produced; depending on the source, the final tally stood at either 1100 or 1377.


For years, it was rumored that seven production Can Ams were painted “Mandarin Orange”. Jim Wangers, who was a primary player in getting Pontiac to go ahead with the Can Am project, recently debunked this myth. In a February 2001 email to fellow Can Am owner Mark Fearer, Jim stated that, “To my knowledge there were never any ‘orange’ Can-Ams officially built by Motortown for Pontiac in 1977…when the car was first presented to Pontiac in 1976 by myself and Motortown, it was painted in Carousel Red and was proposed to be called ‘The Judge’.” This was rejected, and a white paint scheme with similar graphics was proposed instead. Pontiac was still open to a comparison with the GTO in its advertising, though. Magazines featured Can Am ads which used the phrase, “Remember the Goat”.


Pontiac probably could have sold the entire 5000 and more if management had approved fixing the mold. But the Can Am used the same dash as the Grand Prix, which was a highly profitable sales leader in 1977; every Can Am sold pirated sales of the GP! The broken spoiler mold was the last straw, and the project was axed. In theory, Pontiac could have generated more demand for the Can Am, had they authorized the sale of the car in another key market – Canada. For some reason, the Can Am was sold only in the United States; perhaps it was because every Canadian-market LeMans was powered by a Chevrolet engine.


So does the 1977 Pontiac Can Am deserve a spot in the Obscure Muscle Car Garage? Or is it just an overweight pretender to all things in the past? It is one of the very few Muscle Cars produced in the late 70′s, but you know the drill, and comment away! While you’re at it, let me know what you think of this feature…

[poll id=”151″]

Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You…

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40 responses to “Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The 1977 Pontiac Can Am”

  1. lilpoindexter Avatar

    I'm expecting Burt Reynolds as "Smokey" to go flying over semi trucks with this thing, with his bare hairy chest and gold chains all exposed.

    1. vetteman61 Avatar

      Jackie Gleason was Smokey. Burt Reynolds was The Bandit. I… hate to do this… but I'm going to have to ask for 3 cool points back.

  2. LTDScott Avatar

    I love these things. Probably my favorite of all the Colonnade cars.

  3. danleym Avatar

    well, I'm a sucker for late 70s paint and sticker specials, and since this one actually has some semblance of performance to go with it, so I vote yes.

  4. Shant Jaltorossian Avatar
    Shant Jaltorossian

    I like these.
    My one and only gripe is the lack of the four-speed offered in the T/A.

  5. Spring-heeled Jack Avatar
    Spring-heeled Jack

    These are sharp, but the best was the original Grand-Am with the Endura grille and bumper and colour-matched rear bumper. Definitely the pinnacle of the 'collonade' cars.

    1. stigshift Avatar

      I'm with you on the Grand Am. The Can Am is definitely worthy, and a well thought out and executed concept. But the Grand Am is far better looking to me in either 2 or 4 door form. And you could get both a 4 speed and a 455! But the back bumpers were not color matched on them.

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        Oh yeah, a four-door Grand Am with the 455 is the way to go.

        1. stigshift Avatar

          Add a 4 speed and a sunroof and you just plain win. That would have to be on my all-time must have list. It'd be great, if not authentic, to sneak a Super Duty motor in there. I hope one snuck out of the factory that way…

      2. Spring-heeled Jack Avatar
        Spring-heeled Jack

        I stand corrected, the blue one running around my town in the summer must have been painted.

        1. turboregal Avatar

          No sir, you just happened to see a '75 Grand Am. They were the only ones of the first generation GA's to get the body color rear bumpers. And, just to clarify, the front bumpers (all three years, '73-'75) were all steel with a rubber strip attached; the steel painted bumper protruded thru the plastic nose shell. My first car was a '74 Grand Am…great cars.
          The Can Am idea started, in concept form, as what would have become the '76 "All American" Grand Am. I lusted after a Can Am for years, and I've looked at literally dozens of them. The Can Am package was also applied to some LeMans sport coupes with the small "opera" fixed side window instead of the louvered treatment (the '75 Grand Am coupe was also available this way). Many Can Ams also had the LeMans instrument panel instead of the Grand LeMans/Grand Prix style treatment. I've even seen a couple with column shifters.

