"The fastest slalom times in the world can't replace the rumble of a big inch V8 or the way that easy muscularity can scoot the tail around with shots of throttle ... We know all about our depleting fossil fuels and the essential changeability of life but when these cars are gone we'll miss them."
-Kevin Smith, Motor Trend, July 1984
The continuing restoration and preservation of a classic model from an extinct make (2006 to present)
Powered by the once cutting edge LB9 9.5:1 compression ratio, 5.0 liter (305 cubic inch) small block V8 in turn fed by Rochester's own TPI Tuned Port Injection computer controlled EFI system and backed by the (mandatory for that model year) MX0 700R4 four speed automatic overdrive transmission, the 210 horsepower small block was capable of pushing this car to an amazing zero to 60 miles per hour in just 8.2 seconds. The TA optioned with the new port fuel injected small block could fly through the quarter mile in 16.23 seconds at a trap speed of 87mph and reach a top speed of over 138 mph (thanks to its aerodynamics, overdrive transmission and .303 coefficient of drag).
Those numbers may not sound all that great today but way back in 1986 those same numbers were good enough to put the Pontiac Trans Am among the handful of quickest sports cars produced by America ... a far cry back from the basic performance offered by even four door sport sedans of today but one hell of a long step forward from the dismal '70's from whence these types of cars had crawled through the muck of government regulations and climbed out of.
In fact, during the dark ages for Detroit just seven years prior, a smogger 400 or 403 was doing good to run the same kind of performance numbers as this TA and it had 95 cubic inches of extra displacement to its advantage. For comparison, Hot Rod magazine tested a 1977 TA with a 200 horsepower 400cid V8 in it and got a best quarter mile run of 16.02 at 89.64mph and a top speed of 123mph.
Performance through technology and doing more with less. That was the premise of the 1980's as far as performance was concerned.
"... the TA's handling is about as close as most people would want to get to an honest-to-God racing platform. ... The TA's chassis is extremely stiff, and its front and rear roll characteristics are well balanced and tuned to each other. With near-neutral handling characteristics at the limit of adhesion, and just a trace of understeer that easily transfers into controllable oversteer, the TA ... is a blast to hustle through corners. It makes good drivers better drivers, and instantly transfers a feeling of confidence to the novice. It is a car whose handling and acceleration are guaranteed to transform a bored rush-hour commuter into a wide-eyed and grinning enthusiast. This is a fun car."
Motor Trend, April 1986.
"Lean. Mean. And outrageously beautiful. Trans Am for 1986 is raw power, sleek aerodynamics and crisp handling.
And it's ready to prove its performance title ... whenever you are."
-1986 Pontiac dealer brochure
TRANS AM DIARY
- (Last updated June 6, 2015)
Follow along the times, the tribulations, and the restoration of this
particular 1986 Trans Am.
PROJECT PLAN- The process of restoring this car and all that it entails.
"Acclaimed as one of the most visually stunning cars ever built, the Trans Am's
styling will no doubt remain timeless.
... If you think '57 Chevys still look good, you'll love the Trans Am - even 20 years from now."
HOT ROD MAGAZINE, August 1986
THE STORY OF MY TRANS AM
SUMMARY- For the ADD challenged visitors to
my site who may be a little short on their Ritalin. Read the "Cliff's
Notes" on this car then decide if you want to dive into all the glorious
details (found in each link below).
LIKE MY CARS A LITTLE ON THE TRASHY SIDE" -
I don't drive mediocre
is too short to drive mediocre cars.
STORY- I had the great fortune of having a low mileage, all
original 1986 Trans Am basically land in my lap while I was surfing Ebay for
1988 to 1991 Corvettes one night. Never one to let a good (or fast) thing
get away, I acquired the car shortly to fulfill a teenage desire unfulfilled all
those many years ago in high school when this car was brand new (and nigh on
unaffordable). Ah, well. The folly of
foolish pursuits and the fun that they must surely bring.
THE MYSTERY MACHINE- This 1986 Trans Am is a real enigma, a collection
of several small, unsolved mysteries. I went into this purchase
with low expectations and even low demands but what I got when I took
possession of the car exceeded even my wildest dreams.
DECIPHERING THE VIN AND RPO CODES-
Decoding the VIN Vehicle Identification Number and factory build
codes of the TA, discovering her many options ... all 76 of them.
SPECIFICATIONS- OEM factory
specs and details for the 1986 Pontiac Trans Am.
"The shape is lean, low, and aerodynamic. Designed for performance. Ready to set pulses racing on a hot Saturday night.
