How do you prefer your Trans-Am Turbo, with or without a top?

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Jan 11, 2022 | Pontiac, Mecum, f-body, Trans-Am

Photography by David S. Wallens

Mecum’s Kissimmee sale–going on through January 16–offers several Trans-Ams, including a few Turbo models.

Everyone here remembers the Trans Am Turbo, right? Pontiac dropped the big-block option from the Trans-Am for 1980, leaving the model with just two engine choices: a 305-cubic-inch Chevy V8 or Pontiac’s own 301 fitted with a turbocharger.

Pontiac rated the turbo engine at 210 horsepower. Hey, things were different (and slower) back then.

In addition to the forced induction, these Turbo cars also received possibly the coolest hood treatment ever: Warning lights fitted to the back of the hood’s power budge kept tabs on boost.

Just one transmission was offered, a three-speed automatic.

For those looking to add even more spice to their 1980 Trans Am, Pontiac offered the Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Edition: turbo engine plus the rad graphics.

So, back to Mecum: A legit 1980 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am Pace Car Edition brought in $40,700 this past weekend–not quite Hagerty No. 1 money but more than No. 2.

This car was billed as having the same owner for the past 20 years and just 17,000 miles on the odometer. It looked clean and correct.

(A second 1980 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am Pace Car Edition with only 10,000 miles sold for $36,300.)

But here’s the Trans Am Turbo that has GRM Forum on it: One of the 151 cars chopped and turned into convertibles by NCE Convertible.

This one also looked clean in real life but, sadly, we didn’t get to see how much it flexed on the open road. This one is scheduled to cross the block today, January 11.

Do we have any Trans Am fans here? And, if so, how do you like your Pontiac F-bodies?

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Comments
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06HHR (Forum Supporter)
06HHR (Forum Supporter) Dork
1/11/22 11:03 a.m.

My Uncle had a 1980 Turbo Trans Am Pace Car Edition, god I loved that car.  We didn't know it was slow, it was just the coolest thing on the block.  Even new with the T-roof that thing shook like a bowl of jelly over expansion joints and railroad tracks.  I imagine the convertible is like a grouping of parts vaguely moving in in the same direction.   Love these cars though, but they are unfortunately moving beyond my price range for clean examples, and the tinworm makes them cost-prohibitive to restore.  Most cheap ones don't have any sheet metal left around the backlight and on the rear quarters. 

dean1484
dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/11/22 11:05 a.m.

They are floppier than over cooked spaghetti with out a tin top even with sub frame connectors. (Yes we cut the roof off one many years ago). 
 

Even the T top cars were bad.   For anything other than boulevard cruising you want a tin top.  

sjd
sjd New Reader
1/11/22 11:10 a.m.

My first car at the age of 18 back in the early 90's was a 1981 "Bandit" Y84 code Turbo Trans Am that I paid $1500 for and sank another $1500 into to get on the road. The previous owner gave me the turbocharger in a box with the car as he had converted it to a 4 barrel due to reliability issues. It was slow but an amazing car to have fun in as a teenager. I got into a minor collision with it and then stupidly disassembled it thinking I could restore it but of course I lacked the money to do so. After a couple of years, rather than let it rot into the ground with the plan of "fixing it up some day" I sold it. I still have a soft spot for these cars.   

iansane
iansane HalfDork
1/11/22 11:29 a.m.

Without. No question.

SEADave
SEADave Dork
1/11/22 11:45 a.m.

Somehow the 2nd gen bodystyle just never looks good as a convertible.   Also, not to be "that guy" but there were 3 engine options in 1980, there was also a normally aspirated 301 which was the base engine and most 1980 Trans Ams came that way.   

Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter)
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
1/11/22 12:09 p.m.

Gen 2 cars don't look right topless.

I think it's because you never see them so when you do they look odd. There is a 80 or so Z28 around here that's a convertible, doesn't look good at all. I've seen a few 80's Monte Carlo SS drop tops, again it doesn't look right.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito UltimaDork
1/11/22 1:41 p.m.

I also think that 2nd Gen cars look odd without the roof. Most of the drop-top conversions I've seen look like backyard hacks at best. They are leaky rattletraps as hardtops (looks out at the one in my driveway), so having one without a roof is a big no for me. That said, a stock hardtop car will surprise you with how well it handles for what it is. The 1979-81 cars were some of the best handling cars on the road at the time.

On the Turbo 301... every time I think about them, I think about what could've been. The 3rd Gen cars were supposed to have a fuel injected version of the Turbo 301, much like the Turbo EFI 3.8 V6 that ended up in the later Regal T-Type and Grand National. GM pulled the plug on this late into development, as they typically do, and robbed us all of affordable turbo V8 cars long before people were throwing cheap aftermarket turbos at LS engines. At least they threw people a bone by dropping the GN Turbo V6 in some GTA's in 1989 for a while. But man, what could've been....

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
1/11/22 1:52 p.m.

