Under the Pines: 1988 Pontiac Trans Am GTA

I think we can all admit certain pictures of cars have an effect on us, especially if they are stored in impressively dusty or disastrous conditions. Somewhere near Santa Cruz this 1988 Pontiac Trans Am GTA is nestled under some pine trees and other plant species, where it’s apparently been for several years following the owner’s death. While likely only good as a parts car, it’s still fun to speculate about what future it may have. Find it here on craigslist or go here if the ad disappears.

This car has been stationary for a seriously long period of time. If it were in another part of the country that’s more tropical, like Florida, I would not even want to begin to think about what sort of critters had taken up permanent residence inside. Given areas like Santa Cruz tend to have more temperate climates, I still don’t want to think about the bugs and rodents that call this GTA home. Extra points to the seller who didn’t bother to clear this Trans Am off, and probably figured it was a good way to get featured on a site like this.

The options list is curious and the description makes it sound as if the GTA benefits from an engine / transmission swap. The chatter in the social media groups that have been passing this find around indicates that no GTA was equipped from the factory the way this one is, with an L98 and a 5-speed manual. The seller also refers to it as an “abandoned project” due to the owner’s passing, so it is likely a bit of a hodge-podge as opposed to a numbers-matching GTA. A soul far braver than me would have to clean out that interior.

I’m assuming the location means it is rust-free, but aside from that, this GTA will need an owner not afraid of finding a total loss. The seller is not offering any assistance, it seems, with extrication – bring your necessary garden tools and a means of hauling it if you’re serious. The trouble is, at this point the value is in the parts which would need to be verified to be in working condition before any deal can come together. Otherwise, knock $900 off the price so the next owner can get out from under if the drivetrain can’t be salvaged.


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  1. Gaspumpchas

    Geez—clean it off and take some pics….

  2. 86_Vette_Convertible

    They selling the car or the pine needles? Maybe if there’s some usable parts for someone, but that’s even uncertain.

  3. Miguel

    I wouldn’t expect the car to be rust free. The leaves and mulch will keep the moisture under the car.

    I would expect the whole underside to be gone.

    • Steve R

      You are right, Santa Cruz and most of the surrounding area are subject to almost daily to salty ocean fog. It’s as if the car is being dipped into a salty bath nearly every morning. It’s a parts car, even the seller thinks it is. That’s why he picked a price point low enough that it doesn’t matter if it’s buried under a pile of leaves and surrounded by thorny berry bushes.

      Steve R

      • Erica

        OK, you don’t like coastal California. From Del Norte in the north, to San Diego south end, we get some “marine layer”. Nothing, nothing like the road salt in the Midwest and Northeast. Is it Alturas or Lone Pine for humidity, no. But coast cars generally aren’t rotted from the inside out. Look at this exterior, not really so bad. Do I want this car? No, but some Camaro/Firebird/GTA dude in New Jersey does.

  4. Mr. TKD


    But it’s perfect fodder for a site like this.

  5. Larry Q

    If they gave me $1400…I might go pick it up…actually never mind..needs waaay to much landscape work

  6. DB


  7. Mountainwoodie

    This Leaf Find shtick is getting out of hand!

  8. Mike

    That’s not the way you compost.

  9. Adam T45 Staff

    When they say “rust free”, what they actually mean is that they won’t charge the buyer extra for all the (not inconsiderable) rust. And by the way: “Flawless condition” actually is code for the car not having any floor.

  10. Jwinters

    I think someone threw extra leaves all over it for effect.

    Like 1
  11. JohnM

    “In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines, and you shiver the whole night through…”

  12. Superdessucke

    W.T.H.?? A once proud ’80s street star completely sullied in most undignified fashion. Ugh! Ugh! Uggggh!!

  13. mike D

    I don’t see a good outcome for this T/A , but we may be fooled.. would love to see a follow up story, if there is one

  14. Clinton

    Call me crazy but I’d love to drag this car out and detail the crap out of it. It would be a blast for me to see how it turned out.

    • Rspcharger Rspcharger

      I’m on board with this idea, knock the price in half and I’d be all in.

  15. TJP

    Hmm maybe the opportunity for a couple of new terms here.

    Pine Find, Forest find, Foliage find ????
    The Barn find thing is getting a bit old and abused, LOL

  16. Andrew

    the owner was probably just trying to stop that red paint from oxidizing… ;)

  17. Buick Fan

    More like “In the Pines…”, Nirvana!

  18. Nova Scotian

    If the GTA was green, it would be lost by camouflage! Lol. I’d buy it for the curiosity of the hunt! Would be wild to imagine rolling this out and having to do minimal work, and K-BAM!…it starts! I’d even post it to barn finds just for the web-cred! Lol!

  19. Carrera51

    If this wasn’t 3000 miles away and could be had for under $1K , I would be tempted. I knew a girl in my college days that had a T/A like this that had a C4 Corvette 5.7L swapped into it and it was a fun car. Tried to buy it but her dad wouldn’t sell.

  20. Wayne

    The vehicles in Santa Cruz rust from the top down. Not from underneath. My ex-bin (Santa Cruz resident) took me over to look at an original owner VW type 2. It had to be the craziest rust job I have ever seen in terms of how and where the vehicle rusted through. ( I grew up in the Chicago area and thought I was a rust expert.) It would have been a great parts vehicle for someone with a dry desert ” burned up” shell. The mechanicals were good and the interior ok. But the rest was total tin worm left over. I have a parts SVO Mustang that is the same way from Lompoc CA.

  21. victor sanchez

    I had a GTA and I was told that GTA meant it had an automatic transmission, I might be wrong but, that’s what I was told when I bought it, also the stereo controls were on the steering wheel…

  22. RobfromTexas

    The A in GTA standing for automatic transmission is true for 1966 and 1967 Ford Fairlanes, but I’ve never heard of it about any other car. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong and I will learn something today.

    It is true, however, that very few car salesmen know what they are talking about.

  23. DG

    The term GTA, as in 3rd gen Trans Am, means nothing. They came standard with the L98 350 and 4 sp. auto. You could order a 5 speed manual, but that would mean getting a LB9 305 TPI mated to it.

  24. tommy


  25. Big Mike

    Everybody is talking about the rust because of the fog laden with salt. Think about what Pine sap does to a car, it is a natural sugar base produced from the pine trees, I can guarantee what you don’t see is any fiberglass or rubber will be roached.

  26. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    Extrication? extraction or excavation, all the same this looks like what was left after I cleared my home of the live Christmas tree and greenery around the house a few weeks back. Makes for a wonderful-smelling bonfire!

  27. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    Seller says “no tire kickers.” What a laugh…I can’t even see the tires!

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