This car was originally sold...
This car was originally sold in Canada
For 1989, however, Pontiac dealer literature did not ignore the new, shapely notchback design. An entire page was dedicated to the option, but there was one small snag: production had been abruptly cancelled. A Car Distribution Bulletin, dated August 30th, 1988, states that production had been terminated and that no further orders of the option were to be accepted. All prior orders that contained AA8 were removed by Pontiac, too. The impetus was lost, and Pontiac's efforts to create a unique look for the GTA had only extended to a few hundred instead of a few thousand. When the smoke cleared, the GTA continued on with a strong production run, minus the special rear hatch. GM's production total for '88 is just 718 units, making the notchback GTA extremely rare. This fact was not lost on the Alger family.
Finding This GTA Notchback
For Carl, the GTA notchback is one of the crowning jewels in his family's substantial collection of rare Trans Ams. Carl's obsession with Pontiacs can be traced back to his youth. His father always had cool cars around, which greatly influenced his interests; but it all came together when he turned 16, in the fall of 1986. The family owned a five-speed 305 H.O.-powered '83 Trans Am and decided to pass it down to him. "Pontiacs just seemed to fit," Carl recalls. This was just the beginning, though.
The profile of the notchback...
The profile of the notchback GTA is like no other. The aerodynamic body lines complement the short-deck look and it just seems to fit. John Folden and the rest of the Pontiac design team came up with the final product. Pontiac executives Tom Goad, John Schinella, and Lou Wassel felt the notchback was a very good-looking aesthetic feature, but not everyone agreed-it was either loved or hated among Third-Gen fans.
His parents replaced the T/A with a new '87 Grand National that same year. Carl was captivated by the performance of the GN, so when the marriage of the turbo 3.8L engine and Trans Am body came together in '89, he had to have one. The opportunity came in early 1990 and, sadly, the rare five-speed '84 had to be traded in for the 20th Anniversary Edition. In 1992, he and his father purchased a '69 Ram Air III Trans Am. Many other T/As have been added since then.
For the '88 model year, the choice was clear-the notchback GTA with a digital dash and a five-speed. "If you wait long enough, it will turn up," Carl says. A close eye on eBay rewarded the Algers in 2005 when this outstanding Flame Red Metallic '88 notch turned up in Canada. The kicker came when they found out the low odometer reading-just over 7,000 miles. Despite the low mileage, the owner was asking too much for it. According to Carl, "Third Generation Trans Ams just weren't pulling that kind of money, even if it was rare. We made an offer, but he decided to leave it on eBay." Time ran out on the auction and he threw it back on there. Again, the auction ended. This time, the owner called the Algers to see if their offer was still good. They negotiated a price and Dave drove to Calgary, Canada, to pick it up.
"The GTA had been garage-kept and was in excellent condition. It was a little dirty, but well taken care of. The original owner had used it as a weekend car, so the mileage remained low. Interestingly enough, we found out that it was built in April but wasn't sold until October! This rare GTA sat on the lot for about six months," Carl says.
The GTA was a rolling exhibit...
The GTA was a rolling exhibit of GM's '80s cutting-edge technology. From radio controls on the steering wheel to the Buck Rogers-esque digital dash, there were plenty of lights and buttons to keep the driver entertained.
Adding to the scarcity of this Bird is the five-speed manual transmission, which came with a 3.45 rear gear. Only 809 GTAs received this option, but we haven't seen documentation as to how many notchbacks were five-speed cars. The Algers understand and appreciate that they own an extremely rare piece of Pontiac history so they treat it that way. "The most we have ever driven it was during the photo shoot," Carl says.
As the saying goes, a collector never stops collecting, and Carl and Dave Alger have a few more Trans Ams to procure before they complete one of the most robust collections imaginable. "We're always looking for another T/A to add. If it's a year we don't have and it's rare, we will try and pick it up," Carl says. That same philosophy led to the acquisition of this GTA notchback. Ironically, the option that was created to garner attention and distinguish the GTA from the rest of the F-bodies required too much effort to efficiently produce enough cars to get the recognition Pontiac sought. It's a catch-22 that resulted in an ultra-rare and unique Pontiac.
The hatch somewhat resembles...
The hatch somewhat resembles the design seen on early C3 Corvettes. Designers found a way to incorporate those cues and make them work with the shape of the Firebird.
The digital tach made for...
The digital tach made for quite a light show on the dash.
The notchback cars didn't...
The notchback cars didn't use the same rear spoiler as the hatchback T/As and Formulas. Instead, they used the spoiler normally found on standard models.