Frequently Asked Trans Am GTA-Related Questions

Since the beginning of the Source Page in November 1997, literally hundreds of inquiries have been received regarding desired information on virtually all aspects of the Trans Am GTA. Indeed, there are many, many areas to cover on these fantastic cars, but the majority of requests involve a "core" of subjects that people want to know more information about......... whether out of mere curiosity or the fact that their particular car features the particular option/item in question. Whereas most of this information is in the other sections of the Source Page, sometimes it is difficult to trace down and decipher.

So therefore, this section has been created to help those who have a question and maybe are looking for a "quick" answer to their inquiry. Hopefully this will cover some of the more common requests, but, as always, if you don't find the information you are looking for......... then by all means let me know. 


Question #1 - "I've heard many different ideas, but what exactly does 'GTA' stand for?"

The term "GTA" stands for "Gran Turismo Americano"; an interesting take off of the famous "GTO" moniker of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as various models produced by Italian automaker Ferrari. The name also was another way to tie-in to the "euro" concept that Pontiac was trying to market with the cars. 

Question #2 - "What is a Notchback GTA?"

The Notchback Option (RPO AA8) was an available exterior option for GTAs in 1988 only, and was not available on any other F-Body model. Pontiac desired a more upscale market for the GTAs; the Notchback option was something to further distinguish the GTA from the rest of the Firebird model line.

Consisting of a fiberglass hatchback and flat rear window, the Notchback gave a distinctive style (and an unmistakable profile) to the GTA line. The small rear glass was heated, but was not removable ala' the mid-1970s Chevy Corvettes. Inside, the rear seatbacks were redesigned to accommodate a much larger integrated headrest that rose up flush with the bottom of the abbreviated hatchback; this also served to close off the rear seat from the rear hatch area.

Initially planned as a regularly available GTA option, the Notchback was canceled before the start of 1989 production, due to the low demand for the unique feature, a $700 option on top of the GTA's already-lofty sticker price. According to the Pontiac Dealer Car Distribution Bulletin of August 30, 1988:

"Effective immediately, the GTA Notchback Option UPC AA8, has been canceled. No further orders with this option will be accepted. All preferenced orders have had UPC AA8 removed. No 1989 GTAs will be built as Notchbacks. All stock orders on order will have UPC AA8 removed by Pontiac."

End of story........... go to the CDB Section to see these manufacturer's documents.

A total of 718 1988 GTAs (624 U.S cars and 94 Canadian cars) were equipped with the distinctive hatch treatment. Interestingly, despite the cancellation documentation above.... Pontiac records do show that a single car was built with the option for 1989. 

Question #3 - "Is there such a thing a real GTA convertible?"

Yes, But.....? It is still debated to this day whether or not the 1989 ASC Firebird convertibles were factory-authorized or not. Pontiac had the small outside company convert a limited number of Firebirds into convertibles due to an increase in demand for a topless Firebird. The option did have an RPO code and the cars were drop-shipped to Pioneer Pontiac in Livonia, MI for conversion, then sent out to the selling dealers after completion. The actual number of GTAs converted is not known, but supposedly only some fifty (50) cars equipped with the 5.7L TPI engine (a GTA standard feature) were turned into droptops.

According to Pontiac literature, order sheets, and production records, the GTA was not offered as a "factory" convertible model in 1991-1992. There are various model cars, however, that have been converted into droptops after construction by both dealer and owners. So, yes, there are real, authentic GTA Convertibles..... but they didn't leave the Norwood or Van Nuys plant(s) that way. 

Question #4 - Why do some GTAs have those ugly, "Porsche" style mirrors?"

Initially, the 1987 GTA was introduced as a kind of upscale "euro" sports coupe; that was its real marketing target. The RPO DD9 "paddle" mirrors were a direct reference to the GTA's supposed "euro" predilections. That style was quite common on many European sports coupes of the day, including those made by Porsche and BMW.

The mirrors were mainly discontinued because of production and supply issues, but apparently they also were prone to being knocked off the cars rather easily. Regardless of reasoning, it is a fact that only a very few early model 1987 GTAs have them. Beginning with production on January 26, 1987, Pontiac reverted to using the standard DG7 Firebird aero mirror on the GTA. I have seen two different numbers quoted as to the total number of cars built with the unusual mirrors: either fifty (50) or two hundred (200). Either way, it is certainly a rare option on any 1987 GTA.

The DD9 mirrors were used on all export GTAs through 1992, but were only used on U.S cars in 1987. 

Question #5 - "I just ran across a sharp 86 GTA, but Y84 isn't on the SPI label.........."

