1982-92 Pontiac Firebird: A sub-$15,000 muscle car for today’s generation

The cowl-neck sweaters, oversize eyeglasses with tinted lenses, and feathered center-part hair from your high-school yearbook will make you cringe, but one fashion statement from the 1980s has never gone out of style: the third-generation Pontiac Firebird. When it arrived for the 1982 model year, it ushered in a decade of tire-smoking lust among a new generation of muscle-car lovers. The General manufactured hundreds of thousands of them, steadily supplying the Firebird with better performance over its 10-year production run. If you’ve been eying a Reagan-era F-body and have $15,000 in your pocket, there’s never been a better time to buy.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/12/18/3rd-gen-firebird-is-cheap-muscle-car

What about the 89 20th Turbo Trans Ams? They are worth quite a bit more than the 15k you mention and at 1500+ cars produced are not an “outlier” like the 91-92 Firehawk.

Yes, and so are the '92 Firehawks, but I think that is getting a bit too specific for the point of the article. In general, they are right. You can pick up a good 3rd Gen Firebird for under $15,000, there are always going to be exceptions to the rule like the 89 Turbo T/A and the 92 Firehawk.

Dad bought an '86 for Mom new off the lot. I inherited it and just got it repainted as close to the original black sapphire as I could get.

We bought our 1985 in 1990, with under 20,000 miles. Now, twenty eight years later, and about 14,000 miles more on the odometer, it spends most of it’s life in the barn.20181018_153757|666x500

Correction: I believe the 92 Firehawks were rated at 315 hp, not 350 hp as stated in the article.

I’ve owned a TTA, 5.7 GTA, Formulas, Trans Ams, and a 15th anniversary edition, but the one I enjoyed the most was an underpowered but fun 1983 Daytona 500 Pace Car edition. The Recaro seats they put in those cars were the best seats I’ve ever sat in, and this car had the 5.0 with a 5 speed stick. It ran great, shifted great, and sounded great, but was slow as molasses. Nice ones are all but extinct now. 3rd gen Firebirds/Trans Ams were great looking cars, much more so than their Camaro counterparts IMHO.

First, 1982-1992 is 11 model years, not 10. Second, the Firehawk was rated by SLP at 350 hp and 390 ft-lb. (25 built, 8 from cars with vins from 91, 17 from 92, though all were sold as 92 model year cars, and there were actually 27 ordered, but #s 18 and 23 were never built).

I would agree with that. Also, note that probably half of the original 1550 are crashed or rusted out by now. Mine is in excellent shape, but will be getting new seat covers soon. Also, when i bought the car, to help preserve originality in case a new owner wants to restore it some day, i pulled the original intact engine out. Then I built and installed a stronger one with better aftermarket parts and a much bigger turbo. Lots more fun that way…

I have 4 of these 3rd gen Trans Ams. They just kind of show up. In 1991, Pontiac brought back the official convertible, since 1969. There were two years of third gen convertibles, 1991, and 1992. There were 663 Trans Am convertibles made in 1992. I have two of them. One of them used to be a show car, then the fuel regulator blew out, and the engine caught fire. It had just been repainted. The car was saved and can be brought back, but I have not had the energy. It is in safe storage. Of those 663 cars, 104 were 5 speed convertibles, and I have an original one. It needs a minor restoration, but runs and drives well. There is nothing like driving a stick behind a TPI engine. They are different, and real torquey. People talk about a rare car, well this one is a rare car! I also have a 1991 5 Speed Trans Am which is in storage, and I have a 1989 GTA which has been a show car with less than 60K miles. I am not looking for any more cars. However, I have a lot of rare parts, including the Lingenfelter replacement for the TPI system. I would love to try it. I have seen it on Corvettes. Will these cars ever be valuable? I have no idea. I have a degree in auto technology and I used to work on the legendary cars in the 70’s. I have built over 150 complete engines and done other performance work. That was a long time ago. We think of the nostalgia of many of the those Chevelles, Z28’s, Chargers, etc. But today, you can buy a car that runs 11’s or better. I like the look of the old cars better. Starting in 85, GM released the TPI system and that was considered the most advanced engine. Performance was starting to come back. It is one of the best looking. LS engines make great power, but they are ugly. Builders are always trying to hide the coils, etc … I originally got into these cars because my doctor wanted me to get a hobby, so I decided to buy a convertible. A friend found me the first 1992 vert, and we had no idea it was a rare car. We never here the definition of rare. I used to do the large shows with two of my cars. Family health issues has kept me away and I hope to get back. No matter, who you are, or what you love, car guys are the greatest to talk to. One thing I have noticed about these Trans Ams, is that you hardly see them, so at shows, they might catch the judges eye. Camaro’s are great, but there are a lot of them out there. I hope Hagerty is right and the value is going up, I just have not seen it. Everyone have a great 2019.

Love, love, love thirdgen F bodies. I owned 2, a red/silver 85 Trans Am with the standard LG4 305 and automatic, and a black 90 Formula with the 305 TPI and 5 speed. The TA was the cruiser with the lo po motor and the t-tops. The Formula was the street racer. And let me tell you, what a difference 5 years makes. My 90 was a fast car. Being a 5 speed, it had the twin cat exhaust, 3.42 posi, oil cooler, and 4 disc brakes. 225 hp/300 tq stock. I had many bolt on performance parts on that car that kept me competitive with the 4th gen cars. Really miss the low end torque of that TPI. Modern engines have higher horsepower and lots of torque, but at higher RPMs.

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My 1990 WS6 Formula as mentioned above…

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Sshhh! I’m trying to buy all the 87-92 350 equipped cars I can, you’ll push prices up!

Good luck, but there are rarer cars than the 350 cars. The convertibles, and the 5 speed TPI convertibles (104 made in 1992) are the most rare, and no one cares right now. In fact, it appears that
the classic car market is losing value and I am hearing it. The only cars driving value are the 1989 turbo cars. I am not sure these cars will ever drive any significant value. I keep seeing the
same cars for sale, which means they are not moving. The whole car industry is about to go through a major change. I know because my company is getting caught in the middle of it.

Good luck with your endeavors. Just leave me alone on this.

Would you be interested in a 1987 Trans Am GTA with a 350 boosted to 500 hp with 560 torque? It has 75000 km, new battery, new tires, T roof, beige interior. Never seen winter, stored in a garage for at least 5 years. Was not running when we got it. Spent a fair bit to get it running again on new pump in gas tank and injectors and a few other things. No rust, good paint. Hubby is 76 and it is too fast for us.

I owned a 1992 trans am convertible for 25 years. It was black on black and very few made. I only sold it 2 years ago so that i could restore my 68 firebird convertible which i have owned for 30 years. I miss my 92, but after a year of trying to sell it i finally acceptrd 9k. Been hearing for years that 3rd gens are increasing in value but i dont see that happening. They are great cars and if i had a 4 car garage i would have kept mine.

So much potential for fun. Get one with a V8 and T-tops, modify to your budget’s ability because in many states you don’t need to smog test them anymore.

Sorry California.

So I should hold on to my 87 all original with just 6000 original miles. Garage kept

Our all original down to the tires 1982 trans am with 7,000 original miles

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I have had more 3rd Gen F bodies than I can even count or remember, I various iterations. It’s just such a great looking body, it amazes me they haven’t jumped in collectibility sooner. The rarest 3gen F body I owned was a 1 of 15 ‘89 TTA with a hardtop and cloth interior. Sold it with 900 miles on the clock and wish I never did.