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30th Anniversary


Even sitting quietly in the driveway it's probable cause for arrest on exhibition of speed. It's about as subtle and politically correct as a nuclear-tipped cruise missle. It's got "moving violation" written all over it. Attitude? You want attitude? You've got it, it's called the 30th Anniversary Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.

The Firebird has been around since the late 1960s, and became Pontiac's sole performance image car with the demise of the larger "muscle cars" like the GTO in the early 1970s. There has usually been a considerable amount of muscle available in the Firebird lineup, and 1999 is no exception. The V6-powered Firebird and V8-equipped Firebird Formula and Trans Am models continue with some significant performance enhancements. V8s and some V6s get a Torsen (r) limited-slip differential to better get power to the ground, and traction control is available on all models. A larger fuel tank increases range. And, 1999 is a very important year for the Firebird. It's the 30th anniversary of the Trans Am model, and a special, limited-production 30th Anniversary Trans Am is being offered to celebrate.

The Trans Am that made its debut in 1969 was a small car by the standards of the day, but it had a choice of Ram-Air 400 cubic-inch engines with up to well over 345 horsepower. The only color offered was white with twin blue stripes. Special and Anniversary models have appeared regularly since that time, and all are serious collector's cars. The 30th Anniversary edition looks to be the ultimate Trans Am. Like the original, it comes only in white with blue stripes. It builds on the Firebird WS6 performance option package, with the WS6's 320- horsepower Ram Air inducted 347 cubic inch V8. What it may lack in raw horsepower compared to its ancestor it makes up in civilized comfort, with a special white leather interior. Ensuring exclusivity, only 1000 30th Anniversary Trans Am coupes and 500 convertibles will be offered for sale.

One of the 30th Anniversary Trans Am coupes has been my transportation for the past week. It's not a car for the shy person. Few cars I've ever driven have gotten more attention. It has all of the raw American muscle power of a regular WS6 Firebird, and sounds like the soundtrack to the movie "Vanishing Point." If it's possibly slightly less quick in the quarter mile than some of the original muscle cars, it handles the stopping and turning at the end much better. Although the number of 30th Anniversary cars is limited, the same performance and nearly the same eyeball factor is available in other WS6 V8 Firebirds. The regular V8, with a mere 305 horsepower, and the 200-hp V6 are quick, good-handling, and entertaining as well.

APPEARANCE: Subtlety has never been a Trans Am styling feature. White paint with blue stripes can be more noticeable than bright red when it's on a 30th Anniversary Trans Am. The basic shape of the Trans Am is more than a little aggressive, with bulging fenders, a front fascia with large foglamps and a hidden intake, plenty of lower cladding, and a large, flat spoiler at the rear. The WS6 package's ultra- radical Ram Air hood bulge makes the standard hood look almost conservative. The 30th Anniversary package can be told externally by its twin blue stripes on a white background, special badging, and the trick light blue clearcoat alloy wheels. Each blue stripe starts with a small "screaming chicken" Firebird emblem just behind the hood scoops.

COMFORT: As outside, the 30th Anniversary Trans Am's interior builds on that of the standard car. Distinctive white leather upholstery and door panels with 30th Anniversary logos, and special logo floor mats differentiate it. A plaque just in front of the Hurst shifter shows the identification number - this one is 0047. This car is no poseur - it's meant for serious driving. The seats are supportive and comfortable. The shift knob and leather-wrapped, tilt-adjustable steering wheel are placed for fast use. A good Monsoon audio system and power accessories show that this is a civilized vehicle. It is a Trans Am at heart, so expect the rear seat to be best-suited for small, agile people and luggage capacity best for those who know how to pack light. This is a sports car, not a sport-utility vehicle.

SAFETY: All 1999 Pontiac Firebirds have four-wheel antilock disc brakes, dual depowered airbags, and the PASS-Key II theft-deterrent system.

ROADABILITY: Underneath, the 30th Anniversary Trans Am is a Firebird with the WS6 performance option. That means suspension modifications to go with the additional power of the Ram-Air engine. Unlike some of the muscle cars of three decades ago, this beast has impressive cornering and stopping abilities in addition to great acceleration. It has a firm ride and sticks tenaciously to smooth surfaces thanks to massive 275/40 ZR17 ultra-high-speed rated Goodyear Eagle F1 GS tires. Traction control helps prolong tire life, and four-wheel vented antilock discs slow it quickly. The solid-axle rear suspension only makes itself felt in bumpy corners.

PERFORMANCE: Trans Am performance over the years seems to have been inversely proportional to the size of the decals on the hood. The twin "screaming chickens" on the hood of the 30th Anniversary edition are very small. The power output of the Ram-Air inducted WS6 5.7-liter LS1 V8 is not small at 320 horsepower and 335 lb-ft of torque. Surprisingly, it's a pussycat around town, with a light clutch and gentle power delivery at low engine speeds. But step hard on the throttle and the tiger gets serious, quickly. Power is greatest in the midrange, above 3500 rpm. At that point it has all of the classic V8 muscle car sensory inputs. Occupants are pushed against the seatbacks, the twin exhausts howl, the Ram-Air intake honks, and there are plenty of other wonderful mechanical sounds. The Hurst shifter works quickly and smoothly. Fifth gear is best for normal highway speeds, as engine speed is an almost-idle 1500 rpm at 65 mph in sixth.

SPECIFICATIONS

Base Price $ 26,175

Price As Tested $ 32,960

Engine Type 16-valve pushrod overhead valve V8 with Ram Air induction

Engine Size 5.7 liters / 347 cu. in.

Horsepower 320 @ 5200 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 335 @ 4400 rpm

Transmission 6-speed manual

Wheelbase / Length 101.1 in. / 193.7 in.

Curb Weight 3397 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 10.6

Fuel Capacity 16.8 gal.

Fuel Requirement unleaded premium, 91 octane

Tires P275/40 ZR17 Goodyear Eagle F1 GS

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / vented disc, antilock standard

Suspension, front/rear independent short and long arm with coil springs / Salisbury solid axle with coil springs

Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 19 / 28 / 20

0 to 60 mph 5.1 sec

1/4 mile (E.T.) 13.4 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Custom bucket seats with lumbar support $ 155

Hurst shifter $ 325

Electronic traction control $ 450

Remote 12-disc CD changer $ 595

WS6 performance & handling package - includes:

ram-air induction system with functional hood scoops, 5-spoke 17" alloy wheels with P275/45 ZR17 speed-rated tires, low-restriction exhaust system, specific tuned suspension, power steering cooler $ 3,150

30th Anniversary package - includes:

blue-tinted alloy wheels, specific exterior striping and badging, arctic while paint, specific white leather seating surfaces with blue embroidery, 30th Anniversary door inserts, floor mats, numbered ID plaque $ 1,575
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