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Bandit Edition: 1981 Pontiac Trans Am

Through the years, Pontiac routinely cashed in on movie magic, with special edition trim lines of the Trans Am to coincide with whatever Burt Reynolds was jumping over that year in the Smokey and the Bandit franchise. Earlier cars, just like earlier movies, tend to be more prized, as the Trans Am became increasingly neutered over time. This example here on eBay is a 1981 model with the turbocharged 301 and standard automatic transmission.

This example is located in Polk City, Florida, with a Buy-It-Now of $18,500 and the option to submit a best offer. Mileage is in the average range for these at 67,000, as many went into mothballs when new and later rolled out as time capsule examples with owners seeking a big payday. This Bandit edition, otherwise known as a Special Edition T/A, presents as a nicely maintained driver with the standard, non T-top roof.

The paint looks quite nice, as does the interior. The door panels present well, with no signs of warpage from the Florida sun or prolonged exposure to moisture. As the Trans Am’s muscle car prowess began to dwindle, so did sales, and reportedly only 5,263 Special Editions were sold in 1981. Gone were the days of the 6.6L V8; enter the turbocharged 4.9L 301, which made decent torque but had a reputation as being unreliable.

Regardless, the seller of this example says the Trans Am is still plenty quick, and it responds well to driver inputs which include the ability to adjust boost levels from the cockpit. Now, it’s described as a “factory feature”, but I’m struggling to find anything other than aftermarket controllers online – can any T/A experts confirm? Underside photos show a super clean car with no evidence of rust, which may make this a Bandit worth owning. Would you invest in a turbo’d 301 or hold out for the 6.6L?


  1. Arthell64

    In my option when the gov force GM to discontinue the Pontiac 400 in 1979 they killed the T/A.

    Like 5
    • Arthell64

      I got to turn off spell check. Should be opinion not option but I know you guys know this:

      Like 4
  2. al8apex

    there were no “boost controllers” available from GM, but the boost lights had switches on the console under the front edge of the lid … probably someone unfamiliar with the model making that assumption …

    Like 0
  3. al8apex

    the turbo boost light switch was indeed 3 way, high, low and off … NOTHING to do with the turbo boost, only related to the brightness of the lights on the back edge of the hood scoop


    Like 2
  4. LARRY

    I love these T/As..but whatever happened to snowman’s tractor and trailer…its off topic yeah.

    Like 5
  5. Mike leyshon

    Very beatiful car no matter the engine and the turbo dummy lights ! Just cruise and enjoy the looks you get. It’s an Icon ! I’m pushing 50 y/o and ‘somewhat’ mature now. I don’t feel the need to prove anything or get frustrated trying ! There will always be a car faster than yours…

    Nice submission

    Like 9
  6. Don H

    Thumbs up👍👍👍

    Like 4
  7. Marko

    Car looks pretty good, but where has the inspection cover on the trans / torque converter gotten to, and PLEASE put the Formula splitter exhaust tips back on. The Camaro style exhaust does not look right.

    Like 2
  8. JoeNYWF64

    Could you get blackwall tires on a t/a in ’81? All i seen back then had raised white letter tires – now insanely expensive, unlike back then!
    Blackwalls look ok here on a black car with those wheels, but not with rally 2s IMO. Ironically, today’s much less expensive H rated tires perform better than S rated BFG RWLs.
    I prefer the smaller more aggressive looking hood bird from ’73-77.
    Non std exhaust extensions here – originals probably expensive too.
    Surprised a florida car would be fitted with an aftermkt cat converter.
    I guess you can not put true duals on a turbo t/a?

    Like 0
  9. Tony S

    Wonder what a 1977 Trans Am black on black with T-Tops and 400 cu in engine with a Turbo 400 transmission is worth? 57K miles on it and has excellent paint and interior. Also has the gold trim grille and honeycomb gold wheels.

    Like 0
    • JoeNYWF64

      No t/a(or z28) after ’74 came with a factory turbo 400 automatic, because of the big wide cat converter used – the bigger turbo 400 would not fit! Rather, a turbo 350 was fitted.
      I believe the factory turbo 350 was never stout enough to be fitted to a GM car with a 454 or 455 engine – that’s why, for ex., the 455 in the cat converter equipped late ’75, & ’76 t/a s could only be had with a manual trans.

      Like 1
  10. Scott

    Nice car. I have a black 79. Had a black 78 but sold it stupidly. This one has older snowflake wheels. The 15×7 I think. This being a turbo car it should have the 15×8 turbo wheels

    Like 1

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