Showdown – Dubiously Awesome Turbo Ponycars Edition

Pontiac firebird trans am turbo for sale

I’m shocked to learn that you lot would pick one of the most plentiful 4x4s of all time over an orangered oddball custom-built behemoth with a removable roof.

Todaye we have a showdown only a thermodynamicist could love. We’ve got two pony cars from an era when Detroit was testing out a replacement for displacement: turbocharging!

Pontiac firebird trans am turbo for salePontiac firebird trans am turbo for sale

Like FuManChu mustaches, malaise-era muscle styling is back, man. Unfortunately, the 180hp smog-choked big blocks hardly deliver what their displacement and macho styling would suggest. A big like stuffing the disco pants, if you ask us. Luckily, for a brief moment, The General decided to get deviant and throw 8psi of boost on the lightweight Pontiac 301, resulting in 205hp and 345lb-ft of torque for 1981. Of course, those numbers assume the turbo and the bizarre vacuum system for the carb are working happily together. This specimen appears to be in incredible shape, with only 88k on the clock. $6500 isn’t cheap, but give it a few years and it’ll seem like a steal for the 80s equivalent of the Oldsmobile Turbo Jetfire F-85.

1986 Ford mustang svo turbo for sale1986 Ford mustang svo turbo for sale

While Trans Am has gone on to the Great Dragstrip in the Sky, the Mustang lives on, strong as ever. In the late 70s and 80s, the Mustang was still unsure what it wanted to be when it grew up. After that terrible Mustang II phase, was the front-wheel drive Probe chassis next? How about a decidedly more European direction? The Mustang SVO topped the 2.3L four-pot with a hairdryer to get nearly the same power (200hp) from less than half the T/A’s displacement. Obviously, torque suffered (240ft-lbs), but the Pony’s significantly lighter and equipped with a proper 5-speed and 3.73:1 LSD rearend. The T/A’s stuck with a three-speed TH350 and 3.08:1 rearend. Our bet’s on the Pony if we’re racing for pinks, but hoo-boy is it weird lookin’. Looks like a ‘Stang born to a mare that spent too much time under the power lines. You’re not paying for looks at $4800.

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35 responses to “Showdown – Dubiously Awesome Turbo Ponycars Edition”

  1. Tanshanomi Avatar

    Trans Am Turbo = sad, gutless, has-been poseur
    SVO = awesomocity overload

  2. TurboBrick Avatar

    Even though the Mustang seems to have lost its biplane spoiler and the seats are covered in some fine $17.99 slip on covers, it's still a lot more attractive than the Fat Elvis of Trans Ams. Sure, the hood mounted "boost gauge" is neat, but that's not enough to compensate for the rest.

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      Bi-plane spoiler delete was a factory option.

  3. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    If I had to get a late second-gen F-body, this is the one I'd get.
    But if I didn't have to, I definitely wouldn't.
    (However, it is crying out for a supercharged 3800.)
    The SVO, meanwhile, is awesome as-is.

  4. joshuman Avatar

    I like the lines of the Mustang more than the Trans Am. The fact that the Mustang is probably quicker also helps my vote. Although, to be honest, I would spend my money elsewhere.

  5. Baron Von Danger Avatar
    Baron Von Danger

    SVO, no contest. I feel like the turbo four would be better then that castrated 301.

    1. UGG Bailey Button boots Chocolate Avatar

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  6. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

    Oh, God. The Turbo Trans Am. Crank it up and listen to the sound of the Pontiac V8 going out with a whimper. These cars were overweight junk when they were new, and they still are 30 years later.____But the Mustang SVO? Well, it's still quite possibly the greatest Mustang ever.

    1. AteUpWithMotor Avatar

      Now, if we were talking about the *1989* Turbo Trans-Am, that would be another story. The 20th Anniversary T/A had the last of the Buick turbo V6s, and was a seriously fast car.

  7. CptSevere Avatar

    Since I learned to drive in a Pinto, I've always been fascinated by the cars Ford produced with the turbocharged Pinto engine. I'd love to have one of these Mustangs. Taking the idea backwards and putting one of these engines in a Pinto would be a real sick idea. Talk about a sleeper. It would have to be the panel wagon with the round plexiglass window, of course.

    1. Black Steelies Avatar

      I didnt vote for the Mustang but I would have to vote for that Pinto! Sleepers are just the coolest thing, better than factory show-'em-off muscle any day of the week.

  8. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

    This is a no brainer. SVO FTMFW!

  9. dmdukejr Avatar

    My irrational dislike of Fox Mustangs leads me toward voting for the T/A, if only to hear it detonate itself into oblivion as the carburetor struggled (and failed) to meter fuel properly against the turbo's demands.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Fully opened up, it was 800cfm.
      I'm a pretty technical guy, but the wikipedia article about how it handed the on-boost fuel demands left me scratching my head.

      1. dmdukejr Avatar

        I think the q-jet is a great and responsive carburetor, but the idea of it being precise enough to respond to a boosted engine is crazy.

