Ratty T/A: 1980 Pontiac Trans Am Indy Pace Car

For some, this car may take the term “patina” a little too far. But make no mistake, the seller knows this is a Ratty T/A.  It even says so across the windshield.  With an asking price of $7,500, this 1980 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am Pace Car is for sale in St. Johns, Florida and can be seen here on Facebook Marketplace.  Now before you hit delete, there is more to this car than first meets the eye. The seller had installed new floorboards and rebuilt the brakes and suspension including 2″ lowering Eibach springs, poly bushings, tie rods, etc.

The stock suspension, when new, was already one of the best handling cars on the market with the famed WS6 suspension and 4 wheel disc brakes. The top engine for the Trans Am in 1980 was the turbocharged 4.9 liter (301 cubic inch) engine. Pontiac engineers knew the day of the big cubic inch mill was numbered so they made a good attempt at replacing the W72 400 (220 hp) engine from the prior year with a turbocharged small displacement engine.  In 1980,  the 4.9-liter engine was rated at 210 hp and 345-foot pounds of torque.

On paper, this engine was comparable to the 1979 W72 400 Pontiac engine but in reality, it wasn’t much of a performer. The quarter-mile times of the 1979 W72 engine ranged from 14.6 to 15.3 seconds whereas the 1980 turbo engine produced much slower quarter-mile times ranging from 16.2 to 16.8 seconds in published articles. Turbo engines only came with automatic transmissions so off the line, they are slow until you get into the turbo is spinning fast enough to create boost. This car is one of 5,700 Indy Pace Car replicas sold in 1980. The 1980 Trans Am was appointed as the official pace car of the 64th annual Indianapolis 500 on May 25, 1980 which included a fully optioned car with a special gray and white houndstooth interior and decals.

The turbo 4.9-liter engine was based on the 301 cubic inch Pontiac engine introduced in 1977 that was designed to be lighter and provide improved fuel mileage. The turbo engine was strengthened with a reinforced block, high-pressure oil pump, baffled oil pan, 10 psi fuel pump, 800 CFM Rochester carburetor, forged pistons, and an oil-cooled Garrett turbocharger.  The press cars were tuned to produce 9 psi of boost. However, most turbo Trans Ams and Formulas left the factory detuned to 5 to 7 psi of boost.

I have personally owned several 1979 W72 cars and currently own a 1980 Indy Pace car like this one.  Mine is a 60k mile car that has a few upgrades done by TTA Performance including a manual boost controller, water-alcohol injection, 1.65 rockers and a 2.5″ downpipe with the tuned exhaust. These mods really wake up the car and make it comparable to the W72 400 in the mid-range. In 1980, Pontiac also introduced the Electronic Spark Controller (ESC) which used a sensor to retard timing when detonation occurred. Poor gas in the 1980s was blamed for sluggish performance but the car could have benefited from fuel injection, a 4-speed transmission and an intercooler.

1980 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am Pace Cars typically sell for $18,000 to $22,000 depending on condition and mileage. This car could be driven as is or be used as a starting place for a complete build. The more you stare at it, the more appeal it has.  Regardless, you can’t say it doesn’t have patina!  Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

  • Asking Price: $7,500
  • Location: Saint Johns, Florida
  • Mileage: 99,951
  • Title Status: Clean

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  1. William Shields

    I’m just really confused. How does someone take what is a rare car when it is new and let it end up in this shape?

    Like 5
    • Steve R

      That statement could be made about many 1960’s era muscle cars. The idea of limited edition and collectors edition cars like this Pace Car didn’t kick into high gear until the late-1970’s. Based on the variety of undesirable cars plastered with tacky stickers and gaudy paint jobs, which all happen to be “rare”, it’s a trend that has largely run its course. It’s like Franklin mint collectors items, most are only valuable to the person the bought them new.

      Steve R

      Like 7
    • MJF

      Exactly what I was thinking , what a turd car..
      Nothing is nice about this car.. I think the price is way off

      Like 3
  2. Ike Onick

    The title is apparently the only clean thing on this car. The buyer will own this forever if they go $7500.

    Like 7
  3. UK Paul 🇬🇧

    It does look great (the patina).

    Like 2
  4. Arby

    Looks like somebody burned the chicken.

    Like 9
  5. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    I know a lot of guys like these cars but they had the ugliest front end ever put on a Firebird. Or any car for that matter, but that’s just my opinion. Lots of work left to do to this one so the new owner might be left upside down when it’s finally restored. If you really want one of these, you’d probably be better off buying one done.

    Like 3
    • Ike Onick

      “If you really want one of these, you’d probably be better off buying one done.”

      This one is “well done”

      Like 9
  6. Tort Member

    The front end is an improvement and the chicken on the hood is faded badly so that’s two positives!

  7. Chris M.

    I say leave it as is. Remove the wheezbox 301 and replace with a healthy LS and trans. Dial up the suspension and let her rip! Lol

    Like 1

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