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Notch Your Average Pontiac

Today’s feature is a little-known option available on 1988 and 1989 Pontiac Firebird models — a notchback rear hatch assembly. The 3rd generation F-body Camaro and Firebird siblings arrived in the 1982 model year and represented a sleek and overdue update from the 2nd generation which began in 1970 1/2. While the IROC version of the Camaro was quite popular during its entire production, interest in the Firebird waned somewhat after the Knight Rider TV series wound up in 1986 and K.I.T.T. was sent out to the back lot. So what was a Pontiac marketing executive to do?

In 1987, Pontiac launched a ‘GTA’ version of the Firebird, the Gran Turismo Americano as the new, top-of-the-line model; with the GTA name paying homage to the legendary GTO models of years past. To further differentiate the model, the Pontiac designers developed an optional notchback rear hatch to replace the expansive glass greenhouse that was standard equipment. This new hatch featured a near-vertical rear window, integrated rear spoiler, and very slight flying buttresses to blend the horizontal and vertical lines of the design.

The design was also meant to complement the similar rear window treatment on the Pontiac Fieros, and almost certainly, both drew inspiration from the Pininfarina-designed Ferrari models including the 288 GTO which was also offered in the mid-1980s.

Inside the car, new rear seats with integral headrests were added, in order to keep passengers’ heads from hitting this new window that was in very close proximity. Through a combination of marketing and production challenges, the notchback option was not well publicized and suffered from limited availability. As such, few were ordered and even less were delivered, and thus Pontiac cancelled the option partway through the 1989 model year. Officially, only 718 Firebirds were factory-equipped with this unusual option and fewer survive today.

The white GTA pictured appears to be listed in an upcoming auction in Okotoks, AB if you’re so inclined to have a closer look or add one to your collection. (no connection to Kingsway).




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