80 Mile Pace Car: 1989 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am

The turbocharged Pontiac Trans Am Pace Cars are among the most storied GM performance models to come out in the last 30 years. Of course, GM’s turbocharged lineup was a story in and of itself, as they were severely underrated by the factory so as not to pillage Corvette sales. Today, they represent one of the few 1980s GM models that have rocketed up in value, with many examples kept under wraps remaining in excellent condition with few, if any, alterations from stock. Still, few are as original as this 80.2 mile example listed here on eBay where bidding is over $55,000 with the reserve unmet.

The color combination is one of my favorites, featuring white paint with gold accents and gold-painted crosslace wheels. The rear taillight panel was tinted and a rear deck spoiler was added. The seller notes this is Pace Car tribute number 822, and unlike many pace car replicas, the turbo Trans Ams still offered consumers very real performance. Oftentimes, the pace car tributes sold to consumers were barely warmed over versions of the standard car, featuring some additional graphics and cosmetic add-ons, like a commemorative plaque or some stickers. Fortunately, in this instance, the chosen pace car was already a formidable performer out of the box.

The turbocharged 3.8L V6 dished out 250 b.h.p. and 340 lb.-ft. of torque. The seller includes a fun anecdote in the listing that engineers from GM actually loaded the hatch with sandbags while en route to a factory performance evaluation against a Corvette, so as not to to rattle the cages of head honchos who wanted to see the Corvette remain the dominant performance car in the lineup. Of course, those plans went to heck once the road test magazines got their hands on the car and realized just what a monster it was. The legend was born, and many owners will tell you that the car’s potential still impresses today.

A friend of mine has one of these turbo Trans Ams in similar condition, albeit with mileage not quite as low (I think his has a little over 10,000 miles.) In addition to the obvious ways this Trans Am was a crowd pleaser, the interiors featured deeply sculpted leather bucket seats with matching saddle carpets and floormats. The instrumentation and console were standard Trans Am fare, so nothing too exotic there. This example shows virtually no wear-and-tear, as you’d expect, and it will likely continue on as a trophy in the next owner’s garage. Is it likely the lowest mileage Trans Am Pace Car example in existence?

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Comments

  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    Sad to see cars like this with only 80 miles on it.
    How could you enjoy it without driving it?
    I wonder how much the owner’s paid for insurance
    on this in the last 31 years?

    Like 12
    • Superdessucke

      I will absolutely guarantee that his ROI will be way lower than if he’d have put the original purchase price in a mutual fund. That’s why storing a car like this is pointless, IMO. Enjoy the car for what it is. If you aren’t going to drive, there are better spots for the money than a car.

      I got into a somewhat related debate of how a Civic Type-R was a better “investment” than my current Veloster N. My response was essentially “who cares?” The Veloster was way cheaper to buy, a car isn’t an investment, and I’m going to drive the wheels off the thing anyway! For investment, I put money in a mutual fund and 401k.

      Like 12
      • Curtis

        I posted the same reply on Twitter when I saw this……if this car was an “investment” it was a very bad choice & I’m a TA fan owning a 79 my best friend had back in the 80’s along with an 88 I owned for over 20 years. This poor car wasted away & not likely to be driven much…….

        Like 1
  2. alphasud Member

    He created a shrine around this car. Im of the same opinion that cars are meant to be driven not garage queens. It will be sold to another curator and not appreciated.

    Like 12
    • Keith

      Yeah I agree with alphasud, the dude built a shrine around his car and probably has a hefty reserve. Nice shrine car to look at but bad investment if driven. Lastly 250 HP these days is lacking compared to what is produced today.

      Like 4
    • Chris M.

      Yet appreciation comes in various forms. There are some who can appreciate items of value without ever using them for their engineered purpose. As for me, I wouldn’t own a car that I couldn’t drive.

      Like 6
  3. Claudio

    Wow
    This is a beauty!
    80 miles would have been less than my first drive in one of these back in 89
    The tires would have been torched and my crazy , harsh, dangerous driving technique of the time would have brought curb rash and a few bent suspension parts , its a good thing it was NOT mine !
    I savagely took care of a few others …

    Like 2
  4. e55993

    Of course, everyone has different reasons for buying a non-daily driver car, but I think that they can generally be boiled down to two basic categories: Fun or Investment. With only 80 miles in 29 years, one would be hard pressed to say that the seller’s objective was Fun, thereby suggesting that seller’s objective was investment (buy it, park it and wait for frenzied bidding by crazy would-be purchasers throwing money at him/her for the privilege of owning an amazingly low mileage collectible. So, was it a good investment for the Seller? Let’s assume that the owner bought it in 1989 and paid approximately $32,000 which was close to the sticker price and the car sells 29 years later for, say, $65,000. That equates to an imputed return on investment of about 2.3% per year!

    Of course, that is without taking costs of ownership like insurance or other ongoing minor maintenance costs that even a static car would require. Yes:
    2.3%!

    On 9/22/1989, stock in Microsoft (MS) closed at $.29 per share. Yesterday, it closed at $207.00 per share. Not including the stock splits and dividends during that 29-year hold period (and I believe there were several), the imputed return on investment for MS during that same period is about 23.6% per year. That means that if he had taken the same $32,000 and invested it in MS stock in 1989, it would be worth over $22,000,000 today! Now that’s fun – even though you can’t drive stock!

    Like 9
    • Chris M.

      Although stock prices do get “driven” lol

      Like 4
    • Racer-X

      Did you buy MS stock in 1989?

      Like 1
  5. CCFisher

    I just don’t understand the appeal of buying a car like this and not using it. The only thing that separates this car from an ordinary Firebird or Trans Am is its performance, and this one never got a chance to perform. It’s not a good investment – $30K invested in 1989 would be worth over $150K today based on the DJ average. Someone put a tremendous amount of effort and money to preserve and display this car, with only a bunch of cheap trophies to show for it, and some fool will pay big money to do the same thing.