That's because it isn't a real, factory issue GTA...... The GTA was not introduced until 1987, regardless of many individual claims. There were some 350 TPI "test mule" Trans Ams around in 1986, and some GTA-like options were available on the T/A as well. However, the actual GTA model option made its debut in 1987. Check out the Authentication section of the Source Page for more details. 

Question #6 - "My GTA has drum brakes on the rear axle. What gives...... is this right?"

Probably, yes it is. In virtually all model years but especially in 1991 and 1992, GTAs were produced with this unusual combination. This option, RPO J42, featured front disc brakes and rear aluminum drum brakes, instead of the usual J65 four-wheel disc set-up. The reason for this was weight restrictions in keeping the cars within federal CAFE requirements. The majority of cars built in this manner were 5.0L GTAs, which in turn were equipped with the CC1 T-tops. The extra chassis bracing used in T-top cars pushed the weight over the allowable limit, so one means of saving poundage was to change the braking setup used on cars. 

Question #7 - "I've got the digital dash in my GTA....... how rare is it?"

The digital dash option, RPO U52, was only available on the GTA in 1987 and 1988, in conjunction with the C67 electronic air conditioning system. In fact, in 1988, this dash set-up was more readily used than the standard analog set-up, with 5,102 cars out of the total production of 9,765 GTAs having this option installed. 

Question #8 - "Could you get a 350 TPI GTA with T-tops?"

Yes, and No. Initially for 1987, only 5.0L U.S.-bound GTAs could have T-tops installed; they were not, according to the order sheets, available in any Firebird model with a 5.7L engine. Again, this was a weight issue dealing with the CAFE ratings. GTAs destined for Canadian delivery in 1987 were not bound by the same requirements, and were available with the 5.7L engine and T-tops.

According to Pontiac order sheets and production records, the only GTAs subsequently available with both the 350 TPI engine and the T-top option were the 1989 model cars; the GTA that year enjoyed a large build number with both options. Starting in 1990, all 350 TPI GTAs were available as hardtops only. I have seen evidence of a few 1991 5.7L GTAs built with the hatch roofs, but that is only single-digit production. 

Question #9 - "What is the story with the GTA Kammback wagon? Where can I get one?"

The GTA Kammback wagon grew out of a styling exercise by Pontiac; in attempting to gauge the possible public response to a Firebird-based sport wagon, Pontiac was considering a way to broaden the Firebird's customer base. Unfortunately, it was never committed to production due to the increased cost it would add to the GTA's sticker price.

The idea originated in 1978, with the construction of a second-generation Trans Am that made the rounds on the show circuits. That car was later updated with the new-for-1979 styling and eventually was retired to Pontiac's own historical museum. The idea again took flight on a 1985 Trans Am, and then later was transferred to the GTA Kammback wagon. The one example owned by Pontiac still is a regular sight at major car shows around the U.S. While appearing as a GTA on the outside (but the with fender vents ID'ing its Trans Am beginnings), the interior of the car features the RECARO bucket seats that were optional in 1985 and 1986 instead of the GTA's AQ9 articulating bucket seats. 

Question #10 - "Can you help me? My radio is showing LOC'D on the display, and I can't get it going again........."

Aren't theft deterrent systems wonderful? This problem means that power to the radio has been interrupted, and the Delco-Loc theft system has kicked in to safeguard the radio. Simply push the "MUTE" button on the steering wheel and the display should return to the clock feature and power to the unit will be restored.

This feature prevents the radio from being stolen and then installed in another car. The steering wheel controls are all that can reactivate the radio after power to it has been interrupted. Otherwise, it is one stylish-looking lump of unusable electronic equipment. 

Question #11 - "Did Pontiac make a 350 TPI GTA with a five-speed manual transmission?"

No, they did not. All GTAs from 1987-92 had the four-speed overdrive (700-R4/4L60) automatic transmission if the car was equipped with the 350 TPI engine at the factory. The manual was N/A with the big TPI motor due to the enormous amount of torque it produced. Also there were rumors of problems in certifying the combination for the CAFE requirements, but the truth hasn't been disclosed. 

Question #12 - "Why is the 20th Anniversary Trans Am on your page? It's not really a GTA......... is it?"

Indeed..... in reality, it is. According to Pontiac's own publications, the 20th Anniversary (TATA) cars were "GTA-based" models, and so they too are featured on the Source Page. Apart from the engine, front springs, brakes, and different badging, the TATA's all featured the standard GTA-level equipment as well. 

Question #13 - "Man, I love that Firefox GTA! Did they ever make any of those, and if so, how would you get one?"

The legendary 1989 Firefox GTA was one of several experimental prototype cars built by Pontiac to explore the upper reaches of small-block V8 performance. Equipped with special engine and suspension components, the original Firefox registered some performance benchmarks that have yet to be surpassed even today.

