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Pace Bird: 1980 Pontiac Trans AM

80 trans am pace 1

Brian BirknerBy Brian Birkner

Pace cars often catch our attention and desires. This 1980 Trans Am Turbo does exactly that. The 4.9 turbo V8 is an interesting engine, that isn’t common to see. Appearing in clean and original condition this Trans Am looks like a deal we wouldn’t pass at $10,950. Find it here on craigslist out of Marietta, Georgia.

80 trans am pace 2

Upon viewing the heart of this Pace Car it is very original with some patina, but in nice shape. The seller claims the car runs great and has no issues, which we can believe with only covering 83,000 miles. This is an interesting engine as it is a factory turbocharged V8 engine, something GM hadn’t done since the Oldsmobile F85 Jetfire turbo 315 cubic inch V8 engine. The turbo set up is crude, but does make a substantial amount of torque at 345 Ftlb at 2,000 rpms. The 4.9 Turbo replaced the 1979 model 6.6l engine due to emissions standards and gasoline concerns. Horsepower was about the same for the Turbo 4.9 as it was for the 6.6 at 210 horsepower.

80 trans am pace 5

The exterior of this Pace car looks wonderful, although the seller has been up front with mentioning there is some minor rust in this old bird. He mentions there is a small rust spot on the hood as well as under the rear deck lid. Being a Pace Car means this car came with the WS6 performance handling package with 4 wheel disc brakes.

80 trans am pace 3

We are thrilled at how original the interior is. The light grey really illuminates nicely, and the cloth fabric on the seats is excellent. The dash looks pleasant, with the only apparent wear being on the top of the steering wheel. Aside from that its looking very nice, and we love the factory turbo boost gauge. The seats, carpet, red lit gauges, and the embroidered Firebird logos in the door panels were all key features that made the Pace Car unique.

80 trans am pace 4

Overall this Pace Car is in very nice original condition and would be a pace car we would welcome to our stable.  We love the level of originality this Trans am has and we wonder what it would be like to drive the 4.9 turbo engine. Are you in need of a Pace Car, or a Trans Am? This is an excellent opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Would you bring this Turbo Pace Car home?

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Comments

  1. DirtyHarry

    I love the 80’s, this car makes me want to break out all my Don Johnson (Miami Vice) clothes and find my Madona 8 tracks. I won’t cut my hair in a Mullet. I drove one of these and a 1980 Corvette back to back. They were both slow. I bought the Corvette because I thought it looked better. I think this is a lot of fun for a low entry price and MAY appreciate, but I doubt it.

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  2. grego

    Considering the price of the birds increasing wildly as of late because the buyers of these as just a used car back in the 80’s-90’s now have the money to relive the highschool days again! The 301 turbo was a slug at best, this was the last hoorah before the 1982 redesign to fuel injection and front wheel drive. I’ve owned over 20+ 70-81 birds in every configuration. The 1981 15×8 turbo wheels are worth a small fortune now, not the 15x 7’s… This is an absolute steal at this price as long as she’s not rusted. All 2nd generation birds and Camaros rusted under the rear facia that’s were to peak at first

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    • PaulG

      Nice car, reasonably priced. BTW grego, there has never been a FWD firebird or camaro

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    • Dave

      They never made a front wheel drive Firebird or Camaro ever!

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  3. edh

    I remember these, kind of ugly, slow with poor reliability.

    “Runs great and has no issues” totally impossible even when it was new.

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  4. rmward194

    The Pontiac store I worked at when I was in high school had one of these on the lot forever. No one wanted to buy it. Seems like a reasonable price for the condition of the car.

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  5. Vegas Vic

    I owned a Turbo Tans Am
    Slow car, great handling and brakes
    Ladies liked THIER looks, which helped make up for average performance
    The price for this white beast is fair
    Appreciation in value? Minimal
    But good styling, decent old cruiser and car show car to display

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  6. Van

    These were funny in that they didn’t all run the same.
    One car would smoke the tires and another not even close.
    They had tubo lights in the hood, some cars would barely turn on the high output light.
    Anybody know the slalom time of a Trans am compared to a C3 corvette?

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  7. jaymes

    too many decals for me

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  8. grego

    I never said there was a front wheel drive firebird or Camaro!!!! 82 was when the big three made the switch to the majority of their production to front wheel drive. Pay attention before u critique and follow.

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    • Tony S

      Hi grego. Just to let you know – the context and grammar of your statement does read as PaulG and Dave indicated. Not trying to attack.

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      • Dave

        Yep that’s how I read it, I read it as 82 Firebird went to fuel injection and front wheel drive, sorry for the misunderstanding.

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      • DA

        Yep, think we all read the same thing.

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  9. Van

    You guys know fwd was the plan.
    Instead the Beretta, it wasn’t able to bring the muscle.

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    • Tony S

      From a corporate perspective, absolutely (1980 X platform) – but for the F-car, never.

