You may recall 3rd Gen F-bodies from such locales as abandoned, weedy lots near the port facility, or that carport next to the double-wides where most of the convicted sex offenders in your city live. However, you almost assuredly don’t remember any 1989 Firebird Trans Ams packing turbo 3800 V6s, do ya?
Actually, given the fanatically obsessive nature of all of us and you, our dear readers, you are probably more likely to have heard of this low-production gem than 99% of the autoblogiverse. This is the hoary fringe of automobilia, lest we forget. And compared to some of the cars we fawn over, a production run of 1,555 cars is positively mass market. However, for the era in which it was conceived, the performance characteristics of the 20th Anniversary Turbo Trans Am were definitely niche. Pontiac, may their blessed souls rest in peace in the scrapyard in the sky, took a page from their Buick brethren and tossed the 350/700-R4 combination from a standard factory Trans Am GTA out the window. What replaced it was a forced induction version of the ex-AMC-nee-Buick Fireball V6, heavily worked over to a rather daft level of tune. We’re talking a big intercooler, a cross-drilled crank, and revised heads … plus 16.5 PSI of boost. With just over 300 HP, it was the same lump found in the Buick GNX, no slouch in its own right. It was also significantly lighter than the 350 V8, leaving the TTA (in acronym-speak) at a relatively sprightly 3,350 lbs. This was enough for a 13.4 second quarter, and 0-60 in a solid 4.6 seconds.
Let that sink in for a second. It’s 1989. At one point in that maligned decade, the mighty scion of American brawn known as the Corvette made do with a 190 HP L81, which loped to 60 mph in a sedate 8 seconds. Eight years later, you’ve got a Pontiac Trans Am making that same journey in four-point-six seconds. Hell, a modern Camaro putting down those sorta times would be reasonably impressive. In 1989, that would be like finding out that Michael Dukakis was really a former Miss Teen Illinois beauty pageant winner. Or that he was not a wuss. At least the TTA had the common sense never to be photographed anywhere near a tank. (If you’re younger than 25, ask your parents.) It also had the good taste to not be equipped with a massive V8 to achieve those numbers.
Frankly, there aren’t many F-bodies that pitch a tent in this particular Hoon’s trousers, but the TTA’s turbo 3800 is a stimulating exception to the rule.