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5,000 Mile Turbo Car: 1989 Pontiac Trans Am

Sometimes, car collectors get their guesses wrong when it comes to which vehicles should be squirreled away. I can think of plenty of pace car replicas and other special edition models that became the over-hyped comic books of the car world, where projections for major investment returns never panned out. The same cannot be said for the turbocharged Buick Grand Nationals and Pontiac Trans Ams, which wowed the world with their prodigious performance and quickly became the darlings of GM collector cars from the 1980s. They remain quite desirable to this day, with low mileage examples like the Turbo Trans Am (TTA) listed here on eBay with three bids to just under $30,000.

It seems like bidders rarely question going hard for these turbocharged Pontiacs, which produced scorching 0-60 and quarter mile runs, numbers that certainly made the Corvette engineering team wonder where it all went wrong. The turbocharged Trans Am is perhaps most recognized for pacing the field at the Indianapolis 500, but finding one that isn’t a gussied up replica can sometimes prove even more challenging. Of course, the holy grail is one with a solid roof panel and cloth interior, but those are as rare as hen’s teeth. This is the more common example of a very limited vehicle, with a biscuit leather interior and T-top roof.

Pontiac really got everything right with this car, as not only was the out-of-the-box performance exceptional, but it was a nicely trimmed car as well, one that made the typical low-rent GM interior seem so much more bearable. The leather seats in this example remain in exceptional condition, and pictures showing them covered with towels are a sign that they don’t see regularly exposed use. The seller notes this car was stored in a longtime Pontiac fanatic’s collection before his passing, and has just 4,765 original miles on the clock. There’s little reason to doubt this claim, as the cosmetics are outstanding.

The seller claims the original owner left his house one day with $30,000 in his pocket to buy one of these turbo Trans Ams directly from Performance Automotive Systems, which oversaw the installation of the turbocharged mills. The car didn’t see much use after that, but it was apparently drag raced at least once to see what it could do – turning in a time of 12.938 at 102 miles per hour. These cars were so overbuilt and capable of such ridiculous speed right out of the gate, it makes you wonder why GM didn’t continue to develop turbocharged engines from that point forward – think about where they’d be today. This survivor seems like the type of investment that will never go sour.


  1. jwzg

    Leave it to GM to develop a world-beater concept and orphan it.


    Like 23
    • ADM

      They’ve spent billions and billions on projects, only to abandon them, especially when they finally get it right.

      Like 2
    • stevee

      Or, the other GM experiment called Allante.

      Like 1
  2. JBD

    These were incredibly fast cars and should have developed a huge following.
    Sportier than A Buick GN and should have been marketed better also.

    Like 8
  3. MoragaPulsar

    About $65k in 2020 dollars, special indeed. Pretty and I like, but not sure how much marketing of this world beater at the time would have helped this mass-market quality car.

    Like 2
  4. Blueprint

    The Camaro does come with a turbo four these days, and it’s no slouch either with a 5.9 in the 0-60 sprint. Handling also improved thanks to the lighter front end.

    Like 3
  5. JBD

    I remember the ‘89 Trans Am GTA being a fairly pricey option over a standard TA, best option being the 350 Vette TPI motor.
    Dealer allocation of turbo Indy Pace Cars was probably limited. Some vette Indy Pace Cars never did appreciate in value much over the standard vettes.

    Like 1
  6. ADM

    This is the car that Sam Kinison was driving, with his new bride, when a drunk 17 year old still hit them head on, even though he’d pulled off the road, to the right. If he’d worn his seatbelt, he probably would’ve survived, as did his wife, who wore hers.

    Like 1
  7. Keith

    Gm put a lot of money into the development of this car only to screw themselves as used with the pricing. The car was supposed to hit the showrooms for $24,995.00 but even to the dealers it came to them for $31,223 with the two options leather and t-tops. I had ordered one and after 6 months had to figure out ware to come up with the difference. She cars sat for two years on the lots because of this pricing.It was a fun car but after getting tired of that V6 sound just sold it for 20k with 5 k miles on it.Bought a 70 L78 Chevelle and just loved the rumble of the V8 again.Very fast car just not in the sound area.Still have the performance chip if any one wants it.

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