What’s missing from the present day are expressive auto decals like the ‘screaming chicken’ worn by today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Trans Am. Would you pay the price to be so expressive? Or, are you chicken?
A lot of consternation was thrown at Friday’s Lingenfelter-equipped 2003 Chevy Corvette. Not for its $25,000 price mind you, that easily took home a 61-percent Nice Price win, since, you know, 500 horsepower at the wheels. No, the kerfuffle arose because the seller presented an interior shot in which the yellow stripy shift knob appeared askew. Pearls were clutched, and our collective OCD came out in full force. Honestly, I’m surprised no one offered an edited edition of that particular image with the knob repositioned. That would have been the way to take control of the situation.
When faced with adversity, being in control of the situation obviously can reduce the inherent stress level. In the 1970s, U.S. automakers were hit with a triple whammy of edicts that took the industry to its knees. Long a symbol of freedom, upward mobility, and the role as a major economic engine, the auto industry’s foibles all seemed to coalesce during the disco decade.
Faced with demands for improved fuel economy, lower emissions, and reduced insurance claim costs, car makers scrambled to build cleaner and more efficient cars. Those efforts were hamstrung by the need to add safety equipment—most notably bumpers that could withstand a five-mile per hour impact with no damage—which added weight and further degraded both fuel efficiency and performance.
This 1980 Pontiac Trans Am Indy Pace Car is an example of GM attempting to take control of the situation. Powering the garish beast is not a massive big block V8. That was available the model year prior, but in 1980, no more. Instead, while still a V8 and sporting a four-barrel carb, it was a more modest displacement mill—301 cubic inches—that entered the fray, and that sported a first-time feature for the Firebird line, a turbocharger. Nineteen eighty would not only be the first model year not to offer a big block in the Trans Am, the 4.9-litre turbo would also prove to be the last V8 by Pontiac ever to find its way under any Firebird’s hood.
What did buyers give up going to a smaller forced induction engine in place of the former big-lunged but naturally aspirated mill? Not much.
The ’79 6.6-litre engine was factory rated at 220 horsepower and 319 lb ft of torque. The 1980 turbo 301, in comparison, pumped out 210 horses and 345 lb ft of Chubby Checker’s favorite dance. That’s how you take control.
The turbo 301 started life as a student project at what was then the General Motors Institute in Flint. When it began to look promising, the students’ work was shifted to Pontiac Engine Development. This wasn’t just a naturally aspirated V8 onto which a turbo was bolted and then told to go out and play. The 301 was duly upgraded throughout, and featured a stiffer block, stronger gaskets, a lower compression ratio, and higher capacity oil pump, among other enbeefenings.
The engine featured an odd bit of plumbing, with the turbo on the top of the valley next to a modded 800-CFM Quadrajet carb through which it drew its breath. The driver’s side exhaust is routed under the mill to meet up with the turbo up and above the right-side valve cover. After taking a spin all the gasses are sent back downstairs and out the back of the car. The only transmission offered with the turbo 301 was the THM350 automatic.
This set up was clean enough to pass Federal emissions standards at the time, but not California’s more stringent set of rules. Despite that, some of the turbo cars were actually built in GM’s F-body plant in Van Nuys, just outside of LA.
This 37,000 mile Trans Am was built at the Norwood, Ohio plant and rocks the Indianapolis 500 Pace Car decals along with the screaming chicken on the hood. That engine lid also gets an asymmetrical bump to clear the raised carb and air cleaner. All the Indy Pace Car replicas carried the stiffer WS6 handling package and four-wheel disc brakes. Fancy Turbo wheels were also standard on the Indy replicas, as were the T-tops and every convenience option known to Pontiac man at the time.
The seller describes this as being ‘a nice example of a very collectible car that has a lot of potential for upside value.’ As presented in the pictures it does seem to be in terrific shape both inside and out. That being said, it’s a dressed up dinosaur from the days nearing its extinction. This model year was the 10th anniversary of the Firebird’s debut. It would trundle along for just one more model year before being replaced with the more modern third generation.
Is it really collectable as the seller avers? Yeah, probably. Is it worth the $19,895 price he’s asking to collect it today? We’ll just have to see.
What do you think, is this turbo Trans Am worth that $19,895 asking? Or, is this an Indy Pacer with a price that’s way out of step?
H/T to onlytwowheels for the hookup!
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