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  10. Vegas Vic

    Forgot about those hood turbo lights
    A hard yellow color, three, four bars
    U could lightly increase go pedal and flicker the lights or nail it and have all firing …. Great Gimmick!

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  11. Brian

    I just bought one !

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  12. Car Guy

    I actually had one of these. Never installed the decals. It looked much better wihout them. The car was way underpowered compared to my 72 HO-455 Trans Am (which I still own) but with the standard WS6 suspension and 4-wheels discs it handled and stopped great.

    I installed a bit looser torque converter and that made a big difference in roasting the tires. The stock converter was way too tight to allow the engine to build any boost. The Fisher hatch roof was pretty solid and did not leak. The car also came with the engine turned shifter surround shown, and the factory cassette was illuminated in red where the regular T/A’s had a black shifter surround and blue/green illumination on the radio. The birds where embroidered in the door panels and the seats, and were not available on the standard Trans Am. The black out taillights contrasted nicely with the Cameo white/gray paint scheme. I still miss that car…….

    I think the boost lights in the hood were a precursor to the Knight 2000……..

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  13. Rspcharger

    Well shoot, I was all excited to say “Hell Ya” to the question, “would I bring it home” until I read all the comments on what a slug they can be. These were the bee’s knee’s when I was getting my license.

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  14. ccrvtt

    The 10th Anniversary is my favorite followed closely by the Pace Car. The turbo wheels are the best, on these cars and the Blackbird edition. Unfortunately the pace cars’ value seems to be with the lettering on though they look much better with it off. Both of them are in my Dream Car Garage, but not at the very top of the list. Would be interesting to see what one would be like with a SD 455 or LS transplant.

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  15. 55chevy

    I’m from Indiana and love Pace Car replicas, I would for sure take this one to cruise to shows in. I remember one of these on the Pontiac Dealer’s floor in 1980 in Kendallville IN

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  16. Tony

    I had one, slow with no way to hot rod that 301 small valves motor, but handled and looked great. Not rare, 5700 produced. Sold it to buy an 89 pace car- fastest trans am ever made

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  17. HeadMaster1

    I used to have a 79 with the 403 Olds/auto trans as most of these were. The Poncho 400 /4-speed couldn’t be found in CA back then. The 4.9 could be had a s a turbo or not, I’m guessing probably th same lw compression engine either way. In HS a buddy of mine has a 4.9 non-turbo Firebird, what a slow POS. Onetime we line it up against a 4.9 Turbo TA, it was a hilarious, but sow race. Off he line side by side, no tire smoke, no tire squeal either. At about 3,000rpm the turbo pulled about a half a car length, then as then all I could hear was the “pinging” from that poor turbo motor, either the turbo driver backed off, or the car backed itself off, but we gained the 1/2 car length back and then some, then the Turbo caught boost again, passed us, pinged again, we passed it……..This went on and on, and on, and on until we both finally made it down the road it what had to be a 20 second 1/4 mile at 65mph…….seriously…….Would I want one, HELL YES, then I’d build a twin-turbo 800-1,000hp LS motor for it :-D………I owned a 89 Turbo TA, now that was a very quick car, hard to get around corners fast as the boost was an all or nothing kind of thing, but a blast the drive…….

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  18. AMCFAN

    Face it. The Trans Am was on it’s last gasp and needed a gimmick to take an aging platform and make it all new just enough to satisfy the public until the new Gen III’s came rolling out.. The handwriting already being on the wall. The Gen III was the new focus at GM. With the quick fix of installing the 301 Turbo my guess they were still paying warrantee claims on these when the 82’s were coming out.

    Hard to imagine now that the 301 Turbo was the best the mighty GM could muster. It was bad enough that GM killed the 350/400 but even worse for using an Oldsmobile engine in place of the mighty Pontiac. Talk about killing your fan base.

    In the early 1970’s the Trans AM had separated itself from the Camaro by being a true performance car. By 1980 was beyond dead. 1980 Camaro Z28 305 vs.1980 T/A 301……What’s the use?

    I think the price is high on the above example presented to us. There was over 5000 made. They are not rare. They are still around.

    If I wanted one I would hold out for provenance if I were to invest and I use that term lightly.

    Several years ago the John Callies test car complete with pace car strobes with hand signed Pontiac Experimental docs plus a PHS report confirming it as a test mule. It was an original 17,000 mile car and sold for less then $7000.

    John set the suspension up for the over 100 mph trip around the track to know how to call ahead and tell the engineers at Indy to set up the actual car and the backup’s. This was at the GM test facility in Arizona as the other cars were shipped to Indy and I believe there were three of them and can be confirmed by PHS.

    Then there were the limited number of festival units. These were driven around in Indianapolis during the 500 fanfare which may give you something to brag about at the Sonic Drive in although I wouldn’t pay a premium for one.

    The leather wrapped wheel on this car is beat. Very common. Also the plastic trim and interior parts are very prone to turning to dust in hotter drier climates. The seat material is specific for the Pace Car replica. White interior parts are quick to change in color to anything but white as they age.

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