750 Original Miles! 1989 Pontiac Trans Am GTA Pace Car

This 1989 Pontiac Trans Am GTA is a time-capsule example that has never been titled and shows under 800 original miles. Many of these Indianapolis Pace Car tribute vehicles were kept like the proverbial comic book or baseball card where the first owners never actually drove them, just socked them away for a rainy day. It’s a shame, really, as they offered stunning performance right out of the box, using a modified version of the giant-killing mill that otherwise did duty in the impressive Buick GNX. This example presents in showroom condition, owned by a dealership since new and now for sale by the dealer’s family. Find it here on craigslist for $44,000 in Los Angeles. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Pat L. for the find. 

On a purely personal note, I don’t know anyone personally who owns a GNX but I have encountered at least three local enthusiasts who have one of these impressive GTAs socked away. In fact, a local shop where I have my Isuzu Trooper project stored has one of these in a back room in similar time-capsule shape with very low miles, and the owner of that car confirms the performance out of the box is blistering. The looks were pretty killer too, with the smoked taillight panel, gold cross-lace wheels, T-top roof panel, and all-white paint scheme. The seller notes this car has been in climate-controlled storage since new and started up regularly.

The camel interior featured deeply bolstered Recaro seats long with the now-somewhat-iconic multi-function Pontiac steering wheel (in other words, it had a lot of buttons). To be fair, I have to give Pontiac credit for finally building a tribute pace car that did two things most of them rarely ever achieve: it offered legitimate, pavement-scorching performance, and kept the add-on visual aids to a respectable noise level. No crazy colors, no deluge of stickers, and no corny aero “enhancements.” It was a great looking Trans Am regardless of whether it was a pace car or not, and putting an engine under the hood that could likely lead an actual field of race cars made it even more legitimate.

The engine wasn’t an exact copy of a GTA mill, as Hemmings notes in this excellent article describing why the engine found in the Pontiac featured some important design changes. The biggest difference is the cylinder heads that were unique to the Trans Am, and arguably did a better job at enhancing flow through the turbocharged mill. For the asking price, it seems like you’re getting two things: an outstanding muscle car, and one that will likely continue to appreciate in value for the next several years. Would you snag one of these pace car copies, or hold out for the impossible-to-find Buick GNX?

Have something to sell? List it here on Barn Finds!

Like This? Get Our Daily Email

Comments

  1. Superdessucke

    There’s a substantial price difference between a GNX and one of these. A GNX with these miles would be at least double this one’s price. At least. That’s because 547 GNX’s were built, and 1,555 of these were built. So the comparison is apples and oranges, IMO.

    6
  2. Chillywind

    Person I knew had one stock, I remember it blistering Island drag way in NJ constant very low 13’s wearing street tires. I was seriously impressed. This was in 1991. wasn’t much stock that went like that! My 1988 5.0 mustang was mid 14’s just for comparison. that’s A HUGE DIFFERENCE

    These are fast machines for back then!
    Cool car.

    10
  3. Frank Sumatra

    At the risk of repeating myself: 1995/96 Corvette, 300/340 HP, 13 sec 1/4 mile all day long, 165 mph top speed, $15,000

    6
    • steve

      Has to be the 1996 LT4 six speed to achieve those numbers.

      5
      • Frank Sumatra

        1995 LT-1 13.7 1/4 mile, 161 top speed. Purchased for $12,500

        6
    • SteveTheD

      Since this is an ’89, maybe compare it to the ’89 Corvette. How do those numbers look?

      9
      • STEVEN VISEK

        Not good for the plastic fantastic.

        4
    • MBorst

      You mean to tell me my 87 GTA was a Vette competitor. Wow, well it should be will a 350 Vette motor, right ? I ran 13.66 all day long and occasionally better.

      3
  4. TimS Member

    I love all Trans Ams and always wanted one of these. If money isn’t a concern, buy it, freshen it up and drive it. Maintain and conserve it, but drive it. Doubtlessly, hundreds of these were put away with delivery mileage. They were built to be driven, though.

