Wednesday, April 29, 2015

10k: Turbo Chicken: 1981 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

 The Pontiac Trans Am with the 301 PonchoTurbo V8 under the hood has the remarkable distinction of being the last vehicle sold with Pontiac's V8 that was born in 1955.  The Poncho V8 alone makes this next vehicle worthy of feature, but the incredible thunderchicken on the hood seals the deal -- it's like somebody offering you a cup cake and you discover it's filled with bacon flavored custard.  Mmmm, mmmm.  Find this 1981 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Turbo offered for $13,900 near Reno, NV via craigslist.  Tip from Andrew M.


I've seen a few thunderchickens on hoods in my day, and I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that it isn't a stock hood design from the factory.  The factory thunderchickens usually looked less ornate, and when you are dealing with giant winged birds on your hood, you should try and keep as stock as possible.



Only a domestic car company would stick a turbocharger on a 4.9 liter V8 and produce 200 horsepower car in 1981.  Sure, the emissions targets were difficult to meet, but by comparison Porsche made 172 horsepower out of 3.0 liters, BMW's M30 put 176 hp out of 3.2 liters -- but here you had a domestic V8 with almost twice the displacement and fitted with a turbocharger that produced about 20 more hp.  Proponents of the turbo 301 will point out that it produces a stump pulling 336 ft-lbs torque...but did you buy a Trans Am so you can pull a trailer?


Even though the turbocharged 301 is probably one of the most ridiculous applications of a turbocharger this side of a motorized cooler, I still sorta dig it.  This vintage Turbo Trans Am advertisement on youtube should make you a believer if you aren't already.  With any luck the turbo has enough imbalance to create that telltale screaming sounds as it spins up to 200krpms and reminds you that it is (a) still spinning and (b) choking out airflow to your giant engine. 


See a better bird themed hood?  Send it here: tips@dailyturismo.com

25 comments:

  1. The thunder chicken on the hood matches the one in the magazine ad, so it may be stock.

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  2. I like the tacky looks of these things and the crazy turbo v8 they had. A draw - thru carb on a turbo was not a good idea. The fluctuations in mixture under throttle meant knock city. Also, the Turbo plumbing was very restrictive.
    You could solve the carb problem with a powerjection III set-up, but you'd need to free up the plumbing to take full advantage of it. Perhaps the biggest problem with the car was that the 301 was a crappie engine to start with and adding a turbo did not help.

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  3. When I was a kid, these were my least favorite of the Trans Ams. Now, next to the WS6 of the early 2000's and the GTA from the early 90's, these are a close second. I don't know why, but these just strike me as having so much untapped potential with maybe a cam and some different heads. Maybe an intercooler, and a more efficient turbo. Turbo V8! From the factory!

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  4. Like every car lately it seems, I was indifferent when a nice driver was $7500, and now that I'm interested a nice 6.6 is $20k+. (Lump this in with e28 M5's, 944 Turbo S's, 911SC's, you name it....ugh.) Hurry up and burst, crazy car bubble. Every car can't be appreciating.

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  5. There is no sweeter word in the lexicon of motor vehicles than "Thunder Chicken". Aaahhh. Just saying brings a sense of balance and beauty to my life. Now, if I can just find a tattoo artist to ink this bird on my chest...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rich Corrrrinthian Leather

      Delete
    2. Thunder Devil.

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/ujk4zHp.jpg?1[/img]

      Delete
    3. Thunder Spider.

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/3tOUyoI.jpg?1[/img]

      Delete
  6. I read somewhere that road&track had to pour bleach on the tires to do a burnout in one of these.

    I like this car but don't like the price

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    Replies
    1. I remember a piece in Car and Driver back in the mid '70s telling us that in the future only rare and expensive products were going to bust 9 sec 0-60 or 17 in the quarter.

      Delete
    2. That is funny
      Well they were almost right, just the the numbers jumbled

      1/4 mile 9 sec
      0-60 1.7 sec

      Delete
  7. Whoa, whoa, whoa. TransAm? Everyone here should know better, the preferred term is a LGBQTX-Am. I am offended.

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    Replies
    1. Day 2 of Stan-watch continues, with nary a sign of him.

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    2. Did xe run screaming from the troglodytes?

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    3. You guys are too much! I always thought Thunder Chicken was usually reserved for T-bird.

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  8. Of all the models cranked out during the long and somewhat sordid history of the second-gen F-body, this was in so many ways the worst. That hideous Darth Vader nose, the lame 301, the carb-turbo setup...bleah.

    The 301 was an interesting case, not unique but educational. It was junk, but unlike so much of the other junk Detroit was pumping out, it was a clean-sheet design purposely built to be junk.

    Someone decided the right thing to do was come up with a whole new engine around the goal of making 135-150HP as cheaply as possible. So it had crap heads, crap internals, it was neither particularly powerful nor particularly fuel-efficient and it had pretty much zero growth potential without complete reengineering. It was gone in four or five years.

    ReplyDelete
  9. So the best MPG-related message they could come up with was "More Pontiac Excitement for the Great Ones"? Who gave the green light on that?

    ReplyDelete
  10. '77 and lower hood decal looked like this and is what most folks think of when recalling the good ol' "Smokey and The Bandit" T/A's with the bird head turned to the driver's side:
    [img]http://www.firebirdgallery.com/Hood%20Birds/77_black_se.jpg[/img]

    '78 through '80 indeed had a little more ornate bird with the head pointing towards the passenger side:
    [img]http://www.tachrev.com/JPEG_Images/Hood_Birds/79SETAY84Brd.jpg[/img]

    The '81 model bird was even larger and doing some heavy breathing over that slick raised the hood.... to obviously illustrate the chunks one would blow after realizing how slow the car was:
    [img]http://blog.rcbodyshop.fr/images/projets/1981_pontiac_1981_v8%20turbo_trans_am_800.JPG[/img]

    On a personal note, one of dream cars is a '77 S&TB T/A, but with a little restomod flavor:
    [img]http://images.popularhotrodding.com/features/0710phr_02_z+1977_pontiac_trans_am+year_one_bandit.jpg[/img]

    ... but an interior and engine bay like this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. So we can blame Pontiac for the whole chicks-with-giant-back-tats thing?

      As for that engine compartment - they spent beaucoup bucks cleaning the firewall and dressing the inner fenders and STILL end up with a crappy little K&N cone air filter? To each their own but my personal preference would be clean, stock-ish metal with a nice LSA crate motor in there.

      There's a guy two blocks from here with a rusty 70.5 Z/28 sitting in his driveway under a cover, and it's been there for I think three years now. If I weren't already buried under projects I'd be trying to pry it out of him.

      Delete
  11. The Thunder Chicken is a rare example of a car that clawed is way (with sharp talons) from abject gold-chain & waterbed territory to fully collectable muscle. There is a shop not far from where I live that does nothing but restore late 70s T/As and then sells them for amounts that would be unfathomable 10 years ago. I can't think of any other malaise-era vehicles that have been able to pull this off. The featured turbo has not been lifted by this bubble, and I doubt it will for a long while.

    ReplyDelete
  12. um, pretty sure a TA is a screaming chicken

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always thought it was halitosis chicken. No? And who is Tran Sam? Does he have something to do with Bruce Jenner?

      Delete

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