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Pontiac Turbo Firebird/Trans Am

John Ehrenberger's 1981 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am Special Edition

OK, the BEFORE BLACK Website is about Buicks and the V6 engine. So why is a Pontiac with a V8 here? Simple, while the engine is a Pontiac 4.9 Liter (301 ci), the technology surrounding it is all Buick. The 301T uses a Carb/Plenum/Turbo draw through design, wastegate, ESC, and similar exhaust plumbing. The '80/81 Turbo Firebirds, like the early Turbo Buicks suffers from a respectability issue. When compared to the 455 and 400 TA's, it doesn't have a chance. Look at it for what it was intended to be and when it was built, and it's an interesting car. Many tuning, repair and modification procedures are the same for the 301T as the Turbo V6.

I don't know how much the '80 and '81 models differ, but I do believe that the '81 uses an ECM and therefore tuning the two years would be fairly different. The 301T suffered from detonation much more than the Turbo V6. It was set for 9 psi of boost (like the Turbo V6). Even at this modest level, however, magazines reported significant knocking while accelerating. This would explain why the 1/4 mile times are so inconsistent.  The 91 octane premium fuel of the time didn't help. This is probably to greatest hurdle to overcome when trying improve the performance of the Turbo V8. After this, the 301 is reportedly not to strong internally to handle much power. The extra pistons and displacement, however, did help propel the Turbo 4.9 Firebird/TA's down the quarter mile faster than the Turbo Buicks of the time:

YEAR MODEL 1/4 time 1/4 speed 0-60 SOURCE DATE
1980 Turbo Trans Am 16.5   8.0 Motor Trend 11/79
1980 Turbo Trans Am 16.30 86.78   Hot Rod 3/80
1980 Turbo Trans Am 17.5 80.0   Road & Track 4/80
1980 Turbo Trans Am 16.64 84.11   Popular Hot Rodding 6/80
1980 Turbo Trans Am  17.02 82.10 9.05 Motor Trend 6/80
1980 Trans Am w/ 301 NA 17.05 80.28   Popular Hot Rodding 6/80

If you have one of these Turbocharged Firebirds or TA's and are looking for help specific to the turbo and engine management, please participate in the BEFORE BLACK Message Board (link above). Look over this website and find out the similarities of the 301T and the Turbo V6. Let us know what you have done to increase your 301T's performance. Maybe along with the Carb/Turbo Buick V6 owners, we can get a little more respect for these cars!

1983 Turbo Trans Am?

In 1982, the Firebird was resigned and power was lacking with the Small Block Chevy 305 as the top engine. Pontiac investigated the Buick Turbo V6 for use in a new "Turbo Trans Am". In the May, 1982 issue of Hot Rod magazine, the possibility of the Turbo Trans Am was reported. From the Down the Road section by C.J. Baker:
 "Pontiac Engineering is reportedly investigating alternative engine options available from the GM corporate engine list, and unless you've been living in a cave somewhere, you know what that means - the turbocharged 3.8 liter Buick V6. A Trans Am already fitted with the newly revised '82 Buick Turbo V6 has been spotted running around the GM Proving Grounds in Mesa, Arizona, and the results are reportedly very impressive. Such a package could be a reality as early as '83, offering the buyer some real distinction between the Z28 ands the Trans Am"

1984 Turbo Trans Am?

Later that same year, in the October, 1982 Hot Rod issue, the TTA came up again. From the Down the Road section by John Baechtel: "Rumor has it the 1984 Trans Am will be fitted with a highly developed [SFI} version of the 231-cubic-inch, turbocharged Buick V6; the idea being to give the Trans Am a renewed sense of identify that can't be achieved while the sports car [shares] the same powerplant as the Z28 Camaro. Having driven a car with the '84 Turbo package, we can assure you a Firebird with this combination would be quick enough to give new meaning to the term Trans Am Territory."

Had the 1983 or '84 Turbo Trans Am become a reality, it certainly would have changed the direction of Pontiac's F-body. It probably would have also taken away some of the image from the Grand National. Just as Chevy lost the opportunity with the Turbo Monte Carlo, Pontiac missed it with the Turbo T/A (or maybe Buick was protecting what it had!) It wasn't until 1989 that the Buick powered Turbo Trans Am became a reality.

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