The Firebird Trans Am GTA

The Trans Am GTA was the top-of-the-line Firebird in Pontiac's lineup from 1987 until the end of the third-generation in 1992. While the Formula model was the top performer, being lighter than the loaded-to-the-gills GTA, the euro-styled monochromatic no-decal GTA was the most expensive. It came equipped with the top performing Trans Am engines and was usually delivered with most if not all options available in the Firebird line. Styling-wise, it was meant to do battle with the likes of Lotus, Porsche and other similar sports coupes.

Why was I so nuts over the GTA version of Pontiac's Trans Am? There was something that totally hypnotized me the first time I laid eyes on a GTA. It was the December 1986 issue of High Performance Pontiac, introducing the 1987 Pontiac lineup, and I fell in love with this monochromatic incarnation of the Trans Am.

And just WHY was the GTA such an important step in the third-generation of Pontiac's Firebird Trans Am? In 1986 rumor had it that Chevrolet and Pontiac would release a limited number of their top F-bodies (Camaro and Firebird, respectively) equipped with slightly detuned versions of the Corvette's then-revolutionary 350 cubic inch Tuned Port Injection motor, to try to more effectively combat the quick Ford Mustang GT. The Mustang, equipped with the 302 cubic inch engine, was the dominant stoplight street racer, regardless of the fact that the GM F-bodies were better and safer handlers. When High Performance Pontiac tested a dealer-made version of the planned 350-equipped Trans Am (back then, the top of the line performance Firebird), I began to look at the 3rd generation Trans Am in a totally different light.

From then on, I rediscovered my love for Trans Ams, which had cooled significantly since the introduction of the 3rd generation in 1982. The 1970-1981 Trans Ams had so much flash and character that the swoopy euro-styled 3rd generation never really got my blood boiling (Knight Rider was the exception, although the street versions of the Trans Am lacked the cool items of the TV car, like the no-grille aero nose and the blacked-out rear).