    7
  5. JoeNYWF64

    Does this have the more durable Aussie rear? Otherwise, i would question the rear’s reliabity – over time – & possibly even the transmission’s.
    I would have liked to order this w/o radio, a/c, p/w & even rear seat – but i’m sure greed & expensive option PACKAGES had set in by ’89 for all manufacturers.
    I’d rather see a 2nd gen formula steering wheel in there, especially since it has no air bag(s). Looks like that shifter lost the 2nd gen’s ability to push to the right & up – to lock in the next gear.
    Even with such low mileage, would one not expect 30 year old GM seals & gaskets to start leaking, especially after a long sit?
    & could 30 yr old belts & hoses conceivably fail if you were to take this out on a long trip?
    Those tires even in ’89 are not very low profile & raised white letter ones should have been available.
    & for that sticker price, it BETTER be faster than an LX mustang! lol

    1
    • Poncho

      Regarding wheels and tires on this car…back then it was Goodyear Gatorback radials. They were plenty sticky for the day. Also as far as being low profile…I would say adequate for back then. The sidewall was enough for handling the potholes in PA and tight enough to take advantage of the WS6 suspension for handling the corners hard. I see plent of vehicles with crazy low profile tires along the side of the road with a flat. Not much there to protect those expensive wheels if you only have 1″ of sidewall. One good pothole, rock, or piece of construction debris away from a flat.

      2
  6. Bob Mck Member

    seems like a lot of miles if it has never been titled.

  7. Vin_in_NJ

    Beautiful car, but what do you do with it?
    Keep storing it to keep the mileage sub 1K? or replace every rubber bit and drive it?

    5
  8. Stevieg Member

    Sell it to the guy that bought the 1972 Hurst Olds on MSO & see how it looks in 30 years. I can’t get that outta my head!
    Nice car, but by the time this was made I was pretty much past my “the faster the better” stage but still always thought these could be a neat car to cruise around in, maybe even take on vacation. I still feel that way.

    3
  9. Pete Member

    I bought one new in 1989 after enjoying my 87 turbo Buick Regal. The car was a little quicker than the Buick which was a Regal Limited with a leather interior but no where near as comfortable as the Buick. I am 6 foot 3. The Pontiac dealers I delt with on buying the car were not honorable people. Dealer #1 took deposit 10/88 for delivery when available this happened March 89 demanded $5000.00 over window sticker. I told him shove it got deposit back Dealer #2 had car in stock would sell for window sticker left deposit came back two days later with check from bank for balance “Oh we sold it but another is coming in next week” got deposit back and left. Worked out for the better saw ad in the paper for another one went to see dealer got a $2000.00 discount “We want to move the car” so worked out for the better. So far as the car goes never happy with it sold it in 1993 but kept the Buick till 2014. Kinda miss the Buick but too many cars.

    5
  10. gregory moss

    This is not a GTA, it is a TTA .. TURBO TRANS AM….wheels are a little different color gold than gta, these can in leather and cloth, t tops in most, hard tops as well.
    This one is missing a TURBO emblem on fender…
    These came with a sticker kit as well for Indianapolis 500 Pace Car.

    2
  11. JoeNYWF64

    The ironic thing is today you probably can find a beat up 3rd gen f-body for “pocket change” & put in(except in Californa) a new Year One 400hp/400ft lb 350 small block for $3200 with ancient fuel pump, carb & distributor that would be faster than this very high tech car.

    • gregory moss

      Doubt it, do some research on these rickets

      3
  12. Mark

    There was one of these in a carport in Valdosta Georgia in 2006-2007 on my mail route that had 80 miles on it. There was an interesting history on why it had such low miles. The owner never had the decals applied and actually ordered an extra set along with an extra set of the ram air parts under the hood, all of which was laying in the back seat. I heard it sold several years ago when the owner got gravely I’ll. Tried to buy it when I first saw it but owner preferred it sitting in the carport.

    1
  13. Joey2

    gta ???

  14. Don

    I bought one in 1990 for $17,500 with 17k miles and did some small induction mods and smoked a 1990 ZR-1 corvette that sold for like 70K. the guy was pissed. These were fast cars and with a couple small turbo tweeks and such would really smoke most cars back than.

    • Ike Onick

      “Small induction mods” on a 245hp engine results in a “smoked” 375hp ZR-1? Do tell.

      2
      • STEVEN VISEK

        Not really a stretch. The TTA was known to actually make over 300, but was rated lower for corporate(read: Corvette) reasons. Torque was also higher, and peaked at 2800 rpm vs 4800 in the ZR-1(hp peak was also reached at a much lower rpm). The TTA had better weight transfer on acceleration, it’s auto trans was better suited to a drag race, and the TTA was a little lighter. Perhaps the biggest factor was the fact that the TTA was also much easier to launch compared to the ZR-1. Period road tests said stock acceleration was a toss-up between the two cars, and that was with experienced test drivers. On the street between two owners and it is easy to imagine even a stock TTA besting a stock ZR-1. When modded, even lightly, and “smoking” seems a reasonable outcome. Don’t worry, the ZR-1 will catch up in the twisties!

