No Screaming Chicken: 1985 Pontiac Trans Am

By Jeff Bennett

When I was in junior high and high school, I always had a copy of a car magazine hidden under my textbook in class.  I had a terminal case of car lust, but at least I was patriotic about it.  Corvettes were the best, and IROC Camaros were next on the list.  Considering that the Pontiac Trans Am was basically its twin, I guess it shared second place.  They were fairly revolutionary for the time, and these third generation pony cars were fast by 1980s standards.  While most of these cars have gone to that great junkyard in the sky, there is a fairly good example still rolling around beautiful Birmingham, Alabama.   Lucky for us, this 1985 Trans Am is for sale on Craigslist, and is in better than average condition.  The best part is that the owner is asking just $2800 for this eighties icon.

For those of you with daddies that were still gnawing on Fudgsicles and watching Bugs Bunny at the time (thank you Warren Oates for that one), the 1970s and early 1980s were a dark time for performance automobiles.   Big blocks were dead and gone, emissions equipment was strangling horsepower, and safety standards were making cars on existing platforms heavier in many cases.  The Camaro and Firebird bodied cars still move when you stomped on the go pedal, but they would be eaten alive at the drag strip by their older brothers.  Thankfully, two things happened: the aftermarket speed parts industry kept finding ways to make more horsepower, and the complete restyle in 1982 made the cars desirable again.  Boasting low coefficients of drag, a very low center of gravity, and a continuation of the V-8 engine, the Z-28 Camaro and the Trans Am were hot cars once again.  Performance numbers were creeping up, handling was outstanding, and it was obvious to everyone that life for gearheads was going to get better.

This 1985 Pontiac Trans Am is one of only a few I have seen for sale lately.  These cars are getting rare for many reasons.  Perhaps the biggest reason is that performance cars tend to get beaten on by their owners.  As they get older and cheaper to buy, this process is accelerated by demonstrations of speed gone wrong, blown engines, amateur tinkering, and teen drivers.  For Trans Ams, you can add to that the difficulty of working on them in such a low and tight engine compartment and the floor pan destroying addition of T-tops in some cars.  This one seems to be in very good condition body wise, except for the eventual necessity of a paint job and some new decals.  All Trans Ams have a 305 V-8 in one of three versions, although we aren’t told which version this one has.  It also has an automatic, which is kind of a bummer but not a deal breaker.  The strength of the drivetrain is proven by the 156,000 miles that the car has racked up so far.

Most of the interior is in pretty good shape.  The door panels show no major problems, and the dash is in excellent condition.  The console hasn’t been torn up, and even the steering wheel looks good for a car with high mileage.  What little we can see of the carpeting looks like it could be made to look presentable with a thorough cleaning.  The problem lies in the seat upholstery.

The big issue is the driver’s seat, which is shot.  In fact, this one re-defines what shot can really mean.  The rest of the interior is presentable at first glance, but the sun really weakens GM cloth seats from this era to the point that any future owner should plan on replacing the seat fabric all around.  While I am sure the foam could be re-used from the other seats, it looks to be junkyard roaming time for another driver’s seat.  Re-skinning these seats with an upholstery kit from the aftermarket probably wouldn’t cost too much, but it depends on what you want to do with the car.  The owner suggests that it would be a good father and son project, and he would be right.  The exterior is in decent shape, and the interior refurbish could be delayed with a junkyard seat and a set of cheap seat covers.  These are cool cars, especially with the T-tops off, and, if Junior is a lead foot, at least they don’t have the higher horsepower of today’s cars.  It would be good to see this car go to a family who will use it to teach responsibility, basic mechanics, and how much fun an older car could be to an up and coming teen gearhead.  If I had a son, he would be forced to like this car no matter if he liked it or not!  The cost of entry is cheap, and parts aren’t a problem.  Other than the seat, what’s not to like?

Oh, one more thing.  I’d insist on a screaming chicken for the hood in the event of a re-paint.  Trans Ams are just not perfect without a screaming chicken on the hood.  Its like a law or something.

 

 

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Comments

  1. jdjonesdr

    Seems like a lot of car for little money…

    Edit: and it’s gone. Anybody surprised?

    6+
  2. Mr. TKD

    The 19-year-old me lusted after this car. Someone got a great deal.

    3+
    • Miguel

      I satisfied my lust by getting a job at a Chevrolet dealer in 1987 and 1988. I turned 20 years old working there. We also owned a Pontiac dealer. During those two years I didn’t buy many old cars as my car lust was satisfied with as many cars as I wanted to drive and play with. Those were two good years.

