Ferrari Fighter? 1987 Pontiac Tojan Firebird

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At first, I thought this unusual Pontiac Tojan Firebird here on craigslist was yet another example of silly 80’s excess, its creation driven by people who desired a Miami Vice lifestyle on a Dukes of Hazzard budget. Consider me shocked, then, when I learned that the Tojan is a step above your basic Fiero-based bodykit and is actually only one of about 150 cars ever made. Thanks to Barn Finds reader CJS for the find! 

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The Tojan was apparently GM’s answer to providing an affordable alternative to the Ferrari 308 and other supercars of the era. Although you could argue that was the point of the Corvette, I suppose having a built-to-order sports car upped the exclusivity factor quite a bit. Contracted out to an aftermarket company called Knudsen Automotive in Nebraska, GM provided the manufacturer with GTA frames, 305 engines and 700R4 transmissions. Knudsen designed the bodies, which were a mixture of Firebird influences in the front and Italian exotica out back. The Lamborghini-style wing seen here was optional.

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Inside, the custom touches continued. The Tojan received digital read-outs in the gauges, along with a custom wood-panel dashboard. Recaro seats were also installed, though the condition of this example’s buckets is suspect given the seat covers tossed over them. GM made it easy for customers to own a Tojan, as you simply walked into your local dealer and placed an order. Knudsen then got to work building your car, which also came with deep-dish Compomotive wheels and fat tires. If customers wanted to up the ante, Knudsen would install superchargers and a limited-slip rear end.

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Image courtesy of ThirdGen.org

The seller claims this example runs and drives but will need some deferred maintenance addressed, including a new water pump and tires. His vehicle has been off the road for a while and it sounds like there are other issues that will need fixing, but like many owners of oddballs, I suspect he believe the exclusivity factor should overcome any mechanical issues. Still, these were basically Firebirds slid under a custom body, so there shouldn’t be anything too surprising beneath that wild exterior. The seller is looking for $5,000 – is this Tojan’s exclusivity worth the price of admission?

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Comments

  1. grant

    Wow. It’s like they threw the best part of the Firebird away and then got busy with a stick on body kit. Love the plywood dash screwed on with exposed screws. Ick.

  2. Johnfrink

    Yikes!
    That 1st pic looks like a GTA with a bad allergic reaction.

  3. Coventry Cat

    Love that “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” pic at the end.

    • mikeG

      That would be the “Lifestyles of people who bought a plane they couldn’t afford so they had to settle for kit cars”.

  4. St. Ramone de V8

    He wants 5 G for this car, and it most likely cost huge money when built. A stock GTA Firebird will bring better money. Lesson learned. Stick on body kits rarely make a car more valuable, and surely narrow the market for re-sale. At least he’s reasonable with the asking.

  5. Van

    Well boys and girls can you say ugly?
    I knew you could.

  6. piper62j

    I find the car to be sleek and stealthy.. I like it a lot.. Never knew they existed and for a mostly fiberglass body, very different.. Especially the wing..
    Great find.. Nice car.

    Like 2
  7. piper62j

    Another shot..

    Like 1
  8. Mr. Bond

    I think you’d spend a LOT of time explaining why you are driving, what looks to me like another kit car. I think I’ll pass on it for now. GLWTS

  9. ed the welder

    it’s like an ugly bricklin without gullwing doors. hideous does not begin to describe this abomination.

  10. Tirefriar

    Don’t be too hasty boys. While I too agree that the original GTA was a better looking car this is a GM sanctioned product offered by Pontiac. As such it has a place I the Poncho history and should not be dismissed as just another kit car. I would hold off on saying whether the car is priced correctly until full inspection of the body for rust and cracks around the panel attachment points. Surely dig the wheels…

  11. boxdin

    Looked so bad I called it Toejam.

  12. ClassicCarFan

    Yup, I bet there are a whole bunch of Ferrari owners out there now just wishing they’d opted for a Pontiac with a plastic body kit and a dashboard screwed together by a high-school woodwork shop class…
    OK, I’m being a bit harsh. As pointed out above, if this was an official factory sanctioned limited addition model then it has some historical significance to Pontiac enthusiasts I guess, but still hard to see it having great desirability or value…

  13. Danger Dan

    I almost bought this car 3 months ago. The guys cool and this car looks rad.

    • grant

      What made you decide to pass, if I might ask?

  14. DREW V.

    Most of the harsh words about this particular car reminds me of the guys in the late 70′ that knocked cars like the Dodge Daytona Charger, and Plymouth Superbirds, 2 cars based on production cars but modified and sold thru dealerships. “God those are butt ugly cars, those pieces of crap are so ugly they aren’t worth a crap”… Those same idiots are kicking their selves in the ass because they didn’t pick them up for 5K when they had the chance,,,

    • Tenspeed

      A friend of mine picked up a yellow Superbird 440+6 for $1200 in 1976. I was a poor college student and couldn’t even think about it.

  15. Van

    Yes we can be to harsh.
    I’m sure it looks better in person.
    Usually cars like this were built on base option v6 cars by Choo Choo customs.
    Two of my favorite cars have wings, Pantera GT5 and the JUDGE.
    Sometimes my inner smart ass takes control.