          1. tropicdave173 Avatar

            Might also want to look at the 1973 "Project X" LeMans as well. Hood scoop, spoiler, back and white detailing, and Firebird and Ventura versions were also made. As I understand it, the spoiler made it to the All-American GA.
            To the knowledge of several experts I know, there was never any official Can Am conversion to any other LeMans Sport Coupes that did not have the louvered windows, the GP dash and the W72 (aka "T/A 6.6") engine. If it occurred it was probably a dealer conversion via buying a package from Motortown. As for column shifters, Can Ams were offered with a bench seat, which necessitated a column shifter and no console. There are even Can Ams with bucket seats, a column shifter and no console. They were available in any color interior Pontiac offered in the LeMans in 1977 as well. Mine has a tan interior, Firethorn red is most common, with black and red/white interiors being well represented. there were even a couple with blue interiors. In the end, PHS documentation will tell you if you have a true Can Am, or whether it was modified at the dealer.

          2. canam77 Avatar

            Tropicdave173 you are correct concerning you facts. Turboregal is incorrect in his statements. I currently own a Can Am, am no expert but this is my second CA so I do know a lot about them.

          3. Rickstich Avatar

            I just bought a Can Am what and where do I find the PHS

  6. vetteman61 Avatar

    I love these cars. I'm glad for this post and to see there's more than 3 people left in the US that like these things.

    1. vetteman61 Avatar

      If anyone clicked the "I'd rather own a Japanese Import" button I vote to kick them off the island.

  7. muthalovin Avatar

    I… I love this. I must find one, today.
    Also, lurves me duck-tail spoilers. So much.

    1. Barry Avatar

      5 of them sitting in my yard.

  8. nutzforautos Avatar

    I want one of these….really bad! Just looked at a 73 Pontiac LeMans Coupe just last week. The 77 Can-Am is the want, but any I've seen has been FAR too ratty or Concours-ready for way too much bank than I have…

  9. erikgrad Avatar

    The Can Am broke the mold…literally

  10. vroomsocko Avatar

    I frequently see a sharp looking, red '77(?) Grand Prix with white pinstripes on my commute and it makes my smile every time. It really pops out against the beige commuter herd.

    1. racer139 Avatar

      My grandparents had one just like you described, they had It until around 85 when my grandmother punched through the passenger side floor with her high heel.

  11. salguod Avatar

    That overly rectilinear grille always seemed a bit forced not eh swoopy lines of the LeMans. Ditto on the hard edged taillights. Much better was the Grand Am endura nose mentioned above and the tail lights that wrapped up over the quarter panels.
    <img src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_nEcS7mTzh94/S4CdFoGGMwI/AAAAAAAADxU/sOCmQO1uUnc/s640/1975+Grand+Am.jpg&quot; width=600>
    <img src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_nEcS7mTzh94/S4CXTqwjdZI/AAAAAAAADw0/p_B0HB_Z0RE/s1600/74+Pontiac+LeMans+sports+coupe.jpg&quot; width=600>
    Still, I love the Can Am, it is definitely muscle car worthy.

  12. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar
  13. Slow_Joe_Crow Avatar

    I voted yes, and my guess is that the Can Am used 76 scoops instead of 77 scoops to use up old stock after the model change over.

  14. Sjalabais Avatar

    I don't really feel qualified to participate in the vote, but the car looks like a guy with a ruler and a guy who likes round shapes got into a serious fight and both won. Then somebody had to smooth it out with decals. Makes it very interesting to look at, at least!

    1. capt.fast Avatar

      the front end was high drag. the 403lds engine was the package to find. cylinder heads from a 1968 or1969 olds 350 boosted compression from 7.7/1 to maybe 10.25/1. the carb just wouldn't pass enough gas and the ignition needed recurved. exhaust was awful poor and needed the cat pulled off. small changes like this made my car more "interesting" to drive.

  15. MVEilenstein Avatar

    I voted no, but that's because I don't see it as a muscle car. I do see it as a car I would love to own and drive, though.

