My Turbo Cars...Past, Present and Future
Turbo 4.9 Trans Am #1: 1980 S/E
This is the car that started it all. No it is not a full size car. It is a 1/8 scale plastic model kit made by Monogram. I had received one of these kits for my 12th birthday in 1988. Being a model car builder and a fan of Smokey & The Bandit, I loved it. It was huge! It measured 24” in overall length. Unfortunately it found it’s way into the trash later in life.
In 2010, I set out to find another one. Since my model building skills had greatly developed since 1988, I wanted another shot at building one. I was lucky enough to find one locally for a price way more affordable then what they go for online. Next was to research these “Turbo” cars so I could build it as accurate as possible. That is when I came across the 301garage forum. You can read about the build here.
Turbo 4.9 Trans Am #2: 1981 S/E
Researching all the information on the 301garage forum for my 1/8 scale model, I became more interested in the real cars. I thought it might be kind of fun to actually own a real one. Just like the model kit, I was finding that their values had increased quite a bit over time. Finding one I could afford was difficult. I eventually came across one in Michigan.
The car was purchased new in Minnesota from dealer stock by a young gentleman. Around 1998, it was sold to one of his co-workers. The second owner drove the car on nice days, but shortly after purchasing, moved to Michigan and left the car with his family who used it as a second vehicle. Three years later, he brought it to Michigan. It was not running so good. So he tried different carburetors and somehow found one that worked well with the turbo. The car was then parked for the winter behind his boss’ garage where a tree fell on the back window and damaged the driver’s side ¼ panel. The second owner knew he couldn’t afford to fix it and decided to sell it. His boss told him of a fellow who was interested in buying it. I call him owner #2.5 since he never registered the car. This is the person I bought it from.
Owner #2.5 took the car home but it wasn’t running correctly. It would not idle. He tried other Quadrajet carburetors until he found one that idled. He drove the car with the other carb but said the engine had a knock, so he pulled out the turbo 301 to replace it with a built up 400 Pontiac V-8. At this time, the interior (wet from no rear window) was removed to dry out and the carpet thrown away. The rear ¼ panel damage was overheated with a torch and lifted back into shape. A bolt-in eyelet and a chain hoist were used. In my opinion, this caused more damage rather than make things better. A replacement back window was laid into the body but not sealed.
I purchased the car in September of 2010. I dragged it home as a rolling basket case. It was a real 1981, Y84, Special Edition, t-top, WS6, Turbo Trans Am. Over the next couple of years I purchased parts for it and mapped out a big plan to convert it to fuel injection with a 5 speed manual transmission and had plans to even stroke the 301 with a Pontiac 350 crank. I also purchased sheet metal parts to fix the damage and started replacing some of those pieces.
Unfortunately, it was just too big of a project for me to take on and with other life changes happening at the time; I reluctantly had to sell it. All for the better though, as it paved the way for me to start TTA Performance.
The car was sold in April 2013 and ironically went back to Minnesota where it lives today.
Turbo 4.9 Trans Am #3: 1980 Indy 500 Pace Car
Turbo Trans Am #3 was purchased locally. An affordable car due to some rust issues, mechanically it had a lot going for it. A strong running, rebuilt, Turbo 4.9 with it’s original carburetor and PEVR valve. It had newer exhaust and ran and drove great. Cosmetically, it needed work, but the price was right. I took the Pace Car home and started correcting it’s minor mechanical issues. I used this car to dyno test our performance products. The PEVR was rebuilt, down pipe installed (minus the cat converter), water injection and manual boost controller also installed. A “before” dyno test was run, for a base line, prior to the performance modifications. 173hp and 232 ft/lbs of torque were recorded. This was all stock, at 9 psi of boost, with the only modifications of an aftermarket cat converter and no mufflers (as purchased). After installation of the down pipe etc. and an increase to 15 psi of boost, it recorded 205hp and 275 ft/lbs of torque.
The Pace Car car was sold to a gentleman in Illinois, late September 2015.
Turbo 4.9 Trans Am #4: 1980 hard top
The Pace Car was sold to purchase this car. An all original 1980 Turbo Trans Am hard top. White, with dark blue “hobnail” cloth interior. This car has 72k original miles and still wears it’s original paint and has it’s original 8 track stereo. Originally a Florida car, it has a very solid body. The interior is in excellent shape. It has some odd options, or lack thereof. It is a hard top with no rear defogger and no hood bird decal. Most don’t know this, but the Trans Am hood bird was an option from the first day it became available in 1973. If you ordered a Trans Am, you had to order the RPO code WW7 Trans Am hood decal separately. It was not standard. This car was ordered without it. Not sure if it was intentional or not. But considering all the blue pin stripping that was added early on when it was new, I’m thinking it was. This car needs some mechanical attention to get it up and running correctly. It already has a rebuilt PEVR on it and someone has removed the mufflers. This car was sold May of 2016. It was shipped to a gentleman in Texas.
1978 Pontiac Grand Prix
No it is not a turbo……yet, but it is a 301 2 barrel. I purchased this car in late summer 2014 out of Washington state. A very rust free car still wearing it’s original paint. It was a single owner car, purchased new in New York. Seven years later, the owner took a job in Washington state and drove it every day until August of 2014. He traded it in on a new Toyota because the brakes started grinding on the front.
It is a base GP. Not an LJ or SJ model. It does have bucket seats with the console shift automatic. Other options include A/C, rear window defogger, oil pressure, volts and temp gauges and the V8 engine. When I purchased the car from a small car lot in Washington, it had some aftermarket aluminum wheels. I sold those and replaced them with custom painted steel wheels with the correct “dog dish” hub caps. The fronts are 14x6 with a deep offset and the rears are 14x8 with a deeper offset and 245-60-14 tires. The car has 237,000 miles on the original 301 and runs and drive’s great. Although the 301 is getting tired and using oil.
Plans for this car is to install one of my extra Turbo 4.9s in it along with a 200-4R automatic overdrive transmission and 3.42 posi rear end. I call it a Pontiac version of the Grand National but with a Pontiac turbo V8 instead of a V6. The turbo 4.9 I am building for it is going to be used for testing some future engine products for TTA Performance.
Update: As cool as this car was going to be, it was sold September 10th 2017. It was put up for sale due to a possible purchase of another Turbo 4.9 Trans Am. I didn't purchase that specific Trans Am, but someone was interested in buying the GP and I sold it.
Turbo 4.9 Trans Am #5: 1981 S/E:
With the Grand Prix sold, I purchased this in November 2017 out of Texas. Running and driving 4.9 Turbo. T-tops, Y84 Special Edition. 4 wheel disc brakes but was not originally equipped with WS6. Very solid and rust free body. Did have one repaint in its life. Interior is a little rough from the Texas sun. It did come with a nice replacement dashboard and an NOS steering wheel. The engine runs good and has good power. It does run a little rich and does not like the colder Wisconsin weather when first starting it. With a little tuning and some interior work, she will be a nice driver. Not looking to make a show car out of it. It is going to be TTA Performance's test mule. Will probably start a blog here on this site to show all the work in progress and testing. This one is going to be a keeper.
TTA PERFORMANCE LLC
Specializing in 1980-1981 Turbocharged 4.9 (301) Pontiac Trans Ams and Firebird Formulas.