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Rust-Free 1981 Pontiac Trans Am Hides a HO Surprise Under the Hood

The Trans Am sales peaked at over 117K units in 1979 and then nosedived, especially as the entire Firebird recorded a significant drop.
1981 Pontiac Trans Am 23 photos
Photo: Craigslist
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1981 witnessed approximately 71K units rolling off the assembly lines, with the Trans Am accounting for only 33K cars. The Formula production numbers collapsed, with only 5K units leaving the factory in 1981.

Customers who ordered a Trans Am in 1981 could equip the car with the 301 V8 (similar to the W72 package on the previous model years), the 301 Turbo codenamed LU8, or the LG4 305. Most Trans Ams were fitted with the standard 301.

The 1981 model in these photos hopes to impress potential buyers with a different surprise under the hood. It also used a Pontiac 301 when it left the factory but now comes with a 1968 Pontiac 350 HO engine rated at 325 horsepower. It's a welcome upgrade whose condition is unknown, as the owner says they've seen the engine running, but its current shape is non-working.

The Trans Am was originally painted in Starlight Black (paint code 19) with gold graphics.

These details are only history today, as the Trans Am is a project likely sitting for a very long time. The good news is that it's still rust-free, with the owner promising the car has never been involved in accidents, so it's not hiding any bondo.

Furthermore, the Trans Am comes with plenty of extra parts, so if you're interested in returning it to the road, you get the missing pieces of the puzzle, too. However, you should assume that not everything comes in tip-top shape. It's a project car requiring repairs in all the essential departments. It sells with PHS documentation, attesting the Trans Am was born and raised in Arizona.

The only big question left without an answer is how original the car continues to be after all these years. While the original engine is no longer in the car, it's unclear if the other factory parts are still inside – the owner says that all the available extras make the car "as complete as possible," but it's impossible to tell if all come from the same Trans Am.

The selling price makes sense for a Trans Am whose condition is challenging, so the car can be yours for just $3,400. The HO engine under the hood could be a gem if it's still in working shape, paving the way for a unique restomod. Your best option is to go check out the car in person, so you'll need to drive your trailer to Prescott, Arizona.

The owner says they would also consider other offers, and you can negotiate the price in person when inspecting the Trans Am.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
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Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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