  16. Carter Avatar

    Almost bought TWO of these at once back in high school. Guy in WNY was selling them, one running the other for parts/restore. One had a SUNROOF. I fell in love the moment I saw it and every time I catch one at a cruise night (there's a guy here in Rochester who has a beautifully restored one), I spend the rest of the night telling my girlfriend the same story about them that she's heard a hundred times before 😛
    Just straight cool.

  17. failboat Avatar

    Did they ever make a GTO of this body style? Because I definitely saw one of these done up GTO badges and such. I distinctly remember it because it baffled me, I remember saying to my father in law that I never knew they made these. I cant believe I didnt take a picture.
    it was orange with black and yellow stripes, like a 70's judge

    1. turboregal Avatar

      The '73 GTO was an option package for LeMans and LeMans sport coupes for the first year of this "colonade" body style. It had a hood with twin NACA ducts (also an option on Grand Ams equipped with a 7.4 liter 455). The '74-'77 LeMans had a less serious "GT" badged option package.

  18. craigsu Avatar

    A fully optioned '77 Grand Prix was my Driver's Ed car for both track and road instruction. I had to be told more than once to back off the throttle. I couldn't help myself, it just made me giddy.

  19. smaz Avatar

    have one, love i! still a work in progress, but an awesome car.

  20. erik Avatar

    Loved them since I first saw one 20 years ago!!! In fact I bought the 3rd car pictured from the top last year. Zero rust 3rd owner 403 Can Am with 109k on it. Sold New in Laguna Beach, California then ended up in the Phoenix, Arizona area from 1983 till 2012 when I bought it. She now resides in The Netherlands, Europe. Currently restoring the interior and working on small bits and pieces.
    As far as I know it's the only 403 Can Am in Europe. I have yet to see another driving/running Can Am here.

  21. Dave Avatar

    My mom got a new Can Am for her 26th birthday, and we picked it up the day before my 5th birthday. Two restorations, an engine and transmission rebuild, and it was a daily driver for mom for 25 years, then me for a couple years after that, before gas prices benched her to weekend warrior status. But unemployment led me to sell her 6 years ago, and I still regret it.

  22. Barry Avatar

    Working on restoring one with a 403 right now. Four more sitting in the yard that I've accumulated over the last few years. My ex nabbed my first one and it sits rusting away in a pasture to this day.
    They're out there if you want one and they are so much fun to drive with that Shaker doing its thing!

  23. Ed Rekawik Avatar
    Ed Rekawik

    I love the Can Am
    It will always be a sought after collectible
    The Can Am came during a time we all enjoyed & soon forgot
    It was a time that we were all a lot younger & happier!
    Former owner of a 1977 Pontiac Can Am
    I was 20 years old when in purchased my Can Am
    The year was 1983

  24. Bart Avatar

    For 1977 the T/A 400 was one of the selected engines for this limited GM.It had 200HP/325T. At the time not many performance cars had 200HP/325T. The base line corvette only had about 185hp. Pontiac claimed it put out about 265hp but listed 200hp do to the new regulations. But that was only with the T/A 400 which is the more desired engine because its a true pontiac engine. The 403 was only about 185hp. Plus side is that it is the rarest of the engines at about 42 produced. Given all that, (even though a heavy performer) its Pontiac Heritage and very limited production and only a few hundred left registered on the road to date it is worthy of being included into the Obscure Muscle Car Garage.

  25. Rob from Michigan Avatar
    Rob from Michigan

    I've seen the 1377 number on several websites and I still find it hard to believe. I remember seeing these cars all over Detroit and you described exactly what we thought of them at the time "an overweight pretender"…ugly decals, non-functioning hood scoop, etc. and white? They looked like an afterthought on wheels. But I didn't realize that they had the T/A 400 in them I thought it was the 403. It's still an overweight pretender but it deserves a little respect now… considering the year.

  26. Ryan Halsey Avatar
    Ryan Halsey

    I have had my Can Am since 1989. 72,000 miles, Ram Air lll can, 3 tube headers into 3" exhaust, shaker is opened up with screens in the openings. LOVE this car! With some horsepower in it, it really runs like you would imagine it should. Get up to about a hundred and it really comes alive with that shaker. I also still have my first car from 1981, 73 GTO, and just picked up a 73 Grand Am with 29,000 original miles. All three feel like different cars, feel like they are all different sizes too. All cool cars.