Turbo Pace Car: 1980 Pontiac Trans Am

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The 400 cubic inch V8 engine was gone from the line up for the Pontiac Trans Am but Pontiac was still trying to put performance in the hands of car enthusiasts. In 1980, Pontiac introduced a turbocharged Trans Am using their 301 cubic inch V8 engine. Performance was not as good and sales dropped but Pontiac still produced one of the best handling cars on the market. This 1980 Pontiac Trans Am is an Indianapolis 500 Pace Car replica. The car is located in Marysville, Washington and is listed here on eBay with 2 days remaining in the auction. The car is listed for a $22,250 Buy It Now Price. There were 5,700 Indianapolis 500 Pace Cars replicas produced and sold by Pontiac dealers.

The 1980 Pontiac Trans Am Pace Car had special paint and decals and the oyster interior was highlighted by embroidered door panels. This car is said to have been driven 81,880 miles since new. The car appears to be in great shape and is highly optioned including tilt steering, air conditioning, power locks, power windows and rear defrost. This car looks stock except for the floor mats and after market radio.

I remember the car magazines raving about this car in 1980 as Pontiac’s first turbocharged V8. The turbocharged V8 engine was designated LU8 and was available only in the 1980-1981 Firebird Trans Am and Formula. The turbo 301 cubic inch V8 engine (4.9 liter) was rated at 210 horsepower in 1980 and 200 horsepower in 1981. The LU8 was equipped with a Garrett TB305 turbo and a Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor. While the horsepower and and torque figures on paper were comparable to prior years, the road tests showed the car was much slower with a quarter mile time in the 16 second range.

All turbo 301 cubic inch V8 engines were backed by a GM Turbo 350 automatic transmission and a 3.08 rear gear. TTA Performance is a company in Kenosha, Wisconsin that makes performance parts that perk these cars up and make them respectable. I have a 1981 SE with fuel injection and it is much more fun to drive than when it was stock. This car is equipped with the WS6 Performance Handling Package which included 4 wheel disc brakes, bigger sway bars, 15×8 wheels and improved power steering turning ratios.

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  1. Craig Baloga Craig Baloga

    A sign of the times….I love it!

    New technology with using a turbo, we all know where that was born, with Buick…..stay in the boost!


    Like 1
    • Donnie L Sears

      But no match for the GNB. As a matter of fact nothing made in the US at that time was a match for GNB.

      Like 0
      • Craig Baloga Craig Baloga

        Donnie, fully agree….I was alluding to the GNB…..simply untouchable in its era.

        Like 0
  2. eyes4color62@gmail.com CooterMember

    Correction…in 1962, Oldsmobile introduced the “Jetfire” which was the 1st turbocharged passenger car released into production. Some “Corvair Monza Spyder” enthusiasts like to argue that theirs’s were the first turbocharged vehicles released. There’s no solid evidence either way as there were about 2 weeks between them. The Corvair does hold the record of the 2 for the amount of owners and passengers it placed 6′ below the ground!

    Like 7
    • Bruce Johnson BruceAuthor

      Thanks Cooter for the info but I didn’t claim the LU8 to be the first turbo V8. It was “Pontiac’s first turbocharged V8.”

      Like 5
  3. Maggy

    I remember when I was 14 seeing one of these on a dealership turn table thru the window and thought it was awesome.Maybe one day soon I dreamed I could buy one if I saved up my caddy and paper route $.Then I sighed and drove my Stingray back home knowing that’s not possible.Ended up with a really beat 66 belair wgn 283 stick on the column manual everything radio delete car for 100.00 following year.

    Like 2
    • Mike B

      My encounter was a college spring break when taking the family Chevette to the local Pontiac/Chevy dealership in (timely coincidence) East Palestine for service. I managed to sit in it & imagine. Then a test drive…of a LUV diesel, which later prompted my parents to buy another neck snapping performer. At least it had FM.

      Like 1
  4. 455RAIV

    TTA’s Performance Turbo 301 T/A Runs 12’s with a combo of modified stock parts ie. bigger turbine in modified stock turbo housing etc. and aftermarket parts Fuel Injection 2500 stall etc. stock 3.08 gears – Drag radials – not bad for not spending a bundle :)

    Like 2
  5. Eskimojoe

    Wow, 22k…the steering wheel is trashed, the power antenna and factory stereo are long gone, along with the panel below the radio that housed the turbo light control. Also, what is that engine color?

    Like 1
    • JoeNYWF64

      I believe there is an unused not as good “backup” std factory antenna imbedded in the windshield with a connecting wire hanging under the dash.
      Not very good quality leather on steering wheel – maybe just peel the rest off to get a black wheel? lol

      Like 0
  6. CenturyTurboCoupe

    I had one of these and loved it. Anything turbo charged and a QuadraJet are my ideal cars!. This car would do some wicked burn outs! All of these were heavily optioned with mine having a power antenna and the special red back lit Delco radio.

    Like 0

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