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Upgraded V8: 1980 Pontiac Trans Am

By 1980, the classic American pony car may not have been dead, but it had undoubtedly seen better days. Ford had recently introduced its new Fox-Body Mustang, but the sole V8 for that model year was a wheezing and asthmatic beast that didn’t offer fantastic performance. Things were both better and worse for the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Trans Am. Buyers slipped behind the wheel of a car that showed its age, and while their engines offered more power, they suffered the same issues as the Mustang when drivers buried the right foot. The owner of this 1980 Trans Am took matters into their own hands, and an engine change should offer potential buyers noticeable performance improvements. It looks a bit rough around the edges, but it is a solid classic that would make a satisfying restoration project. Located in Upperco, Maryland, you will find the Trans Am listed for sale here on eBay. The seller has set a BIN of $9,000, although they may consider offers.

There is probably no shade more iconic to grace the panels of a Trans Am than Starlight Black. Its status was undoubtedly cemented by the Trans Am’s starring role in Smokey & The Bandit. That brings me to a small confession. There are times when I feel that I could be the only person on the planet who has never seen that movie. It’s a shortcoming I intend to address when time and circumstances allow. The paint has seen better days, and a cosmetic refresh is on the agenda for this classic. There is surface corrosion requiring attention, but we’ll tackle the more critical subject of penetrating rust shortly. The decals look heavily baked, meaning that the buyer will probably choose to spend $400 on a high-quality reproduction decal kit. After all, what is a Trans Am of this generation without the Screaming Chicken occupying its rightful spot on the hood? The plastic trim looks to have survived the rigors of daily operation and UV exposure in remarkable condition, and the tinted glass looks excellent for a driver-grade classic. The original 15×8 Snowflake wheels are intact, but like the rest of the exterior, they would benefit from restoration.

This photo probably tells us more about this Trans Am than any other in the listing. You will struggle to find a vehicle of this age with floors that look cleaner, which is good news for this Trans Am. Rust often attacked floors, the trunk pan, rear rails, rear valance, and the area around the back window. Those areas look clean on this car, meaning returning this Pontiac to its best may not pose a huge challenge. A few small spots are visible in the lower front fenders, but these appear to be candidates for patches rather than wholesale panel replacement.

The Trans Am’s interior raises questions that potential buyers may wish to clarify. The seller includes a shot of an original Window Sticker in their listing. It indicates that the car rolled off the line with its interior trimmed in Deluxe Carmine velour cloth. However, I see Carmine vinyl suggesting that either the Window Sticker isn’t for this car or someone has swapped the interior. It isn’t the end of the world because wear and several splits may motivate the buyer to invest $750 in new seat upholstery in the correct material and color. They may also elect to save a few dollars by attacking the center console lid with vinyl dye rather than splashing the cash on a replacement. The leather-wrapped Formula wheel might require the attention of a specialist to revive the leather, but I don’t believe it to be beyond the point of no return. The dash and pad look good, as do the carpet and console. Most of the remaining trim should present acceptably for a driver-grade car with a deep clean, although a closer inspection could reveal items requiring replacement. An aftermarket CD player occupies the spot reserved for the factory radio, while the original owner equipped the interior with air conditioning and a rear defroster.

We’ve reached the point where we can discuss what separates this Trans Am from others built during 1980. It drove off the showroom floor featuring a 301ci V8, a three-speed automatic transmission, a limited-slip rear end, power steering, and the WS6 package. This last item brought the larger 8″ Snowflake wheels, upgraded suspension components, and four-wheel power disc brakes. The 170hp generated by the V8 would have allowed this classic to cover the ¼ mile in 17.6 seconds, which was hardly earth-shattering. However, the owner craved more, delving back one model year to source a motor offering greater performance potential. What we find occupying the engine bay is an Oldsmobile 403ci unit from a 1979 Trans Am. It should churn out 185hp, slashing the ¼-mile ET to 16.6 seconds. Okay, the improvement is hardly dramatic, but I guess any improvement would be welcome in a case like this. However, that may not be the complete story because headers and a new dual exhaust may have unleashed additional power. Hey, the more, the merrier! The photos reveal what appears to be a new brake booster and master cylinder, while the tires also look pretty new. The seller states that the Trans Am runs and drives, but not whether it is roadworthy. I suspect that getting it to that point may not be difficult if it isn’t.

Locating an affordable and solid pony car project can be a challenge, but that appears to be what the seller offers with this 1980 Pontiac Trans Am. The engine change should provide measurable performance improvements, and it may be this factor that has motivated 137 people to watch the listing. Its lack of significant rust problems and the potentially straightforward nature of the restoration would also arouse interest. Those factors make this Trans Am an exceptionally promising prospect for the right person. There are still ten days left on the listing, so it will be interesting to see when (or if) someone hits the BIN button. Of course, you may beat them to the punch. If you do, I hope you are willing to provide progress reports because I will be interested in seeing how well it presents once you down the tools for the final time.


  1. Bud Lee

    To heck with Barn Finds . Take the rest of the day off and watch Smokey And The Bandit .

    Like 9
  2. Mikefromthehammer

    No time like the present Adam:


    Like 6
  3. Jack M.

    I would suggest that you have a bottle of Sullivans Cove whiskey on hand Adam, before you watch Smokey and the Bandit. It is definitely not Academy Award material.

    Like 3
    • John Hutchison

      Think of the tripe that IS Academy Award material. S&TB was never geared (pun intended) for that crowd.

      Like 2
  4. Big C

    A friend of mine had one of these, back in the day. 301 Turbo with the automatic. It had trouble getting out of it’s own way. But is sure was purty!

    Like 4

    in the south it is considered a documentary on good old American living long live the Bandit

    Like 8
  6. John Oliveri

    If I were to do a transplant, the 403 would have been used for the boat anchor that it is, and put a built 400, or 455 in this car,and it would be a Pontiac

    Like 8
    • Claudio

      I totally agree with you
      The 403 is a boat anchor !
      It is torkey but parts are hard to find
      And a poncho fits well in there

      Like 1

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