        1. P161911 Avatar

          The Q-jet was also used on the early Buick Turbo V-6s too. My first car was an 81 Buick Regal Turbo with that setup good for 170HP and a not too shabby 275 lbs. ft of torque. It was enough to surprise some early 1980s Mustang GTs with only 120HP.
          The carb and turbo setup seemed to work well enough. I know as a 16 and 17 year old hoon my probably stayed on the boost more than most with no problems.
          Here is an interesting website on the Turbo and carbed Buicks:

    2. Black Steelies Avatar

      it's not irrational! I agree!

  10. Tripl3fast Avatar

    As the voting shows, Ford had a better plan for the turbo pony. Maybe it is all the European success it has in touring car. Either way the Trans Am seems to be an after thought in engineering.

  11. MarionCobretti Avatar

    This should be a no brainer. The Mustang is faster, better handling, and probably more reliable.
    But I love me some second-gen Trans Ams! As a very young boy growing up in the malaise-era midwest, these were the only cars I ever saw in person that my undiscerning 5-year old eyes could tell were AWESOME. I guess one of these should have been my answer to the Eleanor question a few days ago. So I'm going with the T/A, even though I know my vote is in vain.

  12. Black Steelies Avatar

    I can't deny that the Mustang is far superior to the slug of a muscle car, but God i hate fox bodies. They're everywhere, they're usually clapped out with crap mods and to top it off they're ugly as garbage. This is a nice example but if it had to be a Mustang this would come after the Mustang II.
    The Trans Am is also far from drop dead gorgeous but its excusable for being the epitome of mullet cars. Idk, it's just more appealing to me. Granted, it's a shell of its former self but I can fix slow, it's much harder to make a Foxy look good.

  13. muthalovin Avatar

    No love for the T/A. Pontiac gets shafted yet again.
    SVO FTW.

  14. DeadinSideInc Avatar

    The Pontiac ad has rendered my head in a poor "codition".
    "Real Trans am 88,000 original miles Clean interior all original. Daily driver runs strong turbo works great. It has a 4.9 engine. The car is in great codition. looking to get 6500 OBO. Or possible trade for another Muscle car. let me know what you have. send me an E-mail. Availble for viewing just make appointment. NO SOLICITORS… No I dont want to donated the car. No Low Ballers dont waste my time or yours."

  15. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    Coming up in our next Showdown: sexual favors Vs a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
    …I needed to one-up this one for lopsidedness.

  16. engineerd Avatar

    I almost voted for the T/A out of sympathy, but between the fits of laughter I accidentally hit the Mustang button.

  17. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    I'm a confirmed lifetime Pontiac fan, and I wouldn't get near that T/A with a thousand-foot pole. That spaghetti-cranked boat anchor gives me the shakes.

  18. AteUpWithMotor Avatar

    Shameless plug time: the history of the SVO and Fox-body Mustang (… and the Turbo Trans Am (
    Fun fact: the Turbo T/A article is the most popular page on AUWM by a margin of about 20%. No, I have no explanation for it, either.
    In many respects, the SVO was what the Fox-body Mustang 5.0 should have been. Perhaps not the silly Sierra XR4i-style or the big hole in the hood, but the suspension, brakes, and controls were much better sorted.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      5 lug wheels, too.
      In a way, it gets to the everlasting struggle over the Mustang's identity. It it a muscle car? A "true" sports car? Is low price citical?
      I'd argue it's stayed alive and successful by being a little bit of each.

      1. P161911 Avatar

        I never noticed how much those wheels look like some of the 5 lugged Fox body Lincoln Mk VII wheels. VERY close, yet different.

  19. Deartháir Avatar

    I don't care if you can turn up the boost on the Trans Am to the point where it threatens to start a fusion reaction with the sheer amount of pressure, and the resulting power of acceleration will make your ears touch on the back of your head. That is one goddamned ugly car, and I'd rather see them taken to a junkyard en masse to be violated by a large metal claw.
    Simulated Mustang-like substance FTW.

  20. Sparky_Pete Avatar

    Normally the SVO would get my vote as one of the coolest, somewhat forgotten, oddball cars of the late Malaise era… but you had to go and put it against an even more oddball, forgotten and thus more inherently cool animal. Those were dark days indeed, but the Magic Screaming Poultry provided imaginary muscle to us young kids in a time when we were starved for cool rides to dream of. The Pony turned out to be a better car, but I gotta go with another bite of fried chicken this time.

  21. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    Looking at them both, I have a sudden feeling that I need a tetanus booster.

  22. PowerTryp Avatar

    I loved the SVO Mustang but then on wednesday Graverobber did something awesome. He put up an NPoCP on Jalopnik that has captured my imagination for the rest of the week. That's right, I'm talking about that DOHC Volvo headed 2.3L turbocharged SVO Mustang. I've been doing research ever since I saw that and frankly I've fallen in love and want to do that conversion so bad it makes my wallet hurt just thinking about it.
    Thanks Graverobber, you've made me want a DOHC Mustang SVOlvo.

  23. Sixtyover Avatar

    I don't believe this is a fair contest I happen to love my T/A's but it seems we have the worst example ever . Well maybe the early 3rd gens with the 4 cylinder were worse I don't know but my vote is for the stang.

  24. Kraig Avatar

    It certainly did run a 14.78 and 2.35 60' as published in Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords…it was in their 2.3 Turbo Shootout!!

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