Ferrari Fighter: 1985 Pontiac Tojan

This is the rarest car that I’ve never heard of. It’s a 1985 Pontiac Tojan and they were made to basically give Ferrari the ol’ one-two right in the kisser. They are incredibly rare with reports of around 150 of them being made between 1985 and 1991. They are not a kit car, they were a factory-produced monster, made from an F-body Firebird by Knudsen Manufacturing in Omaha, Nebraska and they were commissioned by GM. This example can be found here on craigslist in Somerset, Wisconsin just over the beautiful St. Croix River from Minnesota. The seller doesn’t give an asking price, just saying “best offer”. If anyone needs boots on the ground for this Tojan I’m only a half-hour away. This is a really intriguing car the more I look into the history of them.

Here is a photo of a Tojan that sold at a Barrett-Jackson auction for $16,500 back in 2010. Apparently, it was used in a movie which may have upped the value a bit, but it also looks perfect. The first photo of the car for sale is the only one in the ad which is disappointing, it’s impossible to really tell the condition from one slightly out of focus photo. The ad is written by a car dealer, or consigner, who is selling it for the 71-year-old owner. There are so many questions about such a rare car, I wish they would have provided more photos. It does look like it has the optional rear wing such as on the red car above which is great. The car for sale has been painted burgundy in 2015, according to the CL listing, and it has a “Sonny Heck” 406 Chevy engine that was $9,000. Have any of you heard of the Pontiac Tojan?

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Comments

  1. txchief

    Toe Jam???

    14
    • redwagon

      I am not alone……….

      5
    • H3yw00d

      I remember these being offered for sale via half or quarter page ads in the back of car magazines. Their hook was “we use genuine Ferrari parts” and all they really did was use the tail lenses from the 308.
      I do not remember these ever being desirable or sought after cars. Rather they were viewed as a lame attempt to dress up a plain old Pontiac.
      The ads were so amateurish and not professional looking at all.
      As for the movie reference I believe Tubbs drove a Tojan once in a Miami Vice episode so maybe that’s it

    • Tricky

      First thing I thought of (Toe Jam), surely the Pontiac sales team…..????

      1
  2. NotSure

    WTH? How could we have not known about a Pontiac?? I’d love to poking around this thing! Judging from the lines in the picture of the BJ car this looks sweet!

    4
  3. mike b

    Tell me more about “digital wood”.

    3
    • NotSure

      Digital wood was the precursor to analog wood. That is until it was discovered that just regular wood used less electricity and you never needed to change out any vacuum tubes. Mostly wood is the choice today, even in high-end cars like Bentley and Toyota Camry.

      26
    • glen

      Something to do with digital porn.

      3
  4. TimM

    This would sure get a bunch of double takes at the local car show!!!

    6
  5. WILLIAM R BROWER

    I am not seeing a seem between the nose and around to the back of the front fenders. One piece???

    • Joshua LaFrance

      If you zoom in, you can see a seam even with the front of the headlights.

    • Nelson Wells

      I got excited by that also, but then look closely right next to the headlamp. lines on both cars. :(

      1
  6. Coventrycat

    This is a car for Trojan Man. Sorry, Tojan Man. Gotta be careful on the keyboard.

    5
  7. Keefer F Zeller

    New one on me and I’m a pontiac guy!

    7
  8. Jummy Jeranty

    What about the Machiavelli, wasnt that to mirror Ferrari

    1
  9. nycbjr Member

    I don’t hate it lol

    5
  10. hatofpork

    Not as rare as the Ferrari Starchief!

    9
  11. Ike Onick

    I’m going with “Toejam”

    8
  12. Josh LaFrance

    Check out the Pontiac Tojan Facebook page!
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/462753480590241/?epa=SEARCH_BOX

    I’ve owned the black one pictured on the page for 22 years.

    7
    • Stephen Stevens

      So tell us about then sir!! Performance??

      • Joshua LaFrance
      • Joshua LaFrance

        As Gary mentioned most had the WS6 performance package. I don’t really think Mos and the Gotti wheels were spaced farther out so it does handle very well. I don’t think most got anything special done to the drive train a regular Trans Am didn’t have.

        Mine is no where near stock anymore. Only have 318hp at the wheels at the moment. Still needs more HP.

        I was surprised Gary said the wing wasn’t available on the 85 because mine has one. It was missing when I got the car, but I replaced it later. At about 140mph, the front had enough down force w/o the wing the backend got a little light and scary. No problem with it.

  13. Dana Brett

    I remember these cars at Wally Maccarthy Pontiac in White Bear lake MN. They always had a few out by the road. I probably saw this one. I was a teenager and thought these cars where cool. I have a 78 trans am and was always a Pontiac man. Thanks for the memories.

