1989 Pontiac Firebird

1989 Pontiac Firebird

1989 Pontiac Firebird FORMULA 350

GM introduced its new Vehicle Anti-Theft Systems or V.A.T.S., which incorporated an electronic coded chip in the key that had to match signals with a receiver in the ignition switch or the car wouldn’t start or run. It made them much tougher to steal. A warning decal was installed on the lower rear corners of the side windows alerting car thieves to its presence. Rear shoulder belts were added, and the heavy glass T-Tops were replaced by lighter Lexan units. Many of these weathered quickly in the sun and GM replaced them with the older-style glass units under warranty. Rear disk brake-equipped cars got larger rotors and PBR calipers, greatly improving stopping power.

The big news on the performance front was the introduction of the new N10 dual catalytic converter exhaust system, which was optional on certain TPI V8s. The reduced back pressure freed up 13% more horsepower without any fuel mileage penalty. The base Firebird engine continued to be the course and anemic 2.8L V6, to be replaced next year by the 3.1L version of the same engine. Next up was the LO3 5.0 (305) V8 with TBI (Throttle Body Injection), making 170hp, coupled to either a 700-R4 4-speed automatic, or a 5-speed manual. The LB9 was a 5.0L (305) small block V8 with 9.3:1 compression and TPI. When coupled to the automatic, it made 195hp. The N10 dual-cat setup wasn’t available on the 5.0/automatic. The same engine coupled a 5-speed manual produced 220hp with a single cat, and 230hp with the dual cats. The 5.7 (35) TPI V8 was available in automatic only, and made 240hp with one cat, and 240hp with two. Ironically, at the top of the heap was a little V6 much smaller than big V8s, the 3.8L Buick Turbo V6, available in the Turbo Trans Am (TTA) only, and rated at 250hp at 4,400rpm and 340 lb-ft of torque at 2,800rpm.

Lots of things happened in 1989. First off, it was the 20th anniversary of the birth of the Trans Am. Next, the ’89 Trans Am was selected to pace that year’s Indianapolis 500. So of course, Pontiac whipped up a batch of pace car replicas, which it called the 20th Anniversary Firebird Turbo Trans Am or TTA. It was based on the GTA and came with white and tan interior only. It came with a 3.8L turbocharged V6 borrowed from the Buick Grand National and making 250hp, 10 more than the 5.7 TPI V8. All were automatics. As pace car replicas were, back in the day, the TTA was closer to the real pace cars used at Indy than any other pace car replica, up to that time. In fact, of the 1,555 produced, those destined for actual pace car duty at the races were pulled randomly out of inventory, then tested and modified with safety equipment, etc. So, these pace car replicas were in fact the same as the pace cars themselves, sans the strobe lights and other safety gear. Other than the first 5, which were early test cars, all TTAs are white. The 5 test cars were not white, one being red and another black. Some leaked out to the public and are still out there somewhere and incredibly rare and valuable…if it’s genuine. Some had T-tops, some did not; some had leather, others cloth. GM didn’t offer the TTA in a convertible body style although it is rumored that 2 or 3 were built at the time by ASC.

1989 Pontiac Firebird SPECIFICATONS


Production, all

Base Firebird

Firebird Formula

Trans Am


Trans Am Turbo





Track, front

Track, rear



305ci / 5.0L V8 TBI

305ci / 5.0L V8 TPI

305ci / 5.0L V8 TPI

350ci / 5.7L V8 TPI

350ci / 5.7L V8 TPI








101.0 in / 2565 mm

191.6 in / 4867 mm

72.0 in / 1829 mm

50.0 in / 1270 mm

60.6 in / 1540 mm

61.6 in / 1564 mm

3,085 lbs / 1399 kg

170 hp @ 4000 rpm

215 hp @ 4400 rpm

225 hp @ 4600 rpm

225 hp @ 4400 rpm

235 hp @ 4400 rpm


(all convertibles) 386

255 lb/ft @ 2200 rpm

285 lb/ft @ 3200 rpm

300 lb/ft @ 3200 rpm

300 lb/ft @ 3200 rpm

340 lb/ft @ 3200 rpm