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Rare Convertible: 1981 Pontiac Trans Am Turbo

Here’s another to add to the list of formerly unbeknownst to me, a 1981 Pontiac Firebird TransAm convertible. I have encountered Gen-II “F” bodies that are topless but they were of the backyard, Sawzall variety, and certainly not professionally prepared. So for your viewing enjoyment, here is blacked-out, Smokey and the Bandit variety, can be found here on craigslist in Long Beach, California, and available for $10,000.

This 1981 example is the last year of the second generation Firebird and it is listed as having been parked for 30 years. There are only six images included in the listing, and none are very good, so I’ll do the best that I can with what has been provided. The seller claims that is Trans Am is one of only 300 convertibles produced with a 4.9 liter, turbocharged engine. Research indicates that a convertible body style was available by factory order, wherein the ordered car was shipped to a converter to handle the chore. I did find this brochure from American Convertible Corporation that would lend some credence to that scenario.

This example is not in the best of condition, there is road rash, scrapes, contusions, and some delamination occurring. The seller admits as much by stating, “Needs a lot of work“. He also offers to perform a full restore, at his shop, if a prospective buyer has an interest. The white canvas top is still in place, but being in the folded down position, it is impossible to render a judgment regarding its condition.

Under the hood is a 200 net HP, turbo-charged, 301 CI (4.9 liter), “Pontiac” V8 engine. I stress the fact that it is a Pontiac motor because 1981 was the end of the line for genuine Poncho V8 power and the 301 variety was it, there were no others. This powerplant, which is connected to a three-speed, automatic transmission, clearly has not run in many moons – it’s missing a lot of stuff.

The interior is pretty ragged, it would appear as if someone took full advantage of the convertible status and left the top down a little too often. The driver’s seat is shot and while it’s hard to view the rest, due to all of the detritus, what can be spied looks pretty weathered.

OK, so this a rare car, but rare in a good way? That’s debatable, the softnose Trans Ams (’79-’81), eschewed for years, have seen their value rise and the black “Bandit” treatment has helped with that ascension. As for the convertible version, that’s usually a good thing assuming that it has been properly facilitated at the outset – this one is definitely a conversation piece. The seller concludes with, “Please don’t waste time we are easy to get along (w)ith”. I have no idea what that is supposed to mean but $10K? That opening salvo may be the biggest obstacle to getting someone to spend any time on this Bird, much less waste it. What’s your opinion, do you see potential value here? After all, the seller does post a claim of, “if you know these cars you know what they are worth restored”.


  1. Mitchell Gildea Member

    Aside from the obvious issues here, I’d be worried how structurally sound the car is after being converted into a convertible

    Like 7
    • CCFisher

      If you look under one of these aftermarket convertible conversions, you will generally see reinforcements welded to the chassis. These companies usually didn’t have the resources to tool up custom pieces for their conversions, so it looks a little like a trade school welding project under there.

      Before you dismiss these conversions, consider that the first “factory” convertibles to be introduced in the 80s were built the same way. LeBaron, Mustang, Cavalier, Eldorado, Riviera, etc… all were built as coupes and converted by third party suppliers. But, to your point, all conversions are not equal and careful inspection is a good idea.

      Like 8
    • jerry hw brentnell

      did you know pontiac built and sold 6 trans am convertible first year firebirds, I saw one years ago at the barney pollard massive old car auction on livernois avenue in detroit .a neighbour hood I couldn’t wait to get the heck out of!, the firebird was new never licensed was part of mr pollards grandsons own car collection and not for sale

      Like 1
  2. Steve

    I usually like Trans-Ams, but this is a car that only a mother could love. Donate it to a highschool shop class. At least it will possibly get running again.

    Like 8
  3. Will Fox

    It’s “RARE” Because no one else was dumb enough to take the roof off of a GM F-body like these! I bet this thing squirms like a drunken rhino on the roads; IF it even runs. It’s junk; any value it had was gone when the backyard torch job took place.

    Like 12
  4. Claudio

    Myself, being a topless man i have always examined these cars , as well as cavaliers, k cars, sunfires , anything that was factory authorized
    I have crawler under many and yes , i have to say that some jobs were very amateur
    The mustangs were horrible with the riveted iron plates but all are very rare , the money value is hard to pin point but this one is obviously way over priced for its condition
    I wouldn’t pay over 3k …

    Like 4
  5. Maestro1 Member

    I think it’s interesting and overpriced. If the shop is negotiable, let them do the work as part of the negotiation. And I like CCFisher, would be concerned about
    the structural integrity of the vehicle.

    Like 2
  6. K

    Don’t walk away from this – RUN!

    Like 4
  7. Chief

    This junk is ready for the crusher!

    Like 1
  8. Walker

    One was once used in a I think an episode of dukes of hazzard.

    Like 0

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