Pontiac Firebird

1989 Pontiac Firebird

“The 20th Anniversary Trans Am. The only modification it needed to pace the Indy 500 was a decal.” 1989 Firebird sales brochure

  • The Trans Am was selected as the pace car for the 1989 Indy 500, and Pontiac released a special Firebird model, the Turbo Trans Am (TTA).
  • The TTA featured a turbocharged Buick 3.8 V6 engine.
  • New N10 dual catalytic converters are installed in some V8 engines, increasing horsepower.

Muscle Car Specifications

Performance Model
1989 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Engine Used
Zero to Sixty
5.1 sec
Quarter Mile
14.2 sec @ 98.86 mph

Though the 1989 models may not outwardly differ from their 1988 predecessors, there were many changes afoot for the car that year, particularly in regard to the aforementioned special models and the increased power under the hood.

First to consider was the new catalytic converters, which squeezed an additional 13 percent of power from the 5.0 and 5.7 litre V8s that were installed in. Because they weren’t installed on all V8 models throughout the production year, horsepower ratings vary more than usual. 5.0 models could be rated as low as 170 or as high as 230, while 5.7 engines were either 230 or 240.

Perhaps most surprising, however, was the fact that the top horsepower rating was offered by a V6. The aforementioned Buick 3.8 litre V6 was put into the Firebird TTA frame after Pontiac modified both the cylinder heads and the turbo system. The result was a 250 horsepower motor that many testers felt was a conservative number. True to the above statement taken from the Firebird sales brochures, the actual pace car were reportedly randomly selected from the 1,550 TTA models produced (with an additional five being test cars), and were only slightly changed with the addition of strobe lights and safety equipment.

Other changes to the car in 1989 included the addition of new Lexan plastic tops for T-top models. Though these were lighter in weight than previous options, time has shown these tend to age faster than older glass models. Firebirds with rear disc brakes received PBR brake calipers and larger rotors, which increased stopping power. Some cars also were equipped with GM’s Vehicle Anti Theft System (VATS), which included a small resistor embedded in the key of the car.

Perhaps because of all the excitement Pontiac added to the lineup, sales were up slightly from the previous year. In all, 64,409 Firebirds were produced, though this number would drop significantly in 1990.


As it had been since 1984, the base Firebird was the best selling of all the models. Total production for the model year was 31,876.

Firebird Formula

Sales of the Formula model reached an all time high in 1989, and 16,670 were produced. Unfortunately this number would be cut by about a quarter the following year.

Trans Am

Probably due to the increasing interest in the Formula and GTA (and the TTA this year), sales of the Trans Am continued to decline. Production was at 5,701 for the year, which would seem high compared to 1990.

Trans Am GTA

Though production dropped slightly from the previous year, sales of the GTA were still high, with a total production of 8,081 for the year.

Turbo Trans Am

Excluding the five test cars, all TTA models were white with a tan interior. Most included T-tops and leather interior, though a few hardtop and cloth models also were manufactured.

Pony Car Competition

It has been argued that the 1989 Firebirds (the TTA in particular) represented the pinnacle of the third-generation models. However, sales of the Camaro also were dropping while Ford was still producing more than 200,000 units of the Mustang. By the following year, sales would indicate the public was growing tired of the cars, which would lead to the introduction of the fourth-generation models in 1993.

Engine Specifications

Type Size Carb Horse Power Tourqe
LB8 V6 173ci MFI 135 hp @ 4900 rpm 160 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
LG3 V6 231ci Turbo-Charged 250 hp @ 4000 rpm 340 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm
LB9 TPI 305ci Tuned Port Injection 225 hp @ 4400 rpm 295 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm
LO3 305ci Fuel Injection 170 hp @ 4000 rpm 255 lb-ft @ 2400 rpm
B2L TPI 350ci Tuned Port Injection 235 hp @ 4400 rpm 330 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm

Performance Statistics

0 to 60 mph Quarter Mile Engine Source
5.1 sec 14.2 sec @ 98.86 mph 231ci/250hp Motor Trend 11/89
5.4 sec 14.2 sec @ 95.8 mph 231ci/250hp Motor Trend 3/89
6.5 sec 15.4 sec @ 90.28 mph 350ci/235hp Motor Trend 11/89
7.5 sec 15.9 sec @ 88.5 mph 305ci/215hp Motor Trend 1/88

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