1989 Pontiac Firebird

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chicagotribune.com
As we left the parking garage there were two choices: Turn left and head back to work, or turn right and head for the expressway.

The 1989 Pontiac Trans Am 20th Anniversary model for some reason decided to turn right. Sudden acceleration? Only of the heart.

As we approached the Kennedy Expressway a cabdriver floored his machine and attempted to merge ahead of the Trans Am. A firm touch on the Pontiac`s pedal and the cabbie was left with no one to cut off.

Those who drive Chicago roadways know that it takes a powerful engine to try to wrestle a piece of real estate away from a cabbie to whom lanes, limits and lights are for the nonmetered folks.

The Anniversary Trans Am is endowed with a turbo charged 3.8-liter, 250- horsepower V-6, same as in the limited edition Regal Grand National of a while back. It`s coupled only with a 4-speed automatic.

Pontiac talks about 0-to-60-mile-an-hour acceleration times of 4.9 to 5.3 seconds with the 3.8 V-6. That time range means when you press the pedal, your body moves backward into the seat while the car seems to snap forward as if released from a sling shot.

When you floor it, someone else better have hold of the time clock or stop watch to verify the Pontiac 0-to-60-m.p.h. boast. You`ll need both hands to hold on to the wheel. The speedometer reads 140 m.p.h., a conservative measure of the power under the hood that comes up at least 10 m.p.h. short of reality.

But there`s no free lunch. Pontiac hopes to avoid a guzzler tax that`s imposed when a car fails to meet the federally prescribed 22.5 m.p.g. city/ highway mileage average. Good luck. After only 20 miles we noticed the fuel guage had fallen by three hash marks and was just one tick shy from consuming a quarter of a tank.

The Anniversary model serves a dual role. It also has been named the pace car for the 73d running of the Indianapolis 500 next May. All Anniversary models will display pace car designation. Buyers will get Indy 500 decals to attach to the Anniversary model.

The Anniversary model comes with a performance suspension package. It`s not the kidney buster Trans Ams have been known for, but it doesn`t take too many tar marks to realize you aren`t behind the wheel of a Mercedes 300.

The suspension includes limited slip differential, huge P245-16 unidirectional tires and larger stabilizer bars. Well padded bucket seats help reduce some of the road harshness, but don`t set a cup of coffee on the console arm rest.

Four-wheel power disc brakes are standard to control those 250 horses, but antilock brakes aren`t even an option to ensure steady, straight stopping regardless of road surface. Of course, with 250 h.p. at your touch, the Anniversary Trans Am is a seasonal car to be garaged when snow, rain or even a few beads of perspiration settle on the roadway.

The Anniversary Trans Am is a toy, an excellent way to spend an afternoon when the alternative is remaining parked behind a word processor. It`s also an investment and an instant collectible, because only 1,500 will be built. Better start making friends with your local Pontiac dealer soon.

The engine makes the car, which from an appearance standpoint is a bit dated. The Anniversary model comes only with white exterior and camel interior. Body colored wraparound bumpers with air dam up front and a deck lid spoiler in back attempt to dress up the Trans Am. Contributing, too, are several ``20th anniversary,`` ``turbo Trans Am,`` and ``Indy 500`` logos positioned around the body. Youth now prone to steal Cadillac hood ornaments to wear as necklaces soon will target the Trans Am logos for their jewlery.

Standard equipment includes the 3.8-liter V-6, power brakes and steering, air conditioning, AM stereo/FM stereo with cassette and controls mounted in the steering wheel, tilt steering, cruise control, side window defoggers, power mirrors, power door locks and power antenna. About the only options are T-tops and leather trim for the seats.

The car goes on sale in January and there`s neither a price tag nor an EPA rating. Pontiac has 3,000 dealers nationwide but will build only 1,500 Anniversary/Pace Car Trans Ams. Speculation is that the sticker will start at $25,000 to $30,000. The law of supply and demand should raise that by several thousand.



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