Live Auctions

54k Original Miles: 1981 Pontiac Trans Am

By 1981, sales of Pontiac’s Second Generation Firebird had collapsed dramatically. The figures were largely driven by the knowledge that a completely new model was waiting in the wings, motivating buyers to delay their purchase to ensure they parked the latest and greatest in their driveway. Our feature car is one of the last of those Second Generation vehicles that is remarkably well preserved. It presents superbly and features enough options to ensure its next owner has a comfortable classic motoring experience. You will find the Trans Am listed for sale here on eBay in Elma, New York. Bidding has raced to $30,100, although that figure remains short of the reserve.

I’ve always professed a soft spot for the Second Generation Trans Am. Pontiac nailed the styling, and it remained fresh and sharp even towards the end of its production life. One of the secrets during the last years of production was the company’s decision not to plaster its panels with garish makeup in the form of stripes and graphics. I admit the Screaming Chicken was hardly subtle, but by the time this car rolled off the line, it was an integral and iconic part of the Trans Am package. Beyond that, the Trans Am decals were subtle and restrained. This car wears its original Code 77 Autumn Maroon, with the seller describing the paint condition as 8.5/10. No significant flaws or issues are visible in the supplied photos, and the decals look crisp. The paint holds a deep and pleasing shine, with the original 15″ wheels offering a striking contrast. The panels are straight, and the underside shots reveal this as a rust-free survivor. The Trans Am features a glass T-Top, which shows no evidence of faults or leaking seals.

The seller describes this Trans Am’s interior as 10/10, and there’s no doubt it looks stunning for a vehicle of this type and age. The only fault they note is some wear on the seatbelts from regular use. The Deluxe Camel cloth seat upholstery is free from apparent defects, the carpet is excellent, and there are no signs of cracked or crumbling plastic. There are no aftermarket additions, which is a bit of a rarity. It was common for the factory radio to make way for an aftermarket stereo, but this car hasn’t suffered that fate. The original owner ordered the car with air conditioning, power windows, cruise control, a rear defroster, a tilt wheel, and an AM/FM stereo radio.

Undoubtedly, most American cars had lost their performance edge by the end of the 1970s, and Pontiac’s Trans Am was no exception. This car features a 301ci V8 that produces 150hp. The power feeds to the rear wheels via a three-speed automatic transmission, while it also comes equipped with power assistance for the steering and brakes. If the buyer points this survivor at the ¼ mile, the journey will take a leisurely 18 seconds. Considering the least potent auto-equipped version of the 1971 Trans Am could complete the same trip in 14.2 seconds, you begin to gain an insight into the impact of tightening emission regulations on performance figures. The listing indicates this Pontiac has 54,000 miles on the clock, although the seller doesn’t mention evidence verifying it as genuine. They include the original Build Sheet, Window sticker, and Owner’s Manual. Therefore, I wouldn’t rule out the presence of that evidence. They indicate the exhaust is new and that it runs and drives well. It is a turnkey classic where the buyer could fly in and drive it home.

In 1979, Pontiac sold 211,453 Firebirds. Of those, 117,108 were the iconic Trans Am. Two years later, those figures had dropped to 70,899 and 33,493. Many have since succumbed to hard living and severe rust problems, making our feature car a refreshing find. I’m not prepared to describe it as perfect, but its condition is well above average for an original and unmolested survivor. The bidding has climbed beyond the current market average, but it seems justified. It will be fascinating to monitor this auction to see where the bidding lands when the hammer falls. It will also be interesting to see whether any of our readers are tempted to make a play for this gem.


  1. RoughDiamond Member

    This a beautiful T/A, but there is nothing like putting your foot into a W72 Poncho 400 motor coupled to a Borg-Warner Super T-10 4-speed transmission.

    Like 9
  2. OldSchool Muscle

    I always liked these .For me if i was never going to sell Id yank the motor
    store it away drop in a 400 or 455 and beef up the rear and tranny , have a blast nice color combo..

    Like 6
  3. Tony Primo

    This is a sharp colour combination. My 1981 Camaro Z28 was equipped the same way. Not too common to see everyday.

    Like 4
  4. Dave, Australia

    Looks like a fish scale dash?, beautiful

    • Robbie R.

      Dave, that was the standard dash for all TAs. It was called “machine turned” dash. Looks like metal, but is just plastic/foil. Gold color for SE models, silver for all the rest.

      Like 1
  5. Ike Onick

    Due south of Buffalo. Stop and get some strawberries along the way there.

  6. Robbie R.

    Just looked at the ebay photos. T-tops are aftermarket known as C&C (Cars & Concepts), not factory Fisher tops. Some people like them, some don’t. But they don’t add as much value as Fisher since not original equipment.

    Like 1
  7. Karl

    Beautiful TA in every way except that completely lame worthless engine, that would be GONE!
    Good catch on the cars & concepts T-tops treat those tops very very gently because there are very few left and the prices have skyrocketed according!

    Like 1
    • Robbie R.

      Exactly right Karl. As I understand it, parts for C&C are scarce. Car color and interior are beautiful, but the 301 engine is a big negative for value. It would be a fun cruiser though.

      Like 1
  8. Dave

    It’s a shame there aren’t companies still making aftermarket T-Tops. The world is a better place when viewed through them…

    Like 2
    • Robbie R.

      Dave,yes, it would be. I’m a member of several TA groups on Facebook. I’ve never seen an ad for any current trim/body shops that do “new” installations. The most common way now of putting t-tops onto a car without them is to find a donor car in a salvage yard, and swap/graft the roof(s).

      • Dave

        Robbie that would be time and effort well spent. I don’t even glance twice at F-bodies without T-Tops. Personally it ads desirability and from what I see on the market, it adds value. Of course there’s that subset out there who scream “they leak” but not with new weatherstripping and besides, who would drive a nice example in the rain or take it thru a car wash anyways?

        Like 1
      • Robbie R.

        Dave – Nailed it.

  9. joenywf64

    Ist time i seen optional chrome(why chrome & not black like all other moldings?) side window roof drip molding A N D t-tops – the latter delete the most useful TOP portion of the drip moldings. Ridiculous. & a sneaky way for Pontiac/dealers to have made more money.
    Ever see a ’76 – ’78 with both factory options? I haven’t.

    Why replace the entire exhaust system with such low miles? Could be an issue with the CARB if the new owner is in Calif. & it won’t help a 301 much either. lol

    That revised master cyl – can i assume the upper portion is plastic see thru to make it ez to ck the brake fluid level? I wonder if it’s possible working under the hood to accidentally knock it off the metal housing below it

  10. Karl

    I had an 78 Camaro Rally Sport absolutely beautiful car and it had C&C T-Tops and they were beautiful also. I wanted to run the car at the strip once in awhile so I build a stout 377 SBC for the engine dynoed at 526 HP at 7100 RPM had very good Dart heads and a full roller setup in the motor. I went to pre stressed welded in subframe connectors and I went up to a 456 rear gear with a limited slip. The problem I couldn’t get rid of was body flex at launch it would pick up the passenger side front tire almost 3″ and the cause of all this flex was the extremely weak roof because of the T tops. And I blew a top off once going down the track at it was about 800.00 for just that side and that was 25 years ago!

  11. Kathy H

    I had a metallic brown one. Same interior, no T tops.

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