Factory Turbo: 1980 Pontiac Trans Am

Andrew TannerBy Andrew Tanner

Though these aren’t the rarest cars out there, they certainly aren’t common! With only 30,053 turbo 301 Trans Ams produced between 1980 and 1981, the remaining number is surely a fraction of that. Truthfully, it wasn’t until I saw this turbo Trans Am that I was really made aware of that being an option! Perhaps once easy to find, a car like this is sure to draw a crowd of younger enthusiasts at any event. This example reportedly has only 25,499 actual miles and can be found here on eBay in New York with a Buy It Now price of $19,500.

What makes this car unique is this turbocharged 301 Pontiac V8. At a glance, it may not look like anything out of the ordinary. After looking for a little longer, it is clear that there is something unusual on the passenger side of the engine! That is a Garrett TBO-305 turbocharger hiding beside that 800CFM Quadrajet carburetor. This carburetor was specific to the 301. A 60 psi oil pump keeps the turbo lubricated, and the 301 Turbo has a stronger block than the naturally aspirated 301s. This particular 301 has been rebuilt with less than 100 miles on it since. I can’t help but wonder why with such low miles, unless perhaps it was a preventative measure.

For 25,499 miles, this Pontiac does not show well. Though it has ¬†been sitting for 30 years, one can only assume that the person who put most of the miles on this car was a little rough on it! The armrest and seat both show wear and age, as does the carpet on in the driver’s side footwell.Though it may clean up well, it’s a shame it isn’t nicer! More information on the history of this car would be nice, as much of it looks like low miles and much of it looks like not-so-low miles.

As if this Trans Am wasn’t already cool enough, it has what is evidently a pretty rare option: an overhead console sound system. Though this isn’t the greatest picture, it looks like this console is full of fun knobs and adjusters for prime stereo sound. If this doesn’t scream “1980s GM” then I don’t know what does! This is a very cool option and a great conversation starter. Wearing its original paint and a non-original set of Hurst wheels, this Trans Am is looking for a new owner to give it the love it deserves! I would be torn between driving it and showing it, if the low mileage can be verified. What would you do?

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  1. Jim M

    Not exactly a rare factory option. That’s a Panasonic Cockpit stereo. They made them in two versions, this looks like the cheaper model. Installed a lot of them back in the 80’s!

  2. Andre

    Know nothing about these but my initial reaction is that seems like an awful lot of heat up near the carburetor.

  3. Alan B

    This car has to be at least 125k miles. There is no way that carb and the rest of the car could look this bad unless it had been driven.


    For GM to make 30,000 of anything may be rare. But a 301 Turbo Trans Am is still a slug. Unusual is the fact that the Turbo and carb has been changed. Adding a bigger Garrett turbo on a stock motor and driving it like you stole it means another new motor @ 30K miles. If I had to have one (a Turbo T/A) I would just pay less for the Pace car edition. Just more curb appeal.

    But a more rare and much faster car and a lot less money my choice would be an SRT4. Chrysler only made a little over 20,000 of them in three years. Most have been modded and ran into the ground. Making it a future blue chip collectible that your kids would hope you would leave to them now

    • Andrew Tanner Andrew Tanner Staff

      Actually, the Garrett turbo and 800CFM carburetor are factory on 301s! I think you’re right about the SRT4 though.

      • EJB

        Just don’t call an SRT4 a Neon. I had a SRT4 owner read me the riot act once. He got pretty heated about but it.

        The car was cool the owner was not.

  5. Steve R

    If the sellers claims about mileage and the length of time it spent in storage are true then it appears to have led a really rough life. There is an awful lot of surface rust on the drivers side control arms and exhaust manifold as well as the bottom of the passenger door in picture #13. It would be hard to justify spending that much money on this car. You would be better off with a 400 4 speed Trans Am that’s a few years older.

    Steve R

    • Andrew Tanner Andrew Tanner Staff

      I agree, it looks rough for the claimed mileage!

    • Jim Biasella

      I definitely agree. You can buy an early model in this shape for the same money. And when you put some money into it you’d really have something.

  6. Chris Kennedy

    I am suspect higher miles as the seats look awfully worn and that center console looks like a lot of elbow grime from “leaning”… The turbo looks pretty scaley too! Neat car.

  7. Gear Head Engineer

    First thought when I saw the lead photo: those Hurst wheels are worth more than the car.

    That overhead console stereo is interesting. I’ve never seen one before. Great period option.

    Looks pretty beat for that alleged mileage. But these cars looked beat pretty quickly back when this was made.

    – John

    • Steve R

      Original Hurst wheels may be worth more than the car, but not the contemporary ones littering the Internet starting at just over $100 each.

      Steve R

  8. craig sibert

    Yes these cars were not fast at all and hard to modify,better off with older trans am all show no go

    • Clint

      There was a guy in high school that had one of these (new at the time). He wanted to race everyone because “it has a turbo”. Pretty sure he was only able to beat a Datsun B310 & a Corolla.

      This was the late 70’s & early 80’s when musclecars were still taboo. There were 4 SS Chevelles alone at my school…and one was an LS-6 (re-powered by a 400 sb). Most of the kids had hotrods & this wan’t one of them.

    • tony bellissimo

      Car was a slug looked nice but was very slow

  9. Patricia Pendley

    Pontiac at its lowest point. Worse T/A ever built. The one I owned made 47000 mile before head gasket failure. Common with these engines. Asking way to much for a 5000 dollar car when you can find 400s 455s or even a underpowered 403 for a lot less then their dream price.

  10. Michael Proulx

    I own a 1980 S&B Y84 , WS6 , I bought it in WV in 2004 from original owner completely in tact . It still only has 59,000 miles on it , I was taken off the road in 1986 , put under a car cover and there it sat till 2004 . It ran , only thing wrong was the oil seal in the turbo was bad , it smoked like a freight train . The car was completely surfaced rusted , it now lives with a built 1972 455 H.O. and a 4 speed , I sometimes wish I would have kept the 301 engine in it.

  11. John

    Junk engine sorry it would be out and a 400 in. That engine is trash

  12. Rock On

    Even the 403 Olds would smoke the 301 Turbo.

  13. waldon herdman

    Seat wear, console lid wear, etc… 25,000 miles…no

  14. Wrong Way

    Not a BARN FIND, ?

    • AMCFAN

      Well said. Been saying that all week. WTF!

  15. Tommy D

    Late model T/A, needs to be a W72!

  16. Rolf Poncho 455

    my friends 1800cc normal aspirated opel gsi smoked hes 301 turbo trans am


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