GTA-Related Research and Reading Sources



This section of the GTA Source Page concentrates on the different types of information sources available to the GTA owner. Many owners have contacted the Source Page wanting to know what are the best sources of information, whether for documentation, research, or just plain enjoyable reading. The majority of these books and magazines are available at just about any quality bookseller (Barnes and Noble, Waldenbooks, etc.), as well as most of the notable online outlets too (Amazon.com, etc.).

 

At present, there are a number of good sources for information on the Pontiac Firebird, regardless of the particular generation one is interested in. Since the Trans Am GTA is but a small part of the overall Firebird story, it is necessary to pick and choose if one is looking for a lot of information specifically pertaining to the GTAs. Some books give the GTA only a perfunctory mention, while others may devote pages to photos and information on these cars. Since there are, to my knowledge, no GTA-specific books on the market at the present time, one has to weed through the vast number of Firebird books on the market in order to find what he or she is searching for.


Without fail, if you are looking for GTA images above all else, then the best place to go is to Pontiac's own catalogs and publications of the GTA era............


  


t seems that Pontiac has had for a number of years the very sneaky habit of turning out more than one "official" catalog during each model year; naturally, this makes it very hard for the collector to get all the books for a given year. Some years the extra booklets were mere condensed versions of the "deluxe" brochure, while during other years the extra brochures were markedly different, both in photo and information content.

For those of you out there who are interested in obtaining the correct catalog that goes with your model year GTA, the images below depict the brochures for each year of the GTA's production run, along with any interesting tidbits regarding each year's volumes:


Pontiac Factory Brochures   

1987

The PMD brochure for 1987 featured the offset hood bulge from the new-for-that-year Firebird Formula. The Formula was reintroduced to the Firebird line in 1987 after having been dropped in favor of the luxury-oriented Firebird S/E when the Third Generation Firebirds appeared in 1982. This brochure is a slick 77-page manual that features a mere five pages of information on the Firebird models for that year. There is a excellent double page spread of the GTA on the first two pages, along with an excellent shot of the interior.

There is also a smaller version of this same manual that was used at some point during the model year, featuring the same cover image and most of the same interior photos, albeit in a smaller, cropped format.


 

1988
 

The factory manuals took on an entirely different perspective and look for 1988. To my knowledge, there was no "deluxe" brochure produced for 1988 (if somebody out there does have one, please let me know......), but instead a series of "handbooks", along with a large fold-out poster, were released instead. The first, pictured above, is subtitled, "Road Cars - Excitement For The Driving Enthusiast", and features an action shot of the new-for-1988 Bonneville SSE. This 70-page booklet is interesting in the fact that it is written in the form of an ongoing narrative that puts each car line in its own little story somewhere in a specific part of the U.S......... no doubt to emphasize the "Road Cars" moniker of the front cover. As for information on the Firebird line, well......... how about a whole SIX pages! The photo work is excellent though, which makes for a nice consolation prize........... 

 

 

The second factory 1988 booklet pictured above was released later on in the model year; in fact, it was the one in showrooms when I bought my red GTA in September 1988. This brochure is subtitled, "The Hot Ones - High Performance Handbook" and dispensed with the geographical "plantings" of each model and gave more info on the cars themselves. The Firebird line was reduced to four total pages of coverage, but more information was included without all the geographical references of the first edition. It also features a really nice fold-out inside the front cover to show all of Pontiac's 1988 cars grouped together. 

 

 

 

This large fold-out poster was another of Pontiac's promotional tools used to push its 1988 lineup. Produced in conjunction with the first brochure, it too features the U.S. geographical placings of each model along with a nice large photo and information on each car line.

 

 

 

 

This is one newly acquired example of yet another of the 1988 PMD model line's factory brochures. This unique piece is a full line booklet, horizontally arranged to feature one model for each page. It gives a few facts about each model and also features at least one photo of each model on its separate page. It finishes with a "teaser" for the new-for-1988 1/2 Grand Prix.....

 

 


 

1989

With 1989 marking the twentieth (20th) anniversary of the Trans Am, Pontiac certainly didn't disappoint; a total of three separate manuals were released for 1989. The brochure shown above is the "deluxe" edition for 1989. With a total of eighty-one (81) pages, it was one of the largest PMD brochures to date. The cover featured the new Grand Prix, with a GTA Trans Am right alongside. The inside cover was a tri-fold affair, highlighting over thirty (30) years of Pontiac engineering excellence by the use of an illustrated timeline graphic. The Firebird line scored an impressive twelve (12) page photo-essay, with an entire page dedicated to the new Notchback GTA (which had already been dropped from production by the time these brochures hit the showrooms). Photography was again excellent, but the tech info was a little bit on the light side compared to other years.  

 

 

The second brochure for 1989 was a majorly condensed version of the deluxe manual; this small booklet covered only twelve (12) pages........ and all the models were included! The cover above is essentially a flip-flop view of the big brochure cover, in that this time the GTA is featured and the Grand Prix is cropped off. The entire Firebird line merits one page of coverage in this booklet, with a large photo of a black GTA illustrating the top-of-the-line Firebird model. Some basic model information and available features are also mentioned.

 

 

 

The last booklet issued for 1989 was sent out at mid-year, with the introduction of the Twentieth (20th) Anniversary Trans Am (TATA), on which this brochure is based. Featuring an imposing shot of the TATA's front hood and nose badge, this eighteen (18) page manual covered the TATA in depth and also touched on all the other Firebird models as well, including the GTAs. Again as usual, the photography is fantastic, with a quad-foldout center shot of the TATA and closeup shots of its various parts and features. There is also a nice center foldout showing the many highlights of the Trans Am's twenty years of existence. Lastly, there is a foldout offering all of the official 1989 Indy 500 Pace Car apparel and merchandise.

 

 


1990


For the start of the new decade, Pontiac's 1990 deluxe brochure covered eight-two (82) pages and featured the new-for-1990 Trans Sport SE mini-van on the cover. The Firebird was relegated to the "back seat" in this year's festivities, with it featured in a ten (10) page spread at the rear of the booklet. The GTA took the lead with a double-page spread, and the new airbag-equipped cockpit also received a highlighted look. The feature was rounded out by coverage of the other Firebird models and the list of standard and available features

 

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1991


The Firebird line received its own booklet again with the introduction of the wildly-restyled 1991 models. Released to build up hype for the new models, this twelve (12) page, slickly styled fold-out booklet was one of the sharpest Pontiac has ever released featuring the Firebird. Fronted by a Bright Red GTA, the fold-out opens to reveal the new Firebird Aero Coupe, and then opens once again to highlight the Trans Am and Formula. On the centerpiece, the GTA once again takes precedence, as a Medium Green Metallic example is shown in a menacing pose. The back cover lists all the specifications and key numbers.

 

 

The usual deluxe brochure was also released into dealer showrooms for 1991, with the Firebird line covering ten (10) of the ninety pages of the booklet. The GTA covered the first two pages of the review, with the other models following suit accordingly. an interesting addition was a "Firebird Tech" section listing some of the improvements for 1991, along with an excellent shot of a Formula Firebird undergoing cornering tests on a track. The final two pages were a comprehensive listing of all the pertinent information on the Firebird, including available options and package combinations. 

 

 

 

Another new addition to my collection is this rare 1991 GM European Firebird Brochure. The first of these I have ever seen, it lists the full specifications of the line and the models, including the GTA, that were available to European buyers. For some reason, it seems that the Formula model was not offered overseas; it is not listed at all in the booklet. And the photography is excellent, too..... Some of the pictures mirror the US Firebird booklet, but some are new to this one as well, including a fantastic profile shot of a green GTA.

 

 

 


1992


For the GTA's final year, the Pontiac deluxe brochure was an impressive ninety-eight (98) pages; the listings of the Firebird models cover twelve (12) of these. The centerpiece of the spread was the still-newly-available Firebird and Trans Am convertibles. Sadly, the GTA is hardly in evidence here, with only a single small picture on the opening section of a rare yellow GTA........ cetainly due to the GTA's now-lofty sticker price. The Firebird aero coupe was strongly pushed for 1992 by Pontiac since, when equipped with the optional gold lace 15" wheels, this model virtually mirrored the GTA at a vastly lower price to the customer. Once again, the feature ended with the usual listing of standard equipment and optional accessories.

