1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am hatchback coupe

I recently revisited this very early post, modifying it enough to classify it as brand new.

“From saber-like nose to rakish tail, the Trans Am is a brilliant orchestration of aerodynamic function.”

It is hard now to remember how new and wildly aerodynamic the 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am looked when it debuted—Car and Driver wrote that it’s “exterior sculpturing is an absolute knockout.” The Trans Am 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 2019. 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 LU5 Cross-Fire 165 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with throttle-body fuel injection—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 145 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor—and approximately ten seconds from 0 to 60 mph.

These performance issues did not, however, prevent Pontiac from implying the world in their commercials for the Trans Am.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $9,658 Trans Am (about $26,000 in today’s dollars) included power brakes (front disc/rear drum), hidden electronically-controlled halogen headlamps, dual sport mirrors, an all-glass rear hatch, a rear decklid spoiler, and 205/70R14 steel-belted radial tires (still a readily available size) on 14-inch turbo cast-aluminum wheels. Inside, reclining front bucket seats and side window defoggers were included.

Options included a special performance package ($387 bought you the special handling package, four-wheel disc brakes, and 215/65R15 blackwall tires on 15 x 7 aluminum wheels), power windows ($165), power door locks ($106), a tilt steering wheel ($95), and air conditioning ($675).

Third-generation Firebirds have a strong following, and 1982 Trans Ams make regular appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1982 Trans Am with the Cross-Fire engine in #1/Concours condition is $20,400, with a more normal #3/Good car going for $7,600. When I updated this blog entry in February 2019, there was a Black/Gold 1984 Trans Am with black seats, a 5.0 liter/305 ci V8, a five-speed manual, and 1,971 miles for sale in Hemmings for $23,000.

Please make mine Black, but I think I’d hold out for the 1983 version and its five-speed manual transmission/190 bhp L69 HO engine combination.

Updated in February 2019.


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