  16. Pfk1106

    Inho fuggly..

  17. Pfk1106

    Imho fuggly.. But what do I know, I think ramblers are cool

  18. Rick

    I’ve got a soft spot for oddball kits cars. While technically this is not a kit (it was factory assembled) I agree that the dash could have been way better designed. Personally, I like it, a lot… paint it black or some dark cherry color and put a factory dashboard back in, and it would be a very cool cruiser that would confuse everyone. Just leave out the KITT nose light…

  19. Mark S Member

    The thing about the dash screws is as I remember it that GM did that on a number of there cars and trucks they were plastic and only some of the screws were real, the rest were moulded into the panels. As for the car I think it looks kind of cool but if it were mine I’d change the colour the white does not work well with the lines on this car. The other thing you’ll want to do is carry an extra mass air flow sensor with you as they were none to fail without warning. Looks better than the base line Pontiac nice find.

  20. Van

    Air bag the suspension and add 18″ and 19″ staggered wheels.

  21. AMCSTEVE

    Why oh why would they stick that anemic pos 305 in that car, I thought GTAs all sported the Vette 350?
    Other than that it’s cool and workable. What a conversation piece

  22. Car Guy

    Their was a company in Vancouver, making a sportier version of the Fiero. Ferrari styling on a Fiero body and they were selling quite well, 86,87,88 and then the company went off the grid. I quite liked the redesigned version at the time ( of course it was the 80’s and I had no taste back then) but for the life I cannot remember the name. I think it was a stock play ( the company was listed on the Stock exchange), any way. I think even car and driver did an article on them in the day.

    Like 1
  23. charlie Member

    Like the Imperial convertible another way into the hobby with a car you can drive on the Interstate and take to the supermarket, and a enjoy, and meet good car people along the way at a reasonable price. And probably at the bottom of its market as well.

  24. William H

    I don’t know, I kinda like this little car. Certainly is unique and the fact that it is a factory offered custom ups the neato factor for me. Then again, I like oddball, off-the-wall and other cars that a lot of people wouldn’t look twice at. I like off-year wagons and lots of more door cars better than their 2-door counterparts.

  25. jptrucker

    If I was on the other coast this might be worth investigating. I like the 80’s, body kits and all.

  26. 1sicbronconut

    Based on a Firebird and built in Omaha Nebraska, I worked them and more than likely helped build the one pictured.

  27. Stephen

    It’s not a horrible looking car. The problem is the guy posted crappy photos and didn’t even wash it before taking them. That and the gaudy wing.

  28. sparecr

    You are not very far off saying Miami Vice and Tojan in the same article as Phillip Michael Thomas actually endorsed the car and I believe it made appearances in one or two episodes of Miami Vice.

  29. Justin

    I would love to know what kind of power a supercharged 305 made…

  30. MikeK

    Well…. it’s different.

  31. Owl E-4

    Goggle Chevrolet Camaro Carralo for the other half of the story. The dash is actually burreled Carpathian Elm. No kit to the cars, Tojan and Carralo. Only the glass and doors remain of the original vehicle visible body. Full one piece front fenders are used and the rear quarter panels are one piece. These vehicles had MSRP s in the mid $30s per the original window stickers. I have heard that the full leather interiors and the Recaros were optional but are in every one I have seen- only a Tojan when they were new and the Carralo I own. I would like for a Tojan or Carralo owner to post what they know about the three piece wheel used. I have the outer wheel out of round and would like to repair or replace.

  32. GMiller

    I have a 1988 Tojan and it is still a great drive. Yesterday I took out on a short trip on the interstate and at 80mph it feels like 50. I don’t know it it gets attention because it is ugly or has never been seen before, but it still will blow by most cars on the road. My Tojan is in original condition and the interior of the car pictured is a cheap imitation and nothing like the original..

  33. Owl E-4

    Qwl E-4
    Has anyone that owns the Tojan or the Camaro I-Roc Carralo Knudsen car know what company made the digital dash. I need a schematic to get my gas gage wired to show correct. Help me if you know any information. Thanks

    • Rob

      Knudsen is still in business. Check for rage industries

  34. Roger lanthrip

    Hey guys. I happen to own one of these Trojans anyone interested in buying mine. If so shoot me an email and I’ll give you the full poop and pics on the car
    Thanx
    Roger

    Like 1
    • Rob

      Roger… What year and color is yours?

    • Reuben

      Hello I’m looking for parts for my 88 Tojan I need a bumper & left side front panel.
      text or call Reuben 310.806.2181 California

  35. William E. Holt

    I actually bought one of these back in the day. Thought I had something special. Drove it, ran it and was none to impressed with it. Had I known it was a specialty car with everything being pretty much cosmetic I may have never bought the thing. Now wishing I had kept it instead of trading it off for a ’64 SWB
    Pick Up.. Oh, well, if “We’d only known” we’d all be millionaires
    .

  36. john campione

    I just bought one. 1986, and having already owned a few 1969 and 1970 chargers and Mach1’s this is kinda unique and cool. say what you will but one mans junk is another mans fortune

    • Bill Lassiter

      Ya, I have a white convertible. It definitely gets the looks!!

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