The second car, Firefox II, was built in 1991 to reflect the restyled look of the Firebird line. The Firefox GTAs were withdrawn from use with the beginnings of the fourth-generation Firebirds and was stored for a period of time before being destroyed by Pontiac several years ago. Neither car was ever made available for private purchase before destruction.

The only surviving example of the Firefox's era is the 1992 twin-turbo Trans Am that Pontiac still shows on occasion. Whereas the Firefox was a normally-aspirated car, this twin-turbo T/A has some features that were common to the Firefox on it as well.... including the complex independent rear suspension and ZF six-speed manual transmission. 

Question #14 - "Any ideas on why the GTA's weren't carried over to the new generation Firebirds in 1993.......?"

The fourth generation Firebird introduced in 1993 reflected a general trend in the auto industry to downsize and simplify car model lineups. Pontiac returned to the basic model lineups and dispensed with all the option packages prevalent up to that time; the base car, the Formula, and the Trans Am model had been in the lineup for decades. With the fully-contented nature of the regular 1993 Trans Am and the general industry trend away from flashiness, it was only natural that the GTA model would fall by the wayside.

Price also no doubt played a role in the GTA's demise. Whereas the 1992 GTA stickered at around $25,000, the new 1993 T/A went for around $21,000 and had a lot of new features that the GTAs lacked: dual airbags, ABS, six-speed manual trannys, etc. The new-model T/As offered value and performance, with a dash of flash thrown in for good measure. 

Question #15 - "My 1987 GTA doesn't have some of the stuff listed as standard on the later models. What's up with that?"

The 1987 GTA was not the fully-loaded car of just a single year later. Initially, the GTA package consisted of only eight (8) performance-related options plus the specific exterior appearance package; two separate option value packages were then available at extra cost to further customize the car to the owner's individual tastes. For 1988, the model went with its fully-contented roster of options to help ease ordering concerns for buyers.

So it is possible to have a first-year GTA without some of the options you have come to think of as "GTA equipment"......... 

Question #16 - "Where can I look to find original items relating to my car? I've tried my Pontiac dealer, but have had no luck......"

The likelihood that any Pontiac dealer still has original material relating to the GTAs is remote, indeed.......... and, if they do, the chances that it will find its way into your hands are even slimmer still. Considering the massive amounts of material they receive from PMD each model year, invariably some things have to go; dealers, as a rule, dispose of old literature and sales materials at the beginning of each successive model year.

There are, however, scores of auto literature dealers in business these days, and many of the best ones can be found in Hemmings Motor News, the bible for auto collectors. Many of these companies have vast libraries of original auto literature, ranging from owners manuals to shop repair books....... and everything in between. Most can either tell you immediately if a certain item is in their stock, or give you a return call within twenty four (24) hours regarding prices and availability.

Another source for literature and other items are the on-line auction companies, like eBay. These forms of doing business are still skyrocketing in popularity, and on eBay alone there are many, many pieces of Pontiac-related literature sold daily. The drawback is that one cannot request a specific item, in other words, "what they got is what they got". But many excellent items can be found through these type auctions, and patience will usually reap benefits for the selective owner. 

Question #17 - "Is it hard to still find performance parts for my GTA?"

No, but it isn't getting easier as the years go by. Even though the GTAs have been out of production for sixteen (16) years now, performance parts are still being produced and are available.... you just have to look a bit more now. The GM small-block V8 is still a favorite with hot rodders and performance buffs alike; the TPI set-up only adds a "tricked out" look to an older car or truck. So the demand for parts is still very much there.

Some parts are still available through Pontiac dealers, but the supply is rapidly dwindling; the GM Performance Parts catalog still has parts for the TPI V8s, from individual items to replacement engines. Most of the major aftermarket companies (LPE, SLP, TPIS, etc.) do business over the Internet and they all still offer many various components. In fact, some aftermarket companies have designed parts/kits to adapt the latest advanced technologies.... later-model heads, manifolds, etc... to these popular cars.

Another source for "go-fast goodies" are the major aftermarket "speed shops", like Summit Racing and JEGS. These companies have small sections in their catalogs that feature nothing but performance parts for the TPI engines, but you will find that their inventory is much more directed towards the later LT1 and LS family of V8 engines. Sales volumes drive these retailers, and sheer numbers will see to it that the TPI parts are not as popular as the newer GM stuff. Still, these places are worth a look. 

Hopefully this section of the Source Page has helped to find the answers to some of the more common GTA-related questions. Naturally, as needed, the section will be expanded to address any other items of interest that come up regularly. And, again as always, your comments regarding this section and its usefulness are always appreciated......... let me know what YOU think about it............