Up until yesterday evening, I wasn't aware of the Pontiac Tojan's existence, but thanks to Salvage Hunters host (and KITT replica owner) , my life has changed. And since General Motors intended to fight Ferrari 308s with these F-bodies, it is only fitting to do a showdown between the two craziest third-generation Firebirds ever conceived.
Mecum Auctions says only 133 Tojans were built between 1985 and 1991. GM's deal was to supply Knudsen Automotive's Omaha plant with Firebird GTA frames, 305 'Tune Port' V8s and their matching automatic gearboxes, only to get real Ferrari slayers in return, shipped from Nebraska straight to your local Pontiac dealership.
Knudsen came up with a fully digital dashboard and all the the exterior modifications, including an optional rear wing that could put a Countach to shame. Of course Tojans also had four-wheel disc brakes, better shocks, three-piece Gotti or Compomotive wheels, power everything, and a number of engine upgrades.
Badged with a demonic pegasus, the Tojan could be yours with a B&M or a Paxton blower, turbos, computer-controlled 'Superjection', as well as a 3.73 Posi rear end.
What's it like to have a good one today? According to Paul Cowland, Tojan-ownership is exactly how you'd imagine:
"It’s the most 80s experience of all time - Listening to Culture Club, while watching ‘The Breakfast Club’, drinking Tab, and solving a Rubik's Cube would feel less 80s than driving this thing... 😂"
"Joking aside, it feels like driving a really sorted Trans Am. This one has some crazy spec as it’s the prototype, so has the Gale Banks twin turbo forged motor. Suspension is also very good. Have yet to check it all over before I nail it in anger, but it ran at 206mph in period, according to Russ Knudsen. Got some amazing letters from Russ to the guy I bought it from, authenticating it’s #1 status, as well as some incredible point of sale imagery from the whole range."
Apparently, there were also Knightmare edition Tojans, of which only three were made. Here's the final one:
But a big rear wing and a 'Knightmare' badge? Oh, I think we know where that came from, Knudsen Automotive. And so does David Hasselhoff. In case you are young, here's the deal:
For Knight Rider's final 1985-86 season, the Knight Industries Two-Thousand got some major upgrades, including 'Super Pursuit Mode', as well as a motorized convertible top. The plot was that thanks to the good work of Dr. Bonnie Barstow, KITT could finally go beyond 300 MPH without using rocket propulsion.
SPM was the Pontiac Tojan element of this TV show, so perhaps it's not surprising that NBC's crew came up with it right around when General Motors decided to green light the Ferrari-fighting F-body project in Nebraska. After all, anything seemed possible with a mid-eighties Firebird, as long as you were a well-payed executive of a big corporation.
Learning about this portion of Pontiac's history leaves us with one question: