1987 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Targa 5.0 V8
Extremely reliable, very versatile, fun to drive
Water and fuel pump had to be changed when bought.
Original PU-rear spoiler disintegrated; was replaced by the standard spoiler of the previous years.
Fuel pump had to be changed again a few months later.
Driver's seat was pretty worn out – no tears or rips, but the seat cushion was sort of deformed.
Starter had to be repaired (front, aluminium part of housing was cracked).
Catalytic converter, front brake rotors and brake pads replaced when technical test was due in 2009.
Clutch was changed at approx. 215,000 miles.
Clutch pedal bushing worn out, so master cylinder rod slipped out of pin – annoying, but a small problem that could be fixed quickly.
A/C compressor got blocked.
For almost 30 years now I have been driving American cars only, usually late 60’s / early 70’s models however. This car has proved to be incredibly reliable (it’s my daily driver) and surprised me with a whole lot of unexpected qualities. The few repairs I had throughout these years are certainly negligible or belong to the category “normal maintenance”.
During summer, the car is quickly transformed into a “semi-convertible” by taking off the targa roof panels. And with the rear seats folded down, I managed to transport (also bulky) stuff most people never thought possible. And then, I (mis-) used the car a few times as a real “heavy hauler”, transporting American V8 engines in the place of the passenger seat… (only possible because of the targa top that can be removed and a V8 engine can be lowered in place this way with the door open - and the seat removed - at the same time…..). Of course, this is not what one would call “taking good care” of a car, but it served me well, and the car obviously did not suffer – except from the (folded down) back rest of the rear seat, which got some stains with this “exercise”.
The driving feeling is incomparable. There is virtually nothing that equals the driving feeling of an American V8 with enough torque to be driven at very low RPM, but still having enough power to accelerate out of such low RPM for passing other vehicles, for instance. This type of car adds a strong sporty note at the same time, with road manners which are simply excellent, even by today’s standards, provided one is ready to spend the money needed for real good tires (especially true for wet road conditions).
The digital dashboard is not to everyone’s taste, of course, but one gets used to it quickly, and it proved to be very precise – which is not unimportant in Switzerland where the representatives of the law have become real maniacs during the last years as far as supervising the speed limits is concerned. And best of all, all the displays work faultlessly. I would be very surprised to be able to say this on a German or Japanese car.
And then, the car is economic, really economic – for a V8. I manage to average approx. 9,5 lt. on 100 km (24.9 miles per US gallon). Lately, I reduced my average highway speed (cruise-control setting) to 110 km/h (69 mph) and the consumption went down to 9,2 lt./100 km (25.6 miles per gallon). The best figure I managed was on a longer “slow highway trip” with lots of 80 km/h (50 mph) stretches (the summer-hobby of our politicians is to create road work sites), resulting in a consumption of 8,6 lt./100 km (27.5 miles per gallon).
The funniest thing (for me) is, that the longer I own this car, the more I like its shape. Driving intermediate or full-size cars in the past, I was used to changing the car about every year before, but this car has stayed in my hands for almost 6 years now, and I am not really ready to give it away. It will need quite some TLC now, as the regular use (and abuse) took its toll, but then again, this car can easily be transformed into a real screamer with reasonable effort and funds.
And there are definitely some signs of age and use showing now: the driver side door window mechanism has started to be erratic; the window usually goes down halfway only; for the rest I have to help by pushing it down. But then, it comes up again without any problem. The interval feature of the windshield wiper does not work any more, and the cruise-control gets erratic from time to time. Definitely time for a general overhaul. But then again, with approx. 254,000 miles on the clock, who would complain? And for everyday use, a Fiero is waiting to be completed.
As a car buff, this example of fine American engineering and finish has definitely convinced me. I also tried BMW’s and VW’s in the past, but switched back to good old American iron quickly. When reading the various reports here, I am always surprised to see, that American car owners seem to use different (much tougher) criteria, when judging cars of American production. The used car market seems however to be proof in some way, that US made cars (especially of the 60’s and 70’s) are a lot more appreciated now than almost any other non-American car of the period. Late appreciation, but appreciation at least. If you can get a well-maintained, mostly rust-free example, be prepared to experience an unchallenged mix of fun, satisfaction and astonishment (in the most positive sense possible.)
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 10th June, 2012