Rare Rides: Luxurious and Exclusive, the 1987 Pontiac Tojan Convertible
Today’s Rare Ride is largely forgotten. Some call it a “super car,” while others argue over whether it was a kit car or a production vehicle. It seems to be the latter, not that it makes much of a difference 25 years later when so few were made.
Come along and learn about Tojan, a very special take on a Pontiac.
Underneath the Tojan were the bones of a third-generation Pontiac Firebird, the F-body sports car in production from 1982 to 1992. We’ve covered one of those previously in Rare Rides, as the Kammback, a shooting brake design exercise.
According to 2013 reporting at Street Muscle Magazine which cited Ken Lingenfelter, GM wanted to offer a high-performance version of the Firebird and contacted Knudsen Automotive in Omaha sometime in the early Eighties. A deal was struck, and a prototype developed. The prototype Tojan was quite something, with a twin-turbo V8 engine good for 800 horsepower, and a confirmed top speed of 206 miles per hour. However, the production version was a bit different from the prototype. Between 1985 and 1990 GM sent over Trans Am GTA chassis, along with the 305 (5.0L) Chevy V8 as the basis for the Tojan. Knudsen did some additional work to up the performance ante of the Tojan: a sportier suspension, disc brakes at all four corners, and power steering. The twin-turbo V8 idea was not executed.
Obviously, the additional suspension and braking performance of the Tojan needed some visual recognition as well, and Knudsen designed a new body. Theoretically inspired by the Ferrari 308, the Tojan was available in coupe and convertible format, and a big rear wing like one might find on a Lamborghini Countach was offered as an optional extra. Inside, Recaro seats, wood trim, and digital gauges replaced all standard Pontiac fare. Also standard were luxury power options like windows, mirrors, and the rear hatch release. It seems all examples were fitted with an automatic transmission, owing to their performance luxury mission and GTA roots.
Customers interested in a Tojan ordered one directly through select Pontiac dealers for later delivery. Per a Tojan ad (taken in front of a real Virginia Beach restaurant) from May 1988, neither version was particularly affordable. Coupes asked $21,995 ($49,000 adjusted), and the convertible required $26,995 ($60,000 adjusted). For reference, in 1988 a Cadillac Eldorado went for $24,891, and a Trans Am GTA was $19,000. Now, these were base prices. With options like a supercharger, special injection, and a 3.73 rear-end the price could reach $55,000 ($123,000 adjusted). As a result, Tojan production was low: Between 150 and 300 examples were made, depending on which expert you ask.
Today’s 1987 Tojan is yellow and black like a bruised banana. It’s the more expensive (and presumably rarer) convertible version, and is for sale right now in South Carolina. With a damaged title, it’s yours for $25,000.
Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.
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