As someone who’s been working at this glorious website for the better part of this decade now, I don’t often run into total surprises anymore—especially overpowered American ones from the Radwood era. You can be forgiven for not knowing what the Pontiac Tojan is. I didn’t either, until this Carfection video dropped yesterday. But it is a truly bananas machine that deserves more attention.
Basically, you take a third-generation Firebird (the coolest Firebird—fight me), send it off to Knudsen Automotive, give it a tuned V8, add a beefed-up suspension and toss on some of the craziest bodywork this side of a Countach. It even came with a giant wing, if you wanted.
I know, this sounds like the insane fever dream of a guy who still wears Whitesnake t-shirts everywhere and ate some bad oysters. But it as real. General Motors actually did this between 1985 and 1991, and the result is the Tojan—the closest you could come to owning KITT in real life, minus the autonomous driving and the backtalk from the computer.
As our pal Alex Goy explains here, the goal was to make a world-beater, but in true GM fashion, to make it cheap. An exotic-fighting supercar still accessible for the common person. As a result it’s delightfully ’80s Pontiac inside, still.
This particular car is the prototype, making it even more rare than your standard Tojan. It’s powered by a twin-turbo V8 engine cranking out an unfathomable 800 horsepower. For a car from the ’80s! Good Lord.
“Bits of me are puckering,” Goy says, and I sure as hell don’t blame him. He describes it as both “fast” and “soggy.” Even wilder is that this car was once confirmed to have done 206 mph.
So why don’t we remember the Tojan more? Well, for one, they weren’t all as overpowered as this prototype, which might be a good thing considering the build quality from that era. For another, as Street Muscle Mag once reported, only about 150 to 300 were ever built upon special order; Carfection puts the number at 136. Their Pontiac underpinnings may have limited their appeal somewhat, too—at least one sold for $65,000 in 1986, which is about $150,000 in today’s dollars.
Still, these are ludicrous experiments in speed, and I hope I get the chance to run into one someday.