Welcome to wheels, Mohammed! We have seen some lovely Trans Ams over the years but your 1980 Turbo Indy Pace Car is absolutely fabulous! Where did you find this?
First of all, thank you for featuring me in wheels magazine!
Well, I found this car in Canada and had it imported to the UAE. Since distance in Canada is measured in meters and kilometres, this car’s speedometer shows both KM and Miles and speaking of which, it only has 52,000km on the clock. I am only the third owner and it has been mine for the last three years now. After I sold my 1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SL, I was searching for another classic car and when the chance came to buy this I did not hesitate.
I was very attracted to it especially since my first car was a 1989 Trans Am GTA. I guess Pontiac Firebirds are in my blood!
This one is very rare, Pontiac only made 5,700 of these and there can’t be that many survivors left in immaculate condition like yours…
Yes, it is true, they only made 5,700 of these and they are very rare to find in this condition. Even though it is almost 40 years old, everything in my car works — even the turbo works perfectly with the original 301 V8 — and it is not often you’ll find a turbo in working condition in older cars!
This was Pontiac’s first turbocharged production car...
That’s right and so from a collector’s standpoint these are very sought after models. The V8 was unique in that it had a stronger block with thicker cylinder walls made from reinforced materials compared to the 1977-81 naturally aspirated 301. It also had newly developed internals such as forged pistons, mild camshaft, a high pressure oil pump and an Electronic Spark Controller using a knock sensor to retard timing when detonation was detected. It was very high-tech for the time and credit must go to Pontiac for keeping this car alive by creating this engine while all of its rivals were being killed off due to the US emissions regulations of the era.
Maintaining this car is not an easy job especially as almost 70 per cent of the engine is different than other Trans Ams with a 301. A lot of the other mechanical parts are different including the brakes and to repair this car you need an expert to help you.
The words “Firebird Trans Am Turbo” would seem to connote furious performance, but these cars were not as speedy as one might expect...
They’re not as potent as the earlier cars of the Seventies; sadly in the late Seventies and Eighties in the US ‘performance’ was considered as a bad word in the auto industry and car makers were being forced to concentrate in making efficient cars but enthusiasts still craved power. Pontiac compensated by offering the Trans Am which still looked really fast.
To be fair, the turbo V8, which was mated to a three-speed auto, made 210bhp and 467Nm of torque and this was a very healthy increase over the 155bhp and 324Nm of the normally aspirated four-barrel 301.
That was a good improvement and had Pontiac developed this motor further who know how fierce it could have become. How often do you drive this gorgeous T/A?
Well, as it is a very low kilometre car I don’t drive it much at all during the summer months but now the weather is cooler I tend to take it for a cruise maybe once every two weeks.
It is a real head turner — it’s a piece of art from the Eighties and every time I drive I see people taking pictures and videos of the car every single time. In fact, I once received a video of my car from an overseas friend on Instagram! Just imagine!
There are many classic muscle cars from the Eighties era but what made you choose this?
If you think of the Sixties and Seventies you will likely conjure images of a Ford Mustang (I used to have a 1971 Mach 1!) or a Dodge Charger or Chevrolet Corvette — but the late Seventies and Eighties belonged to the Trans Am. It was the best performance car during this period.
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You also own a beautiful 1978 Eldorado Biarritz which was one of the most luxurious cars you could buy back then. Where did you find this?
I imported this one from Las Vegas — this was the last year that you could say the Eldorado was a yacht on the road as after 1978, Cadillac started to down size the model.
To me, they should always be big and grand. It was in good condition when I bought it — in fact every car I buy should come with a clean title and be in as original condition as possible. For example, if the radio is an aftermarket unit I request that the original is sent with the car and then I remove the new one and put the original back in!
Preserving these classic cars and keeping them as pure as possible is a big passion of mine.
It came with a 7.0-litre V8 and three-speed auto and offered a very smooth ride; how much fun is it to cruise in?
It’s a huge engine but it made around 200 horses — but that was a lot in the Seventies. This car is very smooth and so quiet — you can’t even hear the engine! It is really enjoyable being inside the car because it feels just like a five-star hotel what with the supple white leather and wood trim. It’s classy and elegant and very beautiful. I used to have a 1976 Eldorado convertible which was also a great car.
This is a hard question but between the Eldorado and Trans Am which one is your favourite and why?
With the Trans Am and all of those decals on the body you feel like you are actually in the Indianapolis 500 Race! The Caddie offers a sedate, luxurious ride — it’s like you are on a calm sea in a yacht! If I have to pick, then I would say the Trans Am is my favourite. It has so much character and is such an iconic car.
What else is on your wish list?
I would love to add a 1995 Ferrari 512 TR and a 1999 Lamborghini Diablo Roadster to my collection.