        3
      • Frank Sumatra

        @Steven- Do you think the LT5 engine only put out 375hp then? The only way that story works is if the ZR-1 pilot was a lousy driver. 13sec and below 1/4 mile times were standard for unmodified ZR-1’s. No way that happened.

        2
      • STEVEN VISEK

        @Frank Sumatra “Do you think the LT5 engine only put out 375hp then?” There is no reason to believe the 1990 LT5 power numbers were deliberately underrated. The TTAs were, as GM themselves got over 300 on the the dyno. I have never seen any dyno test numbers on the 1990 ZR-1; perhaps you can reference a source.
        “The only way that story works is if the ZR-1 pilot was a lousy driver.” Period road tests by professional testers had similar acceleration times for both cars, with a small edge on average to the ZR-1. There are always outliers, of course, but most tests had the TTA at 13.4-13.6 in the 1/4 mile vs. 13.2-13.4 for the ZR-1. I know of none in the 12s for either car in purely stock trim, though it was no secret that it only took about $300 in parts to put the TTA into the mid 12s. The ZR-1 was not so easily or cheaply modded. Unless it was a hot track(limiting traction) and/or a hot day(thus higher intake temps) the TTA would run mid 13s consistently and with little effort or expertise. High temps could slow the TTA into the low 14s, while the ZR-1 was not nearly so affected by such conditions. So put two novice racers(nearly everyone) in these cars and there would be a wide disparity in numbers for the ZR-1 compared to the TTA, so it is very easy to imagine TTAs out dragging the ZR-1. Obviously the ZR-1 had handling and braking abilities that were vastly superior. Only in acceleration were they rivals.

        2
  15. Cole

    I was at the Indy Raceway the day they brought them in. They locked the gates and let you drive them around the track!

  16. Chillywind

    Ok i have to reach back on this one so forgive me
    I was at island dragway in early 90s
    My good friend had bought a 69 chevelle that was a consistent mid 11 second car with a 4 speed. He put it back streetable but couldnt drive to save his butt at the time and was in mid 12s
    He was young and having fun so we brought that and a 55 chevy (still have it) my dads newer mustang and a 67 427 stock Corvette We swapped cars all day to see who can do what in our friends cars I drove my 88l lx 5.0 To a best of 14.2 with exhaust mods and we raced all day remember when you could have a beer at the track????
    The trans am which i was pretty sure was stock
    I mean this was a new car. He sat in the staging lanes with the a/c on. He
    Out ran the 55 with a manafrey 4x2s and 411 rear
    So we talked and so on
    I drove the 67 vette to a 13,2 and we were right next to each other and i mean fun fun racing
    Kid claimed it was stock
    The track was sticky as hell
    He heated the tires i did not
    I kind of remember those expensive tires saying holy crap why would you burn them on this gummy track? It was some goodyear expensive stuff
    I was there it ran up against me all day in the 67
    He was evidently a good driver and it was in a day when we said there is no way a v6 can keep up with a bb 67 vette
    My. How times have changed
    The car was fast For back then
    And i am sure with mods would be an animal
    Dont look down your nose at it
    I did
    And lost by a door length
    I still get to drive my friends 67 when i go back up there and its fast
    I miss those days
    Stay safe guys!

    3
  17. MBorst

    Steven Visek they were NOT TTA’s they were listed as GTA’s. My neighbor head one I almost bought. I did also own a GTA w/350 auto it ran 13.66 with very little “tweaking”. I ran against a Grand National a friend owned and I got him off the line that was all ! The 89 GTA turbo as the side emblem indicates was faster then the GN.

    • STEVEN VISEK

      @MBorst I wasn’t suggesting “TTA” was an official name. It is just a common moniker for this car within the Pontiac community. BTW the side emblem reads “Turbo Trans Am” and I don’t believe “GTA” appears anywhere on the car. My understanding is that while it was essentially a GTA in equipment, it was not technically named that. If you have documentation that says otherwise I’d be curious to know about it. The Pontiac brochure called it the “20th Anniversary Trans Am.”

      1

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks. Don't post your car for sale in the comments. Click here to get it featured on the homepage instead.

*

Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.