Rare Bird: Pontiac Firebird Turbo Trans Am

20th Anniversary Firebird Turbo Trans Am

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.


GTASourcePage, CarLust, Wikipedia


  1. "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.)"
    Hah! I'm glad my History minor is finally paying off.

  2. <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/f0qw22Yy-VM&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/f0qw22Yy-VM&hl=en_US&fs=1&&quot; type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>
    I don't actually know what he's saying (the sound on my flash player's not working at the moment), but I figured it'd classify as relevant. As is this.
    If we're talking forced induction pony cars, I tend to prefer the Mustang SVO over this, or the kitschy earlier Turbo Trans Am, since it was smaller and lighter, and had the all important three pedals. Although, this does look good in a rather 80s way.

  3. That (and the GTA that it shared bodies with) was the best looking of the 3rd gen F-Bodies, and with the GNX powertrain it would be serious fun. I'd still rather have the GNX, or even a plain T-Type Regal because terrorizing people in a car that looks like something your grandma would drive is way more fun.

  4. My dad had one of these while I was growing up – intended for keeping forever as a collector car, with the occasional summer drive. Sadly, he got sick of storing it (even though we had a 2500 sq. ft. climate controlled steel building behind our house), and sold it in the late 90s. One of the first cars I ever drove, and I really wish he still had it.

  5. A mid 40's woman in my hometown of Hays KS had one of these things that she took to all the car shows in town in the mid 90's. It was all done up with Kenny Dutweiler parts and had a claimed 500 hp. I was 14 so I didn't look twice, but all the middle aged guys were after her.

  6. I've had one since 1990. It's got bolt-ons on un-opened motor. Low 12's at 113mph with the AC blowing cold air.

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