“From sabre-like nose to rakish tale the Trans Am is a brilliant orchestration of aerodynamic function.”
It is hard now to remember how new and wildly aerodynamic the 1982 Firebird Trans Am looked when it debuted. It suddenly made every other American car (and more than a few European ones) look like they were standing still.
The Trans Am didn’t just look aerodynamic, either: the drag coefficient of .323 is still respectable even in 2013. Pontiac’s choice of pop-up headlights (over the Camaro’s open headlights) and careful airflow tuning yielded an impressive result.
Unfortunately, the mechanicals did not come close to backing up the looks. The top of the line engine for the Trans Am was the LU9 “Crossfire” throttle-body injected 305 cubic inch V8, with 165 bhp—and that was only available with a three-speed automatic transmission, yielding about a nine second zero to sixty time (Motor Trend managed to do it in 8.89 seconds). If you wanted the four-speed manual transmission, the best engine choice available on the Trans Am was the base LG4 V8 with 145 bhp—and approximately ten seconds from 0 to 60 mph.
These performance issues did not, however, prevent Pontiac from implying the world in their commercials.
Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $9,658 Trans Am (about $21,500 in today’s dollars) included hidden electronically-controlled halogen headlamps, an all glass rear hatch, and a rear decklid spoiler. Inside, reclining bucket seats were included.
Third-generation Firebirds have a strong following and 1982 Trans Ams make regular appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds. As I write this in November 2013, there’s an LU9-equipped car with 28,000 miles for sale for $15,000. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for an 1982 Trans Am in #1 condition is $12,600.
Please make mine Black, but I think I’d hold out for the 1983 and its 5-speed manual transmission/190 bhp L69 HO engine combination.