400 V8 Powered 1980 Pontiac Trans Am Turbo

It’s incredible to think that Pontiac was still building the second generation Trans Am all the way up to 1981. They made some small cosmetic changes over the 11-year run, but for the most part, they went untouched all those years. Really, the biggest change was the decision to offer a turbocharged version in 1980. It wasn’t a true replacement to a good old big block and the added complexity wasn’t a selling point for most buyers. And that could very well explain why this T/A Turbo is currently sporting a 400 cui naturally aspirated V8. The seller doesn’t offer any of the car’s history, but it’s definitely worth a closer look. You can find it here on eBay in Wadsworth, Ohio with a current bid of $3,000.

Pontiac did their best to make the turbocharger work, with lots of upgrades being made to the 301’s block and internals. Unfortunately, the technology just wasn’t there to have a dependable turbocharged V8 muscle car. Don’t get me wrong, with the boost turned up, it was capable of some serious power but its stock output was a bit lackluster with a rated 210 horsepower from the factory. There’s no word on where the 301 went or where this 400 cui V8 came from. If it’s from a slightly older Trans Am, it might have been rated for 220 hp, but if the original engine destroyed itself this might have seemed like a better bet at the time.

As you can see, the interior needs a refresh, but as these have become increasingly popular parts have gotten cheaper. Most of these cars were well optioned, with AC being required for the Turbo option. The seller claims that the car runs and moves under its owner power, but needs brakes to be driven. After fixing the brakes, you could actually start driving this car as is, but I’d recommend sorting the interior as GM plastics from this era seem to either always be sticky or is some state of disintegration.

The seller claims that this Trans Am is rust free and wears most of its original paint. I don’t see any serious rust, but I’d still recommend taking a closer look at the floors and trunk. I believe them that’s its original paint, but I’m not sure that matters much at this point. It’s really going to need a paint job and new graphics to look it’s best, but for a classic that you can restore while you drive it, this one isn’t too bad. And, with values climbing for Trans Ams, it’s worth putting money into it!


  1. OhU8one2

    This car would not be able to be registered in California. There is a rule for automobiles that if you want to replace an engine, it has to be the same year of the vehicle or newer. You cannot by law install an engine that is older than the year of the vehicle. In other words, you can’t put a 78′ 400ci in an 81′. Legally. Yeah ask me if I’m so tired of California’s B+×÷s=%t? The state legislature is completely out of hand. Can’t wait to leave.

    Like 9
    • Gnrdude

      Bring it to TEXAS once it’s 25yrs old you can DO what you Want To it!!

      Like 11
      • v

        why is it that texas always seems to be the sane and ratioinal state.

        Like 7
    • JoeNYWF64

      If you put, say, a ’75 or ’76 400 pont v8 in a ’74 bird, you will wind up with DIRTIER exhaust, because the ’74 motor met emissions WITHOUT a converter. The later motors were retuned(dirtier), with the converter cleaning up their exhaust.
      ha ha.

      Like 2
    • Miguel

      OhU8one2, that is actually a federal law.

      Like 2
    • v

      another reason the older engines are being thrown away. rediculous law.

      Like 1
    • DaVuVuZeLa

      The original 301 turbo is gone anyway, so why not go big and dump a turbo LS1 in there?

  2. Steve

    This is a cool car. I would clean it up, restore the interior and drive it as is. I like the patina on this car.

    • NotSure


  3. Robert May

    Looks like it’s an Indianapolis 500 Pace Car. If so, it would be tough to decide to put it back as right w/ the turbo motor. But, it would still be a replaced, non original motor.
    Also the hood looks a little bit like there could have been a fire under it once upon a time. Most likely not, probably only surface blemishes.

    Like 3
  4. Karl

    It’s conversations like this that inspite of all our winter I am still thankful to live in ND, you can do anything you want and nobody cares! We don’t have smog inspections and you can put any engine you want into anything you want, then drive it with a gun under your seat and it’s all legal!!

    Like 3
    • v

      and also your state has the freshest air. take a deep breath and hold it going through NYC

      Like 1
  5. RobB

    In DC and MD, as long as it passes emissions, they don’t care what motor is in it.

    Like 2
  6. Miguel

    I can give you an anecdote about this.

    A friend in Las Vegas had a 1981 Camaro Z28 that he put in a new, at the time,1996 V8 from a fairly new truck with a 4 bbl carb.

    The car blew zeros on the smog machine.

    DMV had a thing about this guy so they ordered him to bring it to their facility to be inspected.

    After the tore the car apart, they gave it back in pieces and told him he had to pull the new engine and put in a 1981 engine with the right carb.

    The guy did find an engine out of a Caprice wagon that would barely pass smog.

    They didn’t care about air quality, they just wanted to mess with him and in the process made a dirty burning car.

    That is the federal law that has never been changed.

    Like 1
    • Karl

      Miguel I don’t know how you folks out there can live in that environment, it seems every ridiculous law we get going comes from CA and the other much smaller percentage come from the other side. CA was voted as the lowest quality of life state and you pay the most to call THIS home? Thank God it takes a LONG time for this type of pollution to reach ND! YOU FOLKS have my sympathies!

      Like 2
  7. The Chucker

    I had one of these in 1985. It was a dog, but since I was 21 at the time, it had a redeeming quality of attracting a certain type of girl if you get my gist.

    Like 2
  8. Troy s

    Loads of car freaks here in California had illegal smog tests, registered the car where no test was required providing they had a residency there, etc.etc., I would never do it though.
    I like the part where these cars went pretty much untouched for eleven years, maybe the platform in general, but under the hood they got molested thanks to big brother, really, the earlier ones just looked cleaner too.
    Hopefully this stays all Poncho with not a Chevy engine of any year in sight, LS engines included.

    Like 2
  9. Jerry C

    I had an ’80 Turbo pace car. I loved that car until the turbo blew. My dad was able to bypass the turbo so I could drive it, but it was a dog. Seeing this car with another engine has got me thinking to buy it.

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.