Reviving the Unimaginable: The 1987 Pontiac Tojan – A Firebird from the Past

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Pontiac Tojan
Pontiac Tojan (Credits: Road & Track)

The Pontiac Firebird from the 1980s, famous for its appearance on Knight Rider, was a highly popular vehicle. However, there is another variant of the Firebird called the Tojan that is now gaining attention as a unique and mysterious car. This all-black Tojan is currently being auctioned on Bring a Trailer, giving enthusiasts the chance to own a piece of automotive history that often leaves people wondering, “What is that thing?”

The Tojan is a car that falls somewhere between an official production vehicle and an independent build. It has a distinctive design that sets it apart from other cars. The story of this car begins in the early 1980s when Pontiac wanted to differentiate itself from other GM brands by embracing the tagline “We build excitement!” They collaborated with Knudsen Automotive, a coachbuilder based in Omaha, Nebraska, known for creating cars reminiscent of the neo-classic Excalibur. The goal was to create a prototype Firebird-based car that not only had exceptional performance but also exuded exclusivity.

The unique design of the Tojan is credited to Harry Bentley Bradley, the mind behind many original Hot Wheels toy cars and the modern Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. Unfortunately, his work on the Tojan remains relatively unknown. Despite the challenges posed by the third-generation Firebird body, the Tojan’s design impressively resembles a vehicle straight out of the futuristic dystopia depicted in the video game Cyberpunk 2077.

Inside the Tojan, you’ll find well-bolstered Recaro seats, burled wood trim (a quintessential ’80s feature), and a range of expected luxuries such as an AM/FM stereo with a subwoofer, air-conditioning, and cruise control.

The initial Pontiac Tojan prototype had impressive power, equipped with a V-8 engine featuring a Gale Banks twin-turbocharging kit that delivered around 800 horsepower. It achieved a remarkable top speed of 206 mph during testing, which was confirmed by Banks’ record-setting runs on the Bonneville salt flats. However, Pontiac decided to tone down the power, and most Tojans were sold with standard 5.0-liter or 5.7-liter GM V-8 engines. Supercharging and turbocharging were optional, providing a range of performance options. The showcased example of the Tojan has an L98 5.7-liter V-8 engine rated at 205 horsepower, paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. It also features the WS6 performance suspension, a limited-slip differential, and disc brakes on all four corners.

Despite only an estimated 130 to 150 units being sold, surviving Pontiac Tojans are now rare. The aftermarket offers a wide range of F-body performance upgrades for potential buyers, making it an enticing project or a unique addition to any car collection. Whether you choose to enhance its potential or preserve its originality, owning this Tojan guarantees possession of one of the most extraordinary third-generation Firebirds, especially fitting for an event like Radwood. Don’t wait too long, as this Bring a Trailer auction ends on January 11.


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