1980 Trans Am

(my first Trans Am)

I bought my first Trans Am in 1981.  I had finished my 1967 Mustang Shelby Clone, enjoyed it all summer, and then sold it.  I went to our local Pontiac dealership to look at brand new 1981 Trans Ams and even drove several, but I couldn't afford new one, so it was off to find a used Trans Am.  An interesting note from driving the new 1981 Trans Ams... the first 1981 Trans Am I drove was a 301 powered non-turbo with an automatic.  The second 1981 Trans Am I drove was a 301 turbo, automatic, and had 4-wheel disc brakes.  As far as acceleration goes, I couldn't tell any difference between the turbo and the non-turbo... which was disappointing.  The turbo lights on the hood all lighting up when you stomped it to the floor was cute... but I'd rather be shoved against the back of my seat and see a shaker scoop being shoved to one side of the hole in the hood from all of the torque from a 400 or 455.  You could tell a difference in braking between the disc-drum brakes and the 4-wheel disc brakes.

I found some used Trans Ams at a Chevy dealer.   I finally settled on a blue 1980 Trans Am with dark blue interior, no t-tops, non WS6, and powered by a 301 cid (T/A 4.9) engine and automatic.  This Trans Am had 12,000 miles on it and looked brand new.  I had it taken back to the Service Department and put up on a lift to check it out.  Everything was spotless... which should've made me think, but when you're 18 years old you don't always think.

The 301 certainly didn't perform like a 400 or a 455, but it did get GREAT gas mileage.  At first this Trans Am was very enjoyable to drive.  Driving over 600 miles round trip every weekend coming home from college certainly racked up the miles pretty quick and it wasn't long until I started finding things wrong with this Trans Am.  The first thing I noticed was that the trunk leaked.  Then the windshield started leaking.  Then the door glasses started leaking.  So I took it back to the dealer and they fiddled with it, but didn't fix anything.  I had driven back to school one weekend with my text books in the trunk.  It was raining and then the temperature dropped below freezing that night.  When I went to get my text books out of the Trans Am on my way to class the next day, I found them FROZEN in the trunk!!

I was spraying the Trans Am off at a coin-operated car wash and blasted the blue paint off of the front spoiler to find that the front spoiler was white.  The dark blue dye started coming off of the interior plastic and I soon found that the console lid was red and the interior plastic was various colors!!

I was driving one day and felt that I either had a tire out of balance or something loose in the rear suspension.  I found that the lug nuts on the left rear tire were loose and I had to retighten them once a month!!  I had someone to drive my Trans Am while I followed them in another car and noticed that the rear end of the Trans Am was "dog tracking" or running sideways to the front of the car.  This Trans Am had been on a frame straightening machine and was now "springing back."

I started really going over this Trans Am and found cracks in the paint in the sail panel between the side window and rear window on each side... which lead to figure out that a roof had been welded on this car!  I removed the plastic grate covering the cowl at the base of the windshield and started finding pieces of broken windshield.  While messing around the cowl I then noticed that the cowl tag had been removed from this Trans Am.  I measured one side of the front subframe and compared it to the other side... it was 1" different.

The more I looked, the more angry I got!!  It was pretty obvious that the Chevy dealer had bought a TOTALLED 1980 Trans Am from an insurance company, rebuilt it using junkyard parts, redyed the interior, repainted the body, installed new decals, and THEN sold it to me as a cleaned, unmolested, one-year old used Trans Am!!  We contacted the dealer and showed them our findings and they did NOTHING.  We considered litigation, but decided it would be cheaper and less hassle to just trade this Trans Am for another Trans Am... so that's what I did.