Possible Bandit Clone? 1980 Pontiac Trans Am

In the pony car world, Pontiac developed a reputation for offering respectable performance during The Malaise Era when all others had waved the white flag. However, even it couldn’t avoid the inevitable, with 1980 marking a significant turning point in the Trans Am’s history. There was no large-capacity engine available for the first time, with buyers limited to a maximum of 305ci. That is what we find hiding under the hood of this Pontiac, although the seller suggests performing upgrades to create a Bandit tribute. The Trans Am is listed here on eBay in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The seller set their No Reserve auction to open at $8,950, but there are no bids.

Let’s not beat about the bush; The Second Generation Trans Am developed a reputation for rust, and it is common to see them with problems requiring significant work. This 1980 model is an exception because its baked Fiero Bronze paint is a consequence of it spending its life in drier climes. It remained in California from the day it rolled off the line until a previous owner drove it into a Nevada barn in 2002. It only recently emerged, with its move from Nevada landing in another dry location. Therefore, this classic’s rock-solid nature is unsurprising. Its paint is pretty baked, but the only bodywork required will be for the buyer to repair the dent in the passenger-side rear quarter and any more minor bumps or bruises in other spots. The grinder and welder can stay in the cupboard for this build. Some plastic pieces might show some crazing, but it requires an in-person inspection to determine whether those items have deteriorated beyond salvation. Otherwise, the wheels look excellent, and the glass is crystal clear.

The 1980 model year sent some buyers into mourning as they realized they could no longer order a Trans Am with a 400 or 403ci V8 under the hood. If an eight was an essential part of the puzzle, they could choose the 301 in turbo or normally aspirated form or the 305ci Chevrolet V8. This car features that last option, sending 150hp to the rear wheels via a three-speed Hydramatic transmission. The original owner added a couple of desirable options, including power steering and four-wheel disc brakes. I’m sure nobody believed at the start of the 1970s that a V8 Trans Am would produce an 18-second ¼-mile ET, but this car made the unthinkable a reality. Rubbing salt into the wound, the vehicle would struggle to hit 105mph while gulping fuel at 12mpg. The seller says the car isn’t mechanically roadworthy, although they’ve commenced the process. They replaced leaking brake components, rebuilt the carburetor, changed the oil, and fitted a new battery. The vehicle starts and runs but requires further rudimentary maintenance before returning to its rightful place on our roads.

Apart from the missing wheel center and non-original radio/cassette player, this Trans Am’s interior looks complete. The seller praises its condition, and initial glances seem to support their opinion. The driver’s seat upholstery is damaged beyond repair, but the rest appears okay. The carpet is toast, and while the dash generally looks good, there is this crack left of the “Brake Release.” It may be repairable, but only an inspection can confirm that. Some of the plastic trim shows deterioration due to UV exposure, which is common on any classic from this era. It’s unclear what could be saved or what is now too brittle. Looking beyond the flaws, the original owner apparently craved their luxury touches. It helps explain the factory air conditioning, power windows, power locks, cruise control, tilt wheel, and rear defroster.

By 1980, it was blindingly apparent that the jig was up for the Second Generation Pontiac Trans Am. Tightening emission regulations made it inevitable, and these classics would soldier on for one more year before the company put the car out to pasture. Its successor would regain some lost performance through advanced aerodynamics. Still, many feel the Third Generation cars never captured the hearts and imaginations of buyers in the same way that these cars did. The seller suggests creating a Bandit clone, which is a viable idea. Alternatively, pursuing a restomod build could transform this classic into something genuinely unique, possessing the performance levels cars like this deserve. The No Reserve auction makes this tempting, but the lack of activity means that someone could potentially become its new owner with a single bid. That has to make this auction worth watching.


  1. Stan

    Èl bandìtos.

    Like 1
  2. Larry D

    I bought a new 1979 Trans Am in August of ’79. I’m not the type to buy a new car so late in the model year. And I was actually fishing at the Pontiac store to find out when the ’80 model T/As were coming out.

    So, I found a salesman and we began talking and when it was discussed about the ’80 T/A, he informed me of the bad/sad news. The big-engine T/As were gone. The ’80 would have a Pontiac 301.

    Well, no way I was going to buy one of those. So, I bought a ’79 WS6 T/A with the Oldsmobile 403 which was the necessary engine if you wanted an automatic. I didn’t care for the slush box myself but my wife at the time did want one. But anyway, the 403 was still better than having a 301.

    That dealer actually had a ’79 with a 301 in stock. A lot of people didn’t realize it was available in the ’79s and they credited some money back on the window sticker if you got one. I was one of those who didn’t know about that. He said that particular car had been on their lot for 6 months! Nobody wanted it. He offered me a hell of a deal to take it but I said, “Thanks, but no, thanks.”

    So, I left there that day, the proud owner of a Cameo White ’79 WS6 Trans Am. I loved that car.

    Like 7
  3. Vin_in_NJ

    Car sat in a storage barn for 12 years. I guess someone lost the keys and they had to punch out the ignition. Desert cars are great for preventing rust, but dry out every leather, vinyl, and rubber part on the car

    • Larry D


      Pick your poison.

      Like 1
  4. Anthony Caracausa

    If I’m wrong about this, people are free to prove me wrong…but this car looks to be a ’79, not ’80. The front end gives it away: The central breather under the hood is clearly a separate piece from the hood, for one (the breather was integrated into the hood in ’80); the design of the Thunder-Chicken decal is another giveaway; and, if this car’s engine is OE stock, that amounts to 5 liters, not the 4.9-liter turbocharged mill that was the standard for T/As in 1980. Unless the production decal or emissions decal states otherwise, I submit that this is a ’79…which could possibly be why nobody has placed a bid on it yet. Don’t get me wrong, I like the looks of the Trans Ams of ’79, ’80, and ’81…but as a car-spotter I just say that the M-Y of this car is incorrect, unless somebody can prove me wrong.

  5. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Can anyone venture a guess about the Vermont tags? From stories here on BF, I understand that VT is an easy place to title a car, but if the owner states they have a clean New Mexico title, then why these plates.

    Maybe that punched out ignition is telling us a story about this car’s past that the seller isn’t admitting.

    Too fishy = 0 bids with only hours left.

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