One Owner, 73,000 Miles: 1986 Pontiac Trans Am

The 3rd Generation Pontiac Firebird represented a concerted attempt by Pontiac to return some of the lost performance that had hampered and strangled the 2nd Generation cars, as the manufacturer sought to reduce fuel consumption and comply with tightening emission laws. The result of this effort produced a Firebird that was not only the most aerodynamically efficient car that the company had built to that point but also managed to shave an impressive 500 lbs off the weight of its predecessor. In ensuing years Pontiac was able to extract increased performance from its engines due to improvements in electronic engine management technology, and this allowed the Trans Am to once again be a reasonable performer. You will find this 1986 Trans Am, the fruit of this hard work, listed for sale here on eBay. It is located in Annapolis, Maryland, and is offered with a clear title. At the time of writing bidding on this Trans Am had reached $2,500, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

This one owner Trans Am is quite a nice and honest looking car. It is refreshing to note that the owner is not making claims about outrageously low mileage, although the claimed 73,000 miles is still reasonably low for a vehicle of this age. The body and paint generally look quite good. There are few chips visible in the paint, but they aren’t major. Personally, I’d be far more cynical if the mileage was as claimed and the paint was flawless. I’d really question where the car had been driven if this were the case. When Pontiac launched its weight-saving programme with the Firebird, one of the areas that it focused strongly on was the rear hatch. They knew that the new car had to have a hatch, but they soon discovered that there were substantial weight savings to be made by using a one-piece glass hatch, rather than a hatch with a heavy metal frame.

The interior of the Trans Am is in quite nice condition, and there are few issues to even think about here. There is some stretching of the material on the passenger seat, and a few marks on the plastic trim, but otherwise, the interior looks good. When I look at a car and examine the mileage claims, the two areas that I always look at are the wheel rim and the pedals. The wheel looks to be free of major wear, while there is probably a bit more wear on the brake pedal than I would expect for a car of this mileage. Of course, if the car has clocked a high percentage of its miles in city or suburban traffic rather than freeway running, then this is to be expected.

Under the hood is the 5.0 liter LB9 V8 engine, which is backed by an automatic transmission. The LB9 produced 190hp, and while it was not as powerful as earlier Trans Am engines, the Tuned Port Injection made the car a bit more tractable and responsive than the engines of its predecessors. This car also features air conditioning, which is said to work well. The engine bay is also the source of some mystery to me. I can’t quite work out what is going on with the paint finish on the top of the radiator support panel. It looks for all the world like there is either some sort of odd finish to it, or the paint has come off in places, and there is some sort of surface corrosion there. I’ve never seen anything like it on a Trans Am of this era, so I went looking for images of ’86 Trans Ams, and can’t find any like it. Maybe one of our Barn Finders can enlighten me.

So, what’s it worth? The car does appear to be in nice condition, and the mileage is low without sounding ridiculous. The only issue that worries me is that paint one on the radiator support. Prices currently vary wildly on ’86 Trans Ams. I’ve found similarly equipped cars with similar mileage that have sold for $8,000. I’ve also found similar examples that have sold for $23,000. I’m going to “cop out” on this one. I guess it will sell for whatever someone is willing to pay for it.

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  1. Howard A Member

    It’s Dwight Schrute’s car from “The Office”.

  2. Lroy

    Plastic fantastic.If you keep it climate controlled they last long time. The average car baked in the sun don’t stand a chance. $8k only if you can store it in side.

  3. KawiVulc

    Yeah, weird… looks like it could be some sort of paint flaw. Also looks like the kind of thing they’d maybe take care of if they were really trying to hide something. Love the color, nothing really against black or red but this is just, well, better.

  4. Superdessucke

    7-8k I’d say. Also doesn’t have original rims.

    • triumph1954

      These wheels are original Pontiac.

    • Superdessucke

      Sure but not to a 1986 Trans Am.

  5. John francis Clemmons

    i had a 1986 Pontiac trans am last year and i made a huge mistake i traded it for a 1995 firebird with a 3.4 by and that was a really a huge mistake the 1986 the one i had was a better car more horsepower and more like a muscle car i really don’t like this car as good it needs to much work done to it too i should have kept my 1986 car forever a much better car then the 1995 i really regret this mistake that i made i want my 1986 trans am it was like the knight rider car just a much better car i made a big mistake and i am regretting it forever

  6. Jeepster

    is the roof cracked yet ?

    ( This should be the FIRST question to every 3rd generation F body “

    • SlickB

      Being a proud owner of one of these. you are so right! also some came with plastic tops and those would spiderweb if left in the sun
      fun fact

  7. Mrgoon

    I had this identical car backin the day and the paint under the hood appears to be a different paint or it was not clear coated.

  8. wuzjeepnowsaab

    GM had yuge paint issues in the late 80’s and 90’s. Lots of vehicles running around with paint peeled off and primer exposed.

  9. Maestro1

    Simply get in touch with the Seller and ask him/her what they want for the car. If it’s more than $5000.00, pass.

  10. JC

    Has hit reserve… 4999… not bad if it stays there.

  11. Wrong Way

    I must say that even for a ford guy of the senior generation, I liked this body style very much! Only thing that I see wrong, is a 5 speed manual would top it off! I don’t even know if they offered it then?

    • firemedic2714

      They did. I have a 92 T/A convertible with a 5 spd. IIRC, 1984 was the 1st year for the T5.

  12. 80s Time Traveler

    Nice example , well kept , GTA rims ,although not original look period , ws6 option showing on code tag, great value , nice to see it didn’t meet the fate of a lot of these , high schoolers

  13. ccrvtt

    Great-looking car. If it were mine the first thing I’d do is paint the wheel centers gold. Not a fan of tray spoilers but I suspect this one is factory. I would look for a wing/blade instead, painted body color. Interior looks just fine.

    I would also look to increase the power a bit while maintaining driveability. Overall, though, a very desirable car. Nice find.

    Bid is up to $5,600, should go higher.

  14. zipy

    Looks like rust inhibitor was used on the radiator support to hide rust??

  15. Bear

    I’ll bet the paint issue is actually rustproofing…I worked at a Pontiac store around this time and they would apply the rustproofing ( look by the windshield washer fluid tank it’s the same color) all over the engine compartment. A little later customers would clean under the hood with a “Gunk” type product and it would only remove some of it so it looks like that… Nice car

  16. #69pacecar Member

    I agree with zipy that it was probably rust proofed and the coating has worn off with the engine being worked on. My 83 firebird is the same thing.

  17. JoeNYWF64

    Even on current pony cars, they still use antiquated mac struts from the 80’s with those huge shock towers taking up so much underhood space.
    Why don’t they use tubular control arms with adjustable coil over shocks?
    I don’t get it. They are not expensive to fit even to a 1st gen!
    Even tho the back seat is more or less useless on this gen, at least it has hidden wipers, excellent visibility, no angry look, & no unnec cheap plastic around the side windows, unlike the current pony cars.

  18. Neal Stampley

    Not worth 8 grand, it needs some work. Although it looks decently solid

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