Reader Question: Buying the Turbo Trans-Am?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Mike asks: I read your recent article about the last real Pontiac and as it happens, I’m close to pulling the trigger on an ’80 special edition (black and gold) with the WS6 package and, of course, the turbo 301. Do you have any advice about what to look for – and what to avoid? Thanks!

My reply: I would look for one that’s as “stock” – as built, by the factory – as possible. And as low-miles as possible. Unlike other Trans-Ams with 400 or 455 Pontiac V8s, those with the 301 are harder to repair because parts are harder to find. Thus, the more original – and the lower the miles – the better.

The 301 was also a relatively fragile engine and so more vulnerable to the effects of hard use. Watch out for evidence that the car was treated as anything other than a creampuff.

That said, there is something else to consider. It is a Trans-Am. Fundamentally, the same as any other 1970-81 TA and you could easily replace the 301 with a 400 or 455, even turbo’d if you wanted to go that route. You’d end up with a much stronger car – though of course you’d lose the originality.

My personal choice would be to find a really nice original condition ’80-81 car and keep it original. These are now historic in their own right and you’d lose that by modifying or replacing the original 301. These are not fast cars, but they are enjoyable cruisers  – and it’s fun to watch the little turbo boost lights illuminate as you drive!

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