    I’m far more impressed by a car that has been driven, enjoyed, and lovingly cared for. My ’11 Mustang GT has 41,000 miles on it, and it looks like new inside and out. Every time I start it up, the sound of the exhaust flows through me like electricity. Nothing puts a smile on my face like driving it does. I would hate to miss out on that, just to preserve it for the next owner.

    Like 3
  6. Murray Shane

    Come on guys…..to some people it’s a piece of art. Like collecting a painting. Love to look at it and display it and talk about it when it is trailered you shows for display. I have always been particular about when I would drive one of my cars and worried about putting miles on them. But I loved having them. Now that I have enjoyed that phase of owning and enjoying just having them I bought some cars recently that I decided to have, cherish and drive on weekends heather permitting. So being on both sides of the fence there is great pleasure owning these cars for whatever reason someone decides what brings them pleasure during ownership. I never hear anyone dogging all these beautiful automotive classic car museums that display such beautiful cars for all to visit and see. Is their really any difference here? I am personally happy to see something as beautiful and original as the day it was new and hear the story behind it. Sometimes the history behind the car is cooler that the car itself. But that’s just me.

    Like 8
    • CCFisher

      This isn’t a classic, and it isn’t in a museum, so there is a big difference. There’s really no story behind it, either. Someone bought it just to put it away. That person missed out on the best part of owning this car. You can spin it any way you like, I still find it sad.

      Like 4
    • James Smith

      Thank you. You get it…I am the same.

  7. Murray Shane

    Come on guys…..to some people it’s a piece of art. Like collecting a painting. Love to look at it and display it and talk about it when it is trailered to shows for display. I have always been particular about when I would drive one of my cars and worried about putting miles on them. But I loved having them. Now that I have enjoyed that phase of owning and enjoying just having them I bought some cars recently that I decided to have, cherish and drive on weekends weather permitting. So being on both sides of the fence there is great pleasure owning these cars for whatever reason someone decides what brings them pleasure during ownership. I never hear anyone dogging all these beautiful automotive classic car museums that display such beautiful cars for all to visit and see. Is their really any difference here? I am personally happy to see something as beautiful and original as the day it was new and hear the story behind it. Sometimes the history behind the car is cooler that the car itself. But that’s just me.

    Like 1
    • Max

      You can say that again!

      Like 5
  8. Keith

    I ordered one of these and after 6 months of waiting it was in my driveway. After 500 miles off to caked off a 13:60 first time down. Put a flow master muffler and a Strip chip in it and on the next runs were solid high twelves. Now add traction with a set of slicks and low to mid twelves every run. Car was scary fast with a top end approaching 200 MPH. Amazing power that when that V6 was done right would eat Hellcats for lunch.Glad to see them finally getting some money out of them. Sticker was $31,223. with the two options leather and T-Tops.

    Like 7
  9. Frank

    Right on Keith! Glad you got to enjoy your car. I was going to buy one but was outbid so had to rely on the Grand Nationals.
    It’s still amazing what they get out of the buick V6 platform there is some of them that are still streetable and capable of 8 second or lower quarter mile times.

  10. Superdessucke

    If anyone’s interested, he need to clear $65,446.93 to break even if he paid MSRP. That excludes sales tax paid back then and storage and insurance charges incurred since ’89. Currently, I pay about $550/year for Haggarty insurance for my ’97 M3, that’s another $16,500 he’ll need to break even on that if he paid a similar rate. So the true “break even” point is certainly well north of $80,000!

  11. Vin_in_NJ

    Considering the muscle cars that came before it that paced the Indy 500, this was the first pace car that needed no mechanical modifications to lead the field. Al they did was add lights and safety harnesses.
    Sad that those 80 miles were probably on and off car carriers to and from car shows

    Like 1
  12. Mark

    In 2004 I moved to South Georgia, Valdosta, and was a mail carrier. I came upon an identical car with the same exact miles and a carport that was only available from a back ally drive. It was the same year with 80 miles and it was dusty but brand new and unused. The original owner bought it for his wife who died shortly after the purchase. He ended up having an eye disease and lost his site shortly after his wife passed. That’s why the car sat in the carport. He purchased an extra set of decals but never even installed the original ones on the door. He also purchased an original extra set of ram air plastic tubing under the hood. All of this was in the factory General Motors boxes. I heard around 2010 or so that he sold the car to a man whose dad owned a car dealership in a neighboring town. This has to be the same car.

    Like 7
    • Superdessucke

      The paperwork shows that the car was sold by a dealer in Mt. Clemens, MI to a person who lived in Toledo, OH. A google search seems to show that the buyer was the founder of Detroit Auto Brokers.

      The undercarriage is awfully clean and rust free for a car stored under a carport for 21 years. Me thinks that a more likely story is that the broker probably sold it to a wealthy customer who put it in literal bubble wrap.

      I’m not doubting what you saw. But many of these got salted away and still have delivery miles on them. So the odds that this is the same vehicle are pretty slim.

  13. Don

    Correct me if im wrong 🤔
    I think i read the 89 turbo trans am pace car to date in 1989 was the first car that did not need to be modified for pace car use on track . the engine + brakes + handling were adequate to run as a pace car right off assembly line..
    I drove 2 of these models + very impressed with performance + handling.
    Good luck to the winner drive it have fun.

    Like 1
  14. Phil Detweiler

    This was the only occasion where this engine was installed into a platform that could do it justice (a Regal Grand National was an absolute blast to drive, but that engine was far more capable than was the G-body platform on its best day).

    What a shame that this one wasn’t enjoyed.

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