It's Firebird Trans Am. And it's one of the most serious machines to ever put four tires to pavement."
Pontiac Trans Am advertisement, 1985
PONTIAC DEALER PRODUCT ORDERING MANUAL -
FIREBIRD SECTION - Here it is, a rare look into
the world of the dealership and product information / ordering. 8 out of 10 of these books were
simply thrown away at the end of the model year so finding one is a real
Grail quest. This particular book is a three ring binder that
each dealer received, a binder which held the information, options, and
ordering slips for every Pontiac model offered in 1986. I have
scanned in just the information on the 1986 Firebird and added notes where
appropriate. This should be a real treat not only to owners of
1986 Firebirds, but all third gen Firebird owners as well.
PONTIAC HISTORIC SERVICES DOCUMENTATION- PHS can
provide you with a wealth of information on your Pontiac, including
reproduction window sheets. Find out what PHS dug up for me on
this 1986 Trans Am.
STICKER - a PHS supplied reproduction of the original new car window
NEW FIREBIRD WORK ORDER - reproduced as best as possible given
existing information, here is what the build sheet / factory work order
for this Trans Am should have looked like.
FACTORY / DEALER MEDIA INFORMATION- Visual info
for the 1986 Trans Am, from scans of original dealer brochures to magazine
advertisements, test reports, and the documentation that came with the
car originally (including an exclusive offer from Pontiac for Firebird /
Trans Am fashion accessories).
BLACK AND GOLD PONTIAC FIREBIRD TRANS AM COMMERCIAL - here is a 30
second commercial that shows the aggressive stance that Pontiac took during
the mid-1980's in regard to advertising. In later years, they would
back off and by the end of the third generation Firebird, advertising for
this model would be almost non-existent. The look on the TA driver's
face at the end of the commercial explains it all quite nicely without a
single word having to ever be said.
are a pair of links to two rather catchy
Pontiac commercials I found on YouTube. I remember when these
commercials were brand new and in circulation ... during the last part of my
teenage years. These commercials also show what was all so right (and
all so wrong) with the 1980's. White suits, neon, smoke, rain puddles,
gloomy streets, guys jumping into open top convertibles, hair bands and
power chords. Sure beat that angsty, whiney Nirvana crap that
came along afterwards.
PONTIAC COMMERCIAL #2
listen to me ... If you've got nothing going on
I've got a sweet, sweet ride and your invitation.
I used to care like you but now I don't give a damn
so hop inside my Trans Am.
All the needles are broke
so I drive by feel.
It keeps my wheels turning
and reminds me that it's real."
- Rose Hill Drive
Trans Am related songs
Because people don't write songs about Volvos and Saabs
" ... these cars have enough performance to set your pulse racing. The engines fire with a lusty, soul-stirring burble. You push the throttle and blast away with a smack in the back that only big-torque V-8s like these provide. You need to watch it if the road is damp or icy; these tails wag fast and furiously. The little GM V-8s respond powerfully from low revs, they run cleanly through the midrange, and they will thrust on satisfyingly to the 5500 rpm redline. On the road, opening them up from around 3500 rpm in second or third when you're hitting the apex of a good bend is just plain glorious. You fairly pelt out, perhaps with the tail just starting to edge into oversteer. This is classic muscle-car motoring, and these cars do it well."
-Mel Nichols, "Family Feud", Automobile magazine, May 1987
"It doesn't take long to realize the Trans Am is simply the better car ... and nowhere is this fact more apparent than in the drivetrain. Alright, agreed, it's old-fashioned V8 power driving rear wheels through a 4-speed automatic transmission. No future-think, leading edge of technology here. No eye to the future. And no apologies, because the setup simply works great. The 5-liter engine - rated at 205 hp - carries GM's latest sequential port fuel injection system. Although the FI engine is only available with the 4-speed automatic, it's definitely worth trading off the 5-speed manual for the performance offered by this induction system (the 5-speed can be had only with the carbureted V8). With eight cylinders ... the 5-liter engine delivers big-time torque through a hair-trigger, snapping your neck from a standing start with a quick, smooth, predictable transition from the bottom of the powerband to the top. ... the TA drivetrain was a gem. Confident, sure, strong and more race car-like."
Motor Trend, April 1986.
1967 to 2002
1926 to 2009
Gone but never forgotten ...
"If you want horsepower overload... Ooh, if
you like kicks just take
her to the floor and you’re red lined and shifting gears,
hear the engine roar of my Trans Am..."
- Sammy Hagar, "Trans Am" STREET MACHINE album