 

 


 As in the earlier years, there were smaller versions of each of the early 1990s catalogs. Until recently, I had never seen them anywhere, but through the wonders of the Internet, I now have a copy of each in my collection:  



The mini-brochure for 1990 consisted of twelve pages, one for each model in the Pontiac lineup. The cover was the same as the larger brochure. Firebird models were listed on page eleven (11), with a larger shot of the 1990 GTA combined with a smaller photo of the new airbag-equipped dash layout. Model information is hardly touched on, with only the barest facts listed in a small aside.

 

 


 

Again, the booklet for 1991 mirrored the large deluxe brochure, with the same image of a Grand Prix gracing the cover. The Firebird graduated up to page nine (9) of the twelve inside, with the new Trans Am Convertible taking center stage with a nice photo. A smaller shot below detailed the difference between the base model and aero-equipped Firebird coupes. Also again, the base information on all Firebird models was also included.

  

 



 

The "junior" brochure for 1992 grew in size to sixteen (16) whole pages.......... with the new Firebirds taking up pages twelve (12) and thirteen (13). Sadly for the second straight year, the GTA was not shown among the models featured. A prominent two--page shot of the T/A and Firebird dominate the spread, with a small shot of the Formula thrown in for good measure. The barest model facts for 1992 again finish out the piece.

 

 

 


  

Other Reference/ Research Books


Reference and/or research books about the Firebirds are out there, but they may require some digging to uncover. Although not nearly as plentiful as similar books for other marques (Corvette, Camaro, Mustang, etc.), there are some excellent books in print to help owners learn as much about their particular car as they would like to know. While some are strictly research manuals, many of these books are also filled with interesting tidbits of information about the Firebirds in general. A rating system per the book type is also included for easy reference: A, B, C, etc. For rating purposes, the type of information in each volume is also taken into consideration.


The best place to start when trying to document your car is through the Regular Production Option (RPO) code sticker. Deciphering these codes can be a headache. Several sites on the Internet feature RPO Code lookup features, but many times the more obscure codes are not listed. Short of obtaining one of these palm-sized little jewels:  

 


 

a GM RPO Code booklet (which are highly guarded by GM dealers), some of these books listed below are the best sources to help you figure out what all those codes are and what they mean. In most cases, it will take the coverage of many different publications to identify all the RPO codes on a single car.
 



To date, this is the best Firebird research book in print, bar none. A part of Cars and Parts Magazine's Matching Numbers Series, the Firebird ID Numbers 1967-1993 covers all the information about Firebird production and option codes for each year up through 1993. All items are covered in this book: VINs, engine castings, transmission numbers, paint codes, rear axle codes, RPO options, and much more. There is even a section in the rear of the book showing paint and interior samples for each year of production. This book is a must-have for anyone interested in Firebird numbers.

 

Rating: A+++ 



John Gunnell's fantastic Illustrated Firebird Buyer's Guide is another must-have for the Firebird lover. Just published in its third edition, the book now covers all Firebird models up through 1998. Loaded with information, this volume is one of the best to follow the Firebird's track through the years right up to the latest models. Many areas are covered, including standard/available options for each year as well as a collecting guide for each model year. Content-wise, this is the top Firebird book on the market, bar none.

 

Rating: A+++ 


 

The Firebird Red Book is another informative book that deals with Firebird production and documentation numbers. Basically a condensed version of some of the other books already mentioned, the Firebird Red Book is an excellent size to take along when you go to take a look at that GTA you've been coveting. It'll help you ensure that everything is "on the level".......

 

Rating: B 



Also co-authored by John Gunnell, the Standard Catalog of Pontiac 1926-1995 is an excellent book that tracks the history of not only the Firebird, but also every single Pontiac model sold since 1926, including Oakland as well. Each year model is highlighted and listed information includes options, production figures, carline and model changes, factory photos, vehicle specifications, and a lot more. This book is a bit hard to read and decipher, but has a lot of useful information in it if you take the time to dig it out.