      4+
  3. Jeff Kiers

    The author should drive my 88 Supra Turbo. Then he’ll realize how inferior Trans Am’s and Iroc’s are.

    3+
    • PG

      Supra Turbos of the ’80s were great performance cars for their era. But so were Camaros and Firebirds of the same era. One was not vastly superior to the other in original factory trim. With the top performing engines available, they were very evenly matched in all capabilities.

      Look some of the results from road tests from the period:

      1984 Trans Am 305 L69 4bbl
      15th Anniversary Edition
      190 HP @ 4800 RPM
      240 TQ @ 3200 RPM
      5 speed manual
      Curb Weight:  3374 lbs
      0 to 60 mph:  7.02 sec
      1/4 mile:  15.44@91.5mph
      Braking 60 to 0:  130 feet
      Skidpad:  0.87G
      (Tested: Jul. ’84 Motor Trend)
      https://www.thirdgen.org/15th_anniversary_transam_mt_july_1984/

      1985 Camaro IROC-Z LB9 305 TPI
      215 HP @ 4400 RPM
      275 TQ @ 3200 RPM
      4 speed automatic
      Curb Weight:  3300 lbs
      0 to 60 mph:  6.87 sec
      1/4 mile:  15.30@89.1 mph
      Braking 60 to 0 mph:  151 feet
      Skidpad:  0.85G
      (Tested: Oct. ’84 Motor Trend)
      http://www.iroc-z.com/articles/articlepages/1984-1motortrendarticle.htm

      1987 Toyota Supra Turbo
      230 HP @ 5600 RPM
      246 TQ @ 4000 RPM
      5 speed manual
      Curb Weight:  3670 lbs
      0 to 60 mph:  7.84 sec
      1/4 mile:  16.17@89.0mph
      Braking 60 to 0:  128 feet
      Skidpad:  0.86G
      (Tested: Nov. ’86 Motor Trend)
      http://www.geocities.ws/ma71supraturbo/articles/mk3/11_86mtsupra.html

      1987 Camaro IROC-Z L98 350 TPI
      225 HP @ 4400 RPM
      330 TQ @ 2800 RPM
      4 speed automatic
      Curb Weight:  3376 lbs
      0 to 60 mph:  6.18 sec
      1/4 mile:  14.66@96.24 mph
      Braking 60 to 0:  n/a
      Skidpad:  0.88G
      Top Speed: 143 mph
      (Tested: Jan. ’87 Hot Rod Magazine)
      http://www.iroc-z.com/articles/articlepages/1987-1hotrod350article.htm

      1989 Toyota Supra Turbo
      232 HP @ 5600 RPM
      254 TQ @ 3200 RPM
      5 speed manual
      Curb Weight:  3620 lbs
      0 to 60 mph:  6.6 sec
      1/4 mile:  15.2@93.5 mph
      Braking 60 to 0:  146 feet
      Skidpad:  0.83G
      Top Speed: n/a
      (Tested: Feb. ’89 Road & Track magazine)
      http://www.geocities.ws/ma71supraturbo/articles/mk3/2_89rtsupra.html

      1990 Camaro IROC-Z 305 LB9/1LE TPI
      230 HP @ 4400 RPM
      300 TQ @ 3200 RPM
      5 speed manual
      Curb Weight:  3280 lbs
      0 to 60 mph:  6.3 sec
      1/4 mile:  14.8@95.4mph
      Braking 60 to 0:  135 feet
      Skidpad:  n/a
      (Tested: Jun. ’90 Motor Trend)
      https://www.thirdgen.org/secret_chevys_mt_june_1990/

      Both Toyota Supra Turbos and Pontiac Trans Ams/Chevrolet Camaro Z/28s were very evenly matched performance cars in the 1980s, especially when equipped with comparable engine options. Comparing a base carburetored LG4 305 T/A (like the one probably in this ad) or Z/28 to a Supra Turbo (especially a modified one) is not a remotely fair comparison. From their respective factories when new, the two types of cars were very evenly matched when properly equipped.

      0
    • AMCFAN

      Haha yes Jeff. The IROC and T/A’s of the time were great chick cars. I dated a girl with an IROC and it was a heavy gutless pig. Looked good for the times.

      You wanted to go fast American style get a Mustang GT. Badge engineered Conquest TSI or an Omni GLHT is an option. The hacked up seat shows just what poor quality GM put forth. The IROC seats as I remember were like sitting on a frame. The mentality GM had was build anything and they will buy it.

      1+
  4. Dt 1

    I was wondering why so cheap 2800 it’s got to be a catch

    0

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