1981 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Turbo Pace Car
Pontiac was no stranger to pace cars, and in 1981, they rolled out a turbocharged pace car for the NASCAR Daytona 500. Turbos were rocket science to most folks back in 1981, but today, we know what kind of awesome potential lies within a turbocharged engine. This super clean 1981 Turbo Trans Am Pace Car offers matching-numbers, a sanitary interior, and a smooth swell of torque that only forced induction can deliver. From an era when Trans Ams were notorious for being over-the-top, the pace car is surprisingly sedate. With just 75,916 original miles, it's as nice as survivors come, although we believe it was repainted a few years ago. Garage kept and expertly maintained all its life, it's a reminder of what performance looked like in the early 1980s. The shape was still dramatic, even in its 11th model year, and there are many who like the subtlety of the Turbo's power dome hood as opposed to the faux scoop of other T/As. The white paint with silver accents and black trim give the car a purposeful look that's still very much 1980s cool, but it doesn't look corny or dated like some of its siblings. Details like the chin spoiler, urethane nose cone, and rear bumper are in excellent condition and show none of the usual signs of age that plague many of these cars. The paint shines up quite well but doesn't have that super-perfect look that tips off onlookers that there's been a repaint; no, this one looks like a really well-maintained survivor and we like that part just fine. There's no question that the wild black and red interior is original and in very nice shape. As with the outside of the car, the Trans Am's interior was built to get attention, including those body-hugging Recaro seats that were unique to the pace cars. It still offers all the high-performance styling cues that you've come to expect: engine-turned dash, three-spoke steering wheel, and a center console. Easy-to-read gauges look sporty and give a comprehensive view of the V8 up front, and the "boost gauge" that consists of three lights tucked into the back of the hood scoop is pretty darned cool. This top-of-the-line T/A comes loaded with options like factory A/C (needs to be serviced), power windows and locks, a tilt column, and rather rare cruise control. An AM/FM/CD/iPod stereo replaces the original AM/FM unit, and there's an amplifier and subwoofer in the trunk. That trunk also includes a space-saver spare that doesn't look like it has ever been used. The 4.9 liter turbocharged V8 was the top performer in 1981, and made a respectable 200 horsepower and a very stout 340 pounds of torque (for contrast, the 1981 Mustang Cobra offered 120 wheezing ponies). This is the original, numbers-matching engine and given the mileage, it's likely that it has never been apart. The heart of the whole system is the turbocharger mounted on the passenger's side of the engine, which pressurizes the Pontiac-built 301. All the hardware is intact and functional, so you get that gentle swell of torque whenever you squeeze the accelerator and as with many turbocharged cars, the choice of a TH350 3-speed automatic transmission is a smart one so it never goes off-boost. The underside is every bit as tidy as the engine bay, and it includes a fresh Flowmaster exhaust system that sounds decent despite the muting effect of the turbo. Those color-matched wheels are still some of the most attractive ever fitted to a Trans Am, and carry appropriately-sized 225/70/15 BFG radials. Garage-kept all its life, this Turbo Trans is finally coming into its own as a legitimate collectors' item. Call today!