 

Rating: B--- 



This book, part of the Osprey Classic Marques series, is basically a picture album of Firebirds from 1967 through 1994. The Firebird saga is covered up through the years, but the strong point is the fantastic photography throughout the book. GTA coverage is slight, with only two photos of a white 1991 GTA; overall, though, the coverage for the third-generation models is excellent. This book is highly recommended; the great photos alone would be enough to recommend it, but the story is informative as well.

 

Rating: A+ 


 

OK, this one is the "be-all, end-all" if you like great Firebird photography. Motorbooks International's color history Firebird and Trans Am 1967-1994 is the best photo book in print today. Coverage of all third generation models including the 1992 Firehawk is excellent, but the GTA is also strongly featured; many photos are shown, including one of a black GTA in police guise. Models and generations are also covered separately and in depth, making for an excellent supplement to the images. In short, this is simply one fantastic book.

 

Rating: A+++ 


 

Some of the hardest information to find is original performance data, i.e. road tests, reviews, etc. Short of still having the actual magazines that the cars were featured in, there is one place you can look: Brooklands Books' High Performance Firebirds 1982-1988 has several of the original road tests and reviews reprinted and compiled in one handy volume. The 1987 GTAs are heavily reviewed towards the end of the volume, with one road test and two compilation tests.

After 1987 and the GTA's introduction, road test information is extremely hard to find. Except for a couple of tests of later models and the media blitz that marked the introduction of the 1989 20th Anniversary T/A, there was not a lot of information printed about these cars. The lesser models got a lot of the press, and surely the GTA's ever-escalating retail price affected interest in it as well. For 1991, the newly-available Firebird convertibles were the rage, and in 1992 the Firehawk model received the majority of the media attention.

 

Rating: B+++ 



This volume, published by Iconografix, is basically a photo album history of the Trans Am from its inception in 1969 up to the present day 1999 models. Edited by George Scala and Wallace Wyss, the Pontiac Trans Am : 1969-1999 Photo Album features many nice images of these cars, with all generations handily covered. The only problem is that the entire book save for the cover is printed in black-and-white; if it were in color, no doubt this new book would top the lists of available Firebird photo books. The GTA models are in evidence in the third-generation section with many features, including a full race-equipped 1987 GTA. Still, this is a nice book to have, simply for all the fine images it contains, many of which are not seen elsewhere.

 

Rating: B+++ 



Another new one here for those of you out there who are interested in "coffee table" books. This massive volume, Detroit Cars - 50 Years of the Motor City by Martin Derrick, is one of the most thorough automotive photo history books I've ever seen. In-depth coverage of virtually all models from 1950 to the present revisit many of the "classic" marques, many still with us today........ and many long since gone into the twilight of automotive history.

There is a lot of Firebird (and Camaro) coverage in the book; each generation has several examples illustrated, with the GTAs (and Trans Ams) having several photos included from various years. But this is a great book even if you (heaven forbid!) don't like Firebirds........ Whether you want to revisit the "Fabulous Fifties", take another stroll down "Muscle Car Lane", or just take another look at some of the latest of Motor City's latest offerings...... this is the book for all of these things.

 

Rating: A 


 

Released in November, 2000, this new offering from Iconografix is the latest in their line of Firebird books. Authored by George Scala (this time alone), the Pontiac Firebird : 1967-2000 Photo History is a thorough coverage of the Firebird's history up to the present day. Again a bit hamstrung by the use of B&W photos..... evidently a Iconografix requirement..... the book still handily covers all generations of the Firebird and all models within each generation. The Source Page Webmaster's 1988 GTA Notchback is noted and pictured in the third generation section, along with many other great shots of third-generation 'Birds..... including some rare car show pictures of various years.

Another worthy addition to one's Firebird literature library, this book is worth its price as a historical photo document alone..... all the interesting facts are an added bonus!

 

Rating: A 


These volumes listed here are the some of the best resources that I have seen to research, read, and learn more about the Firebird in general and the GTA in particular. Any or all of these choices would make a great addition to any enthusiast's library. Naturally, as any new books, manuals, or other sources become available, this section will be revised to show the latest offerings from automotive publishers. So be sure to check often and see what's new........!