    5
  14. YankeeTR5

    Interesting piece of history. Like most things limited production in automobilia, swapping out the original engine is never a good idea. Never seen one of these in person but have seen a few ads. Hard to tell about the proportions. Something tells me that if they were really good looking they’d be going for a few more $$”s.

    3
  15. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    I see 300zx, Countach, and Pantera just in the one picture. I wish it was a little more….Firebirdish?
    I’ve also never heard of it.

    7
  16. h5mind

    I have seen these before, think it was at World of Wheels in Boston. They have a seriously long front overhang. The seller is a consignment shop. They have several dozen other cars listed. Sounds like the shop owner is the one retiring.

    3
  17. Moknorurte
  18. Superdessucke

    Looks a lot like the car that Charlie Sheen drove in The Wraith…

    https://www.thrillist.com/cars/charlie-sheen-s-dodge-m4s-turbo-intercepter-from-the-wraith-is-for-sale

    This is what everyone thought cars of the future would look like. In reality the closest vehicle to the cars of the future in 1980s was the Suzuki Sidekick.

    5
    • Bryce

      Not even close
      The Wraith was a 2.2 turbo dodge

    • Superdessucke

      Styling has similarities.

  19. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    Reminds me of the Jaguar XJ220.

  20. Skippy

    Looks like somebody did a whole lot to make this car not look like a firebird. The weird early square wheel wells for example. I love firebirds, but this thing looks like some kind of bad knock off. Judging from the Facebook page, construction isn’t great. I would much rather have a pristine or nicely updated trans am.

  21. P. Ewald

    Very long and sleek looking front end . Good aerodynamics there at higher speeds. Was it only available in a specific area ? I grew up in the Midwest and never heard of this model . Usually when GM displays these kind of cars it’s a prototype of what’s to come in the in the near future. Im sure moter trend or car and driver would have been all over this car with stats and all but I don’t recall ever reading about it. GM kept this a secret for a long time !!! I would have bought one, nice looking

    1
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      I would say that they were probably pretty abundant near where they were made, in Nebraska.

      According to the article, these were afterburner custom made, so GM would have had nothing to do with them.

  22. Marko

    Pontiac Fanatic that I am, I have heard of the Tojan, but never actually seen one in person. A true fanatic, would have both the Tojan, and a Fiero based Pontiac Mera, in their collection. Both cars were sold through Pontiac dealerships new.

  23. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    I Googled the phone number to see if the consignment shop mentioned earlier had any more information or more than one lousy photo. It’s Marv’s Traiers and Auto Consignment and they have no mention of this car.
    https://www.marvstrailersandautos.com/

    1
  24. Chuck Simons
  25. Lynn Dockey Member

    check out the pontiac pegasus, i dont understand why they would want to punch ferrari in the kisser

    1
  26. Michael Stone

    Ewww! It looks like someone turned a Firebird into a Saturn. That’s rather unattractive, to put it kindly, No matter how rare it may be, I’d personally rather have a Bricklin SVT.

  27. Myron

    I actually did know about this car. Many years ago there was one on Ebay and I saw one at the Detroit Auto Show. If I remember right they had a pretty hefty price tag on them also.

  28. JimD

    Pardon me. Who ever is in charge of this site wrote a month or so ago that he wanted some info about the Pontiac Fiero. (If I remember the picture the car was a notch back, not a GT) If like any info on the Fiero I have a lot for the asking. My daily driver is an ’88 GT with a 4.9 V-8 and a 4 speed box.

    • Myron

      Correct me if I am wrong but weren’t the first GT’s a half year and a notch back? Then the following model year they came out with what we all know as the GT with swept quarters.

      1
  29. Clay Bryant

    I saw 3 of these together as I was passing by a car lot in Omaha back in the 80s. I thought 3 of one kind. Somebody is serious about what they’re doing. I’ve paid attention to these over the years and have noticed when they’ve been for sale. Probably seen 10 over the years. I admire when a person does a one-off of a car but when someone does 150 of them, be thankful for them. Whether you like them or not ,it’s little niches like this that keep the car culture alive even 35 years after they came out.

    4
    • Clay Bryant

      Forgot to add…………I like rare cars. Had one of the Bocars 40 some years ago., An Eishelmann(did I spell that right?) and latest…the BMWi8 full scale mock-up that was on Barnfinds a couple months ago I’ve enjoyed cars over the last 60 some years.Fastest thing I ever sold……? A Toro tractor with a factory Model A engine if I remember right. Bought it at a sale but the wheels were too narrow and couldn’t get it on my open bottom trailer and three guys standing there asked what I was going to do with that.I said “I don’t know a single Toro dealer that wouldn’t mind having that out in front of their business as it was one of the first”. Had 3 instant bidders at my “auction” in 60 seconds and took the trailer home empty. Could write a book on my life and cars, an interesting book. Have had over 600 collectibles of my own, not counting those I sold thru the business.