I like the 2gen car better with a roof. 

iansane
iansane HalfDork
1/11/22 2:42 p.m.
Tony Sestito said:

On the Turbo 301... every time I think about them, I think about what could've been. The 3rd Gen cars were supposed to have a fuel injected version of the Turbo 301, much like the Turbo EFI 3.8 V6 that ended up in the later Regal T-Type and Grand National. GM pulled the plug on this late into development, as they typically do, and robbed us all of affordable turbo V8 cars long before people were throwing cheap aftermarket turbos at LS engines. At least they threw people a bone by dropping the GN Turbo V6 in some GTA's in 1989 for a while. But man, what could've been....

3rdgens could've been powerhouses if GM had kept on that train. The Sy/Ty and GN were great exercises in what could have been a long lineage. 

Toyman!
Toyman! GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/11/22 3:40 p.m.

I have the turbocharge and carburetor adaptor for one of those on the shelf in my shop. I ran it on a 250 I6 in a Chevelle for a couple of years. Fun times. 

Edit to say: I have no use for a convertible. I don't even like sunroofs. 

SEADave
SEADave Dork
1/11/22 5:02 p.m.

The convertible turbo hit $28 and did not sell...

Honestly IMHO that Nocturne Blue 79 W72/WS6 with 38 miles is the one to have.  Would be surprised if it doesn't hit $60k.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/11/22 5:11 p.m.

Wow, unsold at $28k. 

06HHR (Forum Supporter)
06HHR (Forum Supporter) Dork
1/11/22 5:23 p.m.

That 79 is the holy grail of Trans Am, last of the Pontiac 400s.  If it was a 4 speed that could be a 6 figure car, as it is 60k may be a bit light.  I'l bet it hits 80k. 

SEADave
SEADave Dork
1/11/22 5:29 p.m.

It is a 4-speed, all 79's with the 400 were 4-speeds.   Yes, total dream car there, although I actually prefer the 77-78 front end and taillights.  And this is coming from someone restoring/LS swapping an 81.   

m4ff3w
m4ff3w GRM+ Memberand UberDork
1/11/22 5:33 p.m.

My dad had a Trans Am

 

 

Too bad he didn't have a seat belt on...  My mom didn't even know she was pregnant yet.

Javelin
Javelin GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/11/22 5:42 p.m.

In reply to m4ff3w :

Oh wow, I can't even, I am so sorry. 

m4ff3w
m4ff3w GRM+ Memberand UberDork
1/11/22 6:01 p.m.

In reply to Javelin :

No reason to be sorry.  Obivisouly it was a long time ago.  I would be a different person than I am had things be different.

Appreciate the sentiment though.

Life is still wonderful no matter what.  

scottdownsouth
scottdownsouth HalfDork
1/11/22 7:23 p.m.

I'd  prefer mine to be a 89 with a turbo...

GCrites80s
GCrites80s HalfDork
1/11/22 9:34 p.m.
Tony Sestito said:

I also think that 2nd Gen cars look odd without the roof. Most of the drop-top conversions I've seen look like backyard hacks at best. They are leaky rattletraps as hardtops (looks out at the one in my driveway), so having one without a roof is a big no for me. That said, a stock hardtop car will surprise you with how well it handles for what it is. The 1979-81 cars were some of the best handling cars on the road at the time.

I was very impressed with the handling of my '79 WS6 -- especially considering the weight and the tires. It cornered very flat. Of course if I put on 275-40-17 200TWs I bet it would be rolly-poly.

GTwannaB
GTwannaB GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
1/11/22 10:10 p.m.
06HHR (Forum Supporter) said:

 We didn't know it was slow, it was just the coolest thing on the block.  

Sure today's Camry might beat it in 0-60, but it delivered in on a roll and a downshift. That thing motored just fine. 

MotorsportsGordon
MotorsportsGordon Dork
1/12/22 12:31 a.m.
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) said:

Gen 2 cars don't look right topless.

I think it's because you never see them so when you do they look odd. There is a 80 or so Z28 around here that's a convertible, doesn't look good at all. I've seen a few 80's Monte Carlo SS drop tops, again it doesn't look right.

That's because gm never made or designed them as a convertible any second gen convertible  you would see is a custom job or aftermarket conversion.

snailmont5oh
snailmont5oh Dork
1/12/22 3:42 a.m.

Every time I see a Turbo Trans Am, I can't help but think of my brother and I, in my Dad's '77 T-bird (with a 351 Windsor, bone stock of course) on I79 on our way to Erie in '88. We musta honed that car at least 7 times, but he kept coming back for more. It was hilarious. 

06HHR (Forum Supporter)
06HHR (Forum Supporter) Dork
1/14/22 11:06 a.m.
SEADave said:

The convertible turbo hit $28 and did not sell...

Honestly IMHO that Nocturne Blue 79 W72/WS6 with 38 miles is the one to have.  Would be surprised if it doesn't hit $60k.

Sold for $118,250.  I've never been so disappointed to be right (I thought it would go for at least 80k).  Looks like I can't afford a clean 2nd gen anymore..

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