History can be elusive. There are those who spend their lives chasing it down; others, whether through circumstance or other means, become a part of it. Still others are determined to recreate it as a pleasant diversion from what is invariably an unsuitable present. Rarely does history approach you in a parking lot and ask you to take possession of it.
Todd and Melissa Christian of Kevil, Kentucky, were at a rest stop somewhere in eastern Tennessee, while taking their ’99 30th Anniversary T/A out for a stroll. Limited-edition and anniversary Trans Ams have been something of a hobby for the Christians for some time now.
With an ’89 Indy Pace Car Turbo in their past, they still maintain their T-top automatic 30th Anniversary and their red-and-gold ’90 Bandit II built by Chattanooga Choo Choo Custom Conversions; they also have a silver ’81 Trans Am with the 301/automatic powertrain combination. So the choice of the white-and-blue wedge was as simple as, “What do we feel like driving today?” (Truth be told, since they were heading to the Carolinas, it was the newest of their Firebirds and probably was the most comfortable of the lot to make the long journey.)
What happened next could only be kismet.
NASCAR changed the text on...
NASCAR changed the text on the T/A’s doors before each race to reflect the particular event it was going to pace.
“I was wearing a Trans Am T-shirt [too, and a lady walked up and] asked if we liked Trans Ams,” Todd tells us. Well, duh. The matching T-shirts and the car kinda answered that question. Still, the Christians listened. “She told me her husband died recently, and she had one to get rid of. She said it had some lights on the roof and I became very interested.” Interested enough that he was willing to make an appointment and drive a couple of hundred clicks off the beaten path to take a look.
What the Christians found sitting there, that cold November day in 2007 in the Carolinas, was one of two Pontiac-prepped ’94 25th Anniversary NASCAR Pace Cars. The lettering and the lightbar were clear evidence, but that stuff could be faked. At the very least, this was one of the 338 non-T-top anniversary coupes from a total of 1,750 coupes and 250 ragtops bearing anniversary livery.
More compelling was a letter from Gary Claudio, motorsports manager for Pontiac Racing (as of 1996), to the original owner of the car. In that letter, which can be seen at www.highperformance pontiac.com/pacecarletter, Claudio confirmed the Pace Car’s VIN, and that it was one of two Pace Cars used to pace NASCAR’s ’94 race leaders. “These two Pace Cars were developed, maintained, and transported by Pontiac to 20 NASCAR events during the racing season. The cars were never driven on the street as they were delivered by us in a closed carrier prior to each race.”
The foglight switch was repurposed...
The foglight switch was repurposed to activate the Safety System lights, and its surround trim was painted red.
The deep blue over-the-top striping, reminiscent of the early Second-Gen TAs, and the white-leather seating areas and door panels with special stitching remained. So did the body-colored, 16-inch wheels running the very latest Goodyear Eagle GS-C rubber. And just one of the three available options on the 25th Anniversary coupes—the new electronically-controlled 4L60E automatic transmission with Overdrive—was included.
Trans Am owners from the ’80s might be fooled into thinking that the 25th Anniversary Trans Am was trying to pass itself off as a luxury car. Beyond the leather and potent tape-deck stereo (a CD player was expensive technology and not likely to be used on track, so it wasn’t included), it also sported dual front air bags, four-channel ABS with standard four-wheel-disc brakes, and a pass-key anti-theft system. But extending the right knee overshadows any of the luxury-car trappings as 275 hp and, more crucially off the line, 325 lb-ft of torque whisk you forward.
The stainless exhaust system fills the cabin with evidence of your derring-do. Six-speed models saw a mere 1,500 rpm at 65 mph; automatic models saw a few revs more. Both did wonders in calming down engine and exhaust soundtracks so that a driver could better concentrate on the Pace Car’s refined surroundings.