      2
  30. PDXBryan

    Back in ’85 this was actually built by the Japanese to mimick a Pontiac. It was snuck into the United States at which time it unexpectedly opened up to release thousands of Camry and Accords upon the unsuspecting Americans! A TOJAN HORSE if you will……….

    1
  31. Gary Numan

    I actually was one of the 7 production workers for Knudsen Auto that built these cars during the summer of 1985 and winter break ’85/86 when I was a college student. The small team building them were a talented group.

    The small plant for the Tojan was actually in South Sioux City, Nebraska at that time. Knudsens main facility was in Omaha. Here is a link to the current company: http://www.rageexoticvehicles.com/history.html

    Brand new loaded Trans Ams were torn down. You should have seen all the new take off parts stockpiled! Most of the Trans Ams were well equipped with the LB9 5.0 TPI engine and WS6 suspension.

    The quarter panels were cut down and the fiberglass ones riveted and bonded in. The front fenders, hood and front bumper are all glass. The rear is a hatch with a vertical window. (BTW…..lookup the rare GTA notchback option in the later 80’s and compare).

    Most of the builds were red and white when I was there and many of them were sold overseas at that time. Maroon was a rare color choice.

    The designer was none other than Harry Bradley! Look him up for the 1967 Chevrolet C10 truck design and the original Hot Wheels cars.

    My role(s) while employed were many, examples include: New car teardown inside and out, front body install, assist rear quarters install, body sanding and prep, final detail assembly for dashboard gauges (digital units), wood interior dash and console inserts, leather seats (originals recovered), etc. The cars could be customized with items like actual Recaro leather seats. The wheels were very cool Gotti’s. The big rear wing (not my taste) didn’t exist as an option back then though.

    They had a show circuit early build demo unit on hand and it had the Gale Banks Twin Turbo 350. The shop manager (and painter) took me for a ride on I-29 along the Missouri River. Trust me, it was brutally fast.

    Most of the new Trans Ams then were ordered and delivered from Bob Tagatz Pontiac in Sioux City, IA.

    Russ Knudsen was a very interesting guy that I liked a lot. I last saw him in person around 1989 in Omaha.

    A Tojan car was in a movie that Jay Leno starred in titled “Collision Course” https://www.imcdb.org/v181810.html

    So much more to be said about this interesting niche car from the 80’s.

    13
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Great information – thanks for sharing!
      Sounds like it was a great learning experience for a college-age kid.

      4
      • Gary Numan

        Appreciate the kind words.

        I was very fortunate to have the job but also had a lot of deep experience with car restorations and automotive work at an early age. My father was a car dealer and the very first vehicle we restored together I still own. We showed it in World of Wheels events before I had my drivers license and won first place in our category in the 2 years of shows entered.

        I still have photos of the inside of the Tojan plant and a dealer brochure.

        3
    • Joshua LaFrance

      Gary, please see my other comments below. Can you please get a hold of me via the Pontiac Tojan Facebook group?

    • Jason W

      Gary,
      Great info! Must’ve been awesome! Feel free to contact owner’s on both the Pontiac Tojan Facebook page and pontiactojan Instagram page!

      • Gary Numan

        Was tied up the past several days. Sorry to let you know, but I avoid Facebook and rarely if ever post to social media such as this site. My site name of “Gary Numan” is not my real name. Do you remember the song “Cars” by Gary Numan?

        I can add some more information to help:

        1. The 1985 Tojan posted in Barn Finds a few years ago is in excellent shape and shows how a “typical” one looked like with no extra options. It has the factory seats and the “swept” black paint trim at the fenders. Some of the cars were painted around the wheel lips without the “swept” affect. https://barnfinds.com/kitt-alternative-1985-pontiac-tojan/

        2. Yesterday I attended the annual “Back to the 80’s” Car Show in Burnsville, MN and I was shocked to find a Tojan in the show. Had a great chat with the owner and he is involved in the Tojan forums. I have his contact information so possibly I can assist with more information through him. He indicates that his car was one of the builds for the movie Collision Course but was not in the film. The one he has does not have the OEM t-top roof. It has a C&C aftermarket t-top installed which is interesting because the Tojans I was involved in had OEM t-tops.

        3. The photos I have of the plant were taken for a college photo journalism class I was taking at the time. They are in B/W and the cars are 1986 models because of the 3rd brake light in the tail housing. The pics show cars with the rounded fender paint and also the “swept” paint effect at the wheel housings. I still have all the negatives from the photo shoot I took in there and it would be very interesting to have all of the pics developed now. The plant had cars lined up along both sides of the main walls and If I am counting correctly, It looks like at least 9 to 10 cars were in the there in various stages of completion. 3 look finished in the bunch for shipment. One is shown just recently pulled out of the paint booth still taped up. I really need to get these negatives developed because they are so interesting to look at after all these years. The Gotti wheel boxes are in stacks too. The same group of guys in the pics are the folks I worked with. One negative shows a neat shot of all of them during break at the table

        4. The movie Collision Course can viewed free on YouTube in its entirety. The Tojan is shown in several scenes. I found myself compelled to watch it last night. Here’s the link to watch the entire movie:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOFdUgBbOkk

        2
      • Gary Numan

        Sorry for the late response. Was tied up this week. I don’t use facebook or social media. Rarely ever post on sites such as this. “Gary Numan” is not my real name. Remember the song “Cars” by Gary Numan?

        Here’s some quick info to assist:

        1. The 1985 Tojan posted in Barn Finds a few years ago is an excellent example of what I would call a “standard build” car and the pics show it to be unmodified from the time it left the South Sioux City, NE plant. It has the uplevel Trans Am OEM seats. In 1985 the Trans Ams could be ordered with 4 different interiors (el cheapo standard seats, the custom pallax cloth tutone, the Lier Siegler adjustables or the rare factory Recaro option) The only interior mods done at the plant to this one are the steering wheel cap center painted over, the digital gauges and the wood panels: https://barnfinds.com/kitt-alternative-1985-pontiac-tojan/

        2. Yesterday I attended the annual Back to the 80’s car show in Burnsville, MN and a Tojan was on display. Had a great chat with the owner. He says it was one of the cars made for use in the movie Collision Course. He says he uses the Tojan online forums so I may be able to assist with more information via him. The car he has does not have an OEM t-top roof. It has a C&C aftermarket t-top installation. All the ones I was involved in had the OEM t-tops.

        3. The movie Collision Course can be watched on youtube and I watched it last night: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOFdUgBbOkk

        4. I dug out my photos and negatives of the Tojan plant in South Sioux City. I took them for a college photo journalism course and they are really fun to look at. I need to get all the negatives printed. The cars are 1986 models due to having the 3rd brake light and all are in various stages of the build process. One is shown just removed from the paint booth. 3 are finished for shipment. It is a mix of solid and t-tops roofs and the wheel well paint with the “swept” look or just edged around the wheel openings. I think there are about 9 to 10 total cars in the photos. Stacks of Gotti wheel boxes are in the background. One shot is all the guys sitting at the table during break and it is the same guys I worked with. Great memories from 33 years ago.

        2
      • Gary Numan

        Hmmm funny. I typed one of the above responses. Then it didn’t show up on a refresh of the site after creating it. So I then typed it all over. Now I see both are posted. Comical.

      • Joshua LaFrance

        Interesting about the TTops. My 85 has the C&C tops. Of course I have no clue if that could have been done after it left the factory.

  32. Troy s

    Any relation to “Bunkie” Knudsen? I don’t know much about that guy after he got canned by Ford.
    Never knew about these, you know there is always new stuff to learn about cars it seems which keeps it so interesting. Remember the Monster Miata? 5.0 liter Ford powered mini sports car! Built them here in San Diego back when the 5.0 craze was all in. Crazy stuff.

    • Gary Numan

      No relation between famous Bunkie and Russ that I am aware of.

  33. Gary

    You guys @ Barn finds featured one of these back in Nov 2016. I found it on Google. Has more pics and also looks like the one form B.J. auction.

  34. JC

    He has 38 cars for sale, all best offer…

  35. fran

    F-Body? FEAR-O? Firebird? LOL…… Its getting bad, first the Ranchero 57 Chevy now this….LOL

  36. Josh LaFrance

    Gary, amazing to find someone who helped build these cars. You probably built mine (#19). I’d love to hear more and get copies of those pictures. Can you please get a hold of me via the Pontiac Tojan Facebook group?

  37. Ted

    This is the vehicular version of Medusa.

  38. Blk63Vette

    Phillip Michael Thomas (Tubs’s Miami Vice) also brought us the Machiavelli car based off a firebird. This wasn’t a GREAT car and way over priced. Ahhh the 80’s

  39. Good SHO

    I actually saw one of these at Thompson Pontiac when I was a kid. My parents were there to buy their only brand new car they ever bought.
    When I saw it in the showroom, I was sure it was a Pantera GT5 which I had a poster of on my wall. I was slightly disappointed when a salesman told me it was just a Trans Am with body work. Not so sure how I feel about them still today?

  40. Bryan N

    Hey aka, Gary Numan … I was the 80’s show on Saturday and chatted with you. I’m going to check out the one for sale in Somerset. Did you want to go with?

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