Junk Yard Find: 1981 Pontiac Trans Am

As most of you by now know, I’m a big proponent of the salvage industry. I get downright passionate about it when I find facilities that do a solid job of providing great customer service and being savvy enough to use social media and other tools to advertise their inventory. A facility I support in Massachusetts also has an eye for saving salvageable classics like this 1981 Pontiac Trans Am, here on the Smith Auto Recycling Facebook page and listed for $2,500. 

I’ve been going to Smith’s for a few years now, and the experience has been largely positive. From what I can deduct, the owner has an eye for classics and is one of the few yards left that will still take in a vintage car or two on occasion (and not crush it immediately). This Trans Am may be straight out of the Malaise era, but it does appear mostly complete with correct OEM wheels and rear window louvers still attached.

The interior is perhaps the biggest (and best) surprise, considering it looks to be in excellent condition. Seats and door panels are untorn, the factory steering wheel is still in place along with model-specific floormats. These are the items that usually go missing or get destroyed once a car has been idle for years, so my guess is this Trans Am hasn’t been off the road for a prolonged period.

The Trans Am comes with the factory 301 Turbo, which represented an attempt to meet changing emissions regulations and also give some power back to the people. The turbocharged mill offered a respectable 345 lb.-ft. of torque, but no word how it runs on this project car. As you can see, it has rust inside the doors, and also at the bottom of the driver’s fender and rear quarter panel. Is this salvage yard find worth rescuing for $2,500?

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Comments

  1. Vince Habel

    I would think there is more than $2500 there if you decided to part it out. If the rust isn’t too bad it should be saved.

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  2. Mr. TKD

    Louvers! Looks like a great parts car.

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  3. 68 custom

    great write up on a decent car. looks to be all there plus those ugly floor mats, they were probably purchased at the local Western Auto. as for the rust, I suspect there is plenty more lurking unfortunately. IMO this is about as good as a turbo/TA would get since it does not have the dreaded (to me) T-tops and a good color combo. worth the asking price me thinks…

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    • Greg

      Ahhh, drive a T-top T/A on a wonderful summer day and I think you’ll change your tune..

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      • Bobsmyuncle

        Yep it better be a DRY, SUNNY summer day!

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      • Greg

        Yes, you will only be slightly drier by keeping the tops on in a rain storm, no doubt.

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  4. Mark

    Unless the rust is a lot more prevalent than it looks like from what we can see the pricing extremely good for this car. I would nearly be suspicious of the 62,000 miles showing on the odometer but based on the condition of the interior it’s probably correct. It would be a shame to part out of this car.

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  5. Puhnto

    Thanks for the heads up on Smith’s in Clinton. I think we bought our fresh turkey in Clinton, so we’re close enough to check it out!

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    • Jeff Jeff Staff

      Can be hit or miss on whether he has anything “interesting” in stock, but he’s one of the few that will keep those cars around for a week or two before it goes in the yard.

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  6. motoring mo

    A junkyard screaming chicken is more frightening than a junkyard dog. SCARY!

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  7. SR

    The plus is it doesn’t have T-Tops or the interior wouldn’t be in the shape it’s in. Possibly the worst option Detroit ever put on a unibody car first time you hit a concrete parking divider a little to hard its downhill from there.

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  8. Greg

    I’d stick to ’77-’79s, I don’t see any real upside on these for a long time.

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  9. Mitch Pollvogt

    Probably worth $2500 but I just dont get the post super duty trans am craze. In the day I bought a 1981 Corvette new instead. They are just not special. Everybody had one…the running joke was on Saturday night in a disco club the DJ would say there is a blk TA in the parking lot with its lights on…half the club would get up and go out to see if it was their car.

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    • Scott

      You don’t understand the Super Duty? I don’t understand buying a car that had a 350 with 8.2 to 1 compression, made a 190hp had 280ft lbs of torque, went 0-60 in 8.1 seconds, ran the 1/4 in 16.0, that took 22.2 seconds to go from 0-100 and a top speed that took a calendar to measure instead of a stop watch. In all honesty this bird wasn’t any better engine wise, the thing with the super duty’s was more about the suspension, they out handled just about anything American made during the super duty’s run.

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      • Poppy

        I think Mitch meant he doesn’t see the attraction to TAs PAST the Super Duty models (like this one). He’s agreeing with you that the SDs were special and more desirable than this later one.

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    • Greg

      I get your point, but I like cruising cars, not racing them. On public streets, these cars will light them up just fine and I believe they have impressive looks. Have a friend with a Delorean, he knows it’s a slow and sloppy car, but cruise it around and you’re the king of the road without being the “mustang guy” leaving cars and coffee.

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      • Angrymike

        Really, “light them up just fine” ? I’ve driven a few of these, without bleach under the tire, yes one tire, they found it hard to get a chirp.
        It’s just my honest opinion…..

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    • Greg

      ’83 was the best year for the Corvette…

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      • Scott

        You might take a leak in some peoples ear & convince them its raining Greg, if you happen to know where there’s a 1983 other than the one in the Corvette Museum in Kentucky I’m all ears, but I’m sure my bankroll isn’t big enough to add it to the four I have now. Even collector’s that Corvettes aren’t there thing would be chomping at the bit to get a hold of it, trust me on that.

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      • Mr. TKD

        Ahhhhh, smell the sarcasm…

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  10. Rustytech

    Mecum sold one today (1980) for $16k, so depending on what all is needed, and your abilities to do the work yourself this could be a reasonable project. I’d want a better look before risking it though as there’s always more work lurking somewhere.

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  11. HeadMaster1

    I’d love to build one of these using a 5.3 truck LS wit a twin turbo set-up……Say mild boost of 8010psi should put out 400hp and be a fun runner. I had a 79 T/A with a 403, pretty boring runner, but looked cool. I also had a 89 turbo, didn’t look that cool, but ran like hell

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    • Greg

      That’s exactly what I’d do, an LS, keep the original around in the corner of the garage.

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    • 68 custom

      8010 PSI of boost would likely make far more than 400 HP, for the instant it holds together! JK! 🙂

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  12. Scott

    I think your right Poppy about Mitch’s comment I just didn’t see that angle.

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  13. Scott

    Not at all TDK just a statement backed by facts.

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    • Mr. TKD

      Chevrolet didn’t sell an ’83 Corvette. It skipped that model year and introduced the C4 as an ’84, which was a markedly better car than the one it replaced. I thought you were making a joke.

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      • SR

        TDK, not that it matters, it depends on who ask how many prototypes were built. Some say 35 & some say 41 the fact of the matter is there only one remaining. The others were used in crash test and some were taken apart and scraped. The one in the Kentucky museum sat outside for years and finally brought in and cleaned up and sets in the Corvette museum now.

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