Now here’s something a little bit different from /Drive! Our favorite YouTube channel always brings us cool cars to highlight; everything from pro-touring musclecars to the completely unimaginable, but this ’81 Turbo Trans Am really takes the cake.
First and foremost, this is actually Mike Musto’s personal car, one he picked up just a few months ago to add to his collection that includes a pro-touring ’68 Charger R/T. Mike’s been known to own a killer Mopar or two at any given time, but an ’81 Turbo Trans Am, Mike?
Why not? If you’ve ever watched Smokey and the Bandit (one of our favorite films), then you would totally understand the appeal of this car. Sure, you could argue that Smokey and the Bandit featured a ’77 model with a 400 cubic-inch powerplant, but the same overall appeal and persona was passed along to each succeeding year of that particular body style. Come to think of it, a 1980 model exactly like this ’81 was the star car for the film’s sequel released that same year.
Packing a turbocharged 301 ‘plant with 200 hp (210 in ’80) and 340 lb-ft of torque (quite respectable, actually) the Turbo Trans Am of ’80 and ’81 never really had their chance to shine, as Musto agrees. The massive lag, lack of a properly sorted out fuel and timing system, as well as the absence of electronic fuel injection that helped make the later Buick Grand National a powerhouse, all contributed to the car’s lackluster performance. We’ll just go right ahead and say it; it was a mid-16 second car from the factory.
According to folklore, the 301 Turbo was actually scheduled to be installed in the then fresh third-gen Trans Am for 1982, with more power, until Pontiac powertrain had its plug pulled after some internal conflict at General Motors. Which is partly the reason the ’82-84 Trans Am shared the same off-center hood scoop of the ’80-81 Turbo Firebirds.
With a curb weight that was lighter by the 2nd-gen by 500-pounds and with a supposed additional 35-50 horsepower that would have been on tap, the 1982 Trans Am could have been one quick car. But we’re not here to talk Knight Rider, where talking about Smokey and the Bandit, son!
Musto, donning a Burt Reynolds stetson, sums it all up by saying, “as goofy and as gaudy as the Pontiac Trans Am was in its later years, it is an absolute American icon and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love this car, I absolutely love it!” Well put, and we whole-heartedly agree!