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Muscular Barn Find: 1980 Trans Am

Firebird front 3

This Trans Am has “the look.” Not of an original factory muscle car from the “malaise” era, but of a teenage dream car from the late 1980s. Look at that stance: big deep dish Cragars and matching tires in the back, smaller wheels and tires out front give it that ready to road race look and feel. And of course those nice turned down exhaust tips.

Firebird engine

Open the hood and you do not see the original 301 turbo V-8 that Pontiac had developed to provide decent performance and gas mileage for the by now porky 1980 T/A. In true old fashioned hot rodder “I can build it better than the factory” form, this Trans Am is powered by a “worked” big block engine.

Firebird rear 3

This beautiful time capsule is found for sale here on craigslist in Shrub Oak, New York, a small town a couple hours north of New York City. It looks to be ready to rumble.

Firebird front

According to the seller, this Trans Am was put away in dry storage in 1993 after its owner passed away. In fact the car looks amazing, and the seller’s claimed original 34,000 miles might be accurate. The body is said to have some dings, as well as a scrape down the right side door.

Firebird shifter

As shown in the very clear pictures, the interior in extremely good condition. While no details about the engine or its build are provided, the seller does say it “runs very strong.”

Firebird interior

This car is incredibly attractive and very reasonably priced at $7900. Purists might prefer that it retained its original engine but I really like it as an example of an eighties era home built performance car.

Firebird door

It might not handle the way a stock T/A will do, but at least for me, it’s more fun just the way it is.

Firebird read close

Presumably, it will need a thorough refresh to be a safe and reliable driver, and you’d want to know more about the engine and its condition, but its overall rust free condition and clean interior will give the new owner a great start on a fun, collectible and highly driveable old car.

Firebird dash

In fact, I am surprised this car is still available for sale. Maybe a Barn Find reader will want to take this one for a test drive. If you’re interested in the 1980-81 Turbo Trans Am, there’s a complete and detailed story about them here.


  1. Avatar photo Stephen

    That solid front end treatment was, to me, the ugliest of any of the Trans Ams. The 70-73 split-nose and the 77-78 “Batmobile” noses were the most attractive.

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  2. Avatar photo Rob

    I had a 79 back in the day. Black and gold, 403 Olds auto. My wife (girlfriend back then) loved that car. She still gives me crap about getting rid of it.

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    • Avatar photo Gary I

      I currently have a nice 1979 TA with the 403. I have considered selling or trading it because I have had it for several years now. My wife loves driving it, and has so far talked me into keeping it. Maybe I will hold onto it for a while longer. With the prices going up on Trans Ams this seems like a fair price.

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  3. Avatar photo redwagon

    well if you were interested in a TURBO trans am you would be passing on this one. as with any swap condition and functionality is everything and it typically appeals to a narrower audience than an original condition vehicle.

    personally these did very little for me and i grew up in the era. a first gen firebird – yes, a second gen formula or ta – yes but any ‘bird beyond that doesn’t capture my attention.

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  4. Avatar photo Charles in TX

    Looks close to my first car!

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  5. Avatar photo DREW V.

    Overall a nice looking car but there are a few issuesthat in my eyes need to be addressed. First thing get rid of the Cragers, they look about as in place on this car as headlights on a covered wagon. Don’t get me wrong, I love Cragers but they are a period piece most suited for 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s cars, a set of 15 x 8″ WS6 snowflakes or the original “Turbo” rims would look better on this car, also return it to it’s original ride height/ The T/A was meant to be a road car not a drag racer. Enjoy it for what it was designed for…

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  6. Avatar photo jeff6599

    Please don’t call it a big block as it is not. All Pontiac blocks are the same size except for the 265 and 301s which are short decks. The 389s, 400s, 421s, 428s and 455s are all the same physical size; some just have bigger bores and/or longer strokes than others. No big blocks sold here!

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    • Avatar photo Blyndgesser

      I assumed the replacement wasn’t a Pontiac engine at all but a BBC.

      Like 1
    • Avatar photo Paul R

      Thanks for clearing this up Jeff.
      The 326 and 350 were also dimensionally the same size as the bigger inch engines. The 389 and up used a large journal crank. So Pontiac never made a small block or a big block.. Just a block!
      This car could have anything from a 326 to a 455 in it, block casting numbers are the only way to verify.

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      • Avatar photo Cedric T. Ellison

        Wrong – first at 421 we find large journal cranks

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  7. Avatar photo jeff6599

    The engine is shown in a photo. It’s a Pontiac

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  8. Avatar photo Rando

    A friend bought a Duster with this stance once. the PO had used 2 x 4s to get the rear “jacked up”… I remember those days semi-fondly.

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  9. Avatar photo Speedo

    I bought a new black, ’79 Turbo TA with the 6.6 liter, WS6 package, 4 speed, screaming chicken, etc.. I sold it with less than 10,000 miles. The kid that bought it promptly drove it flat out for 5 hours, pulled off the interstate and shut it off. He had the balls to complain to me that the Turbo locked up!

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  10. Avatar photo jeff6599

    Turbochargers were never installed by the factory on 6.5, 6.6 or larger engines. They came only on the 4.9 engine. Something is missing from your experience.

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    • Avatar photo Gary I

      Jeff6599 is right about the turbo! Maybe a 1980 301? Turbo

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  11. Avatar photo Speedo

    oops, Jeff is absolutely right, sold the ’79 to buy the ’80 turbo. What a horrible mistake, sold the ’80 less than a year after I bought it. The kid hated the ’80 also. :)

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  12. Avatar photo piper62j

    What the sam hill is that vacuum can doing in the engine compartment.. Disgusting..

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  13. Avatar photo jeff6599

    It may be making the car safer. Note that the brake booster vacuum hose runs to it and then back to the intake manifold. What you can glean from this is that the motor has a longer duration cam with enough overlap to make manifold vacuum marginal. He is enlarging his available supply to the power brakes to help stop that two ton bird. Hope the cam doesn’t make it too powerful that the available braking is adequate!

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  14. Avatar photo Darren

    Sure looks like a 400 poncho engine . The 301 turbo engines were true dogs . I did the same with my 81 . Would get some nice snow flakes and put wide tires of the same size in all 4 corners to make it ride nice.

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  15. Avatar photo jeff6599

    Have you read what has been said about all Pontiac V8s from 326 to 455 looking externally the same? There are some subtle differences if you are down below and behind the distributor or looking up from below the oil pan.

    Like 0

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