Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Tour of Tiffany III

Since I've had her for over a week now, I thought it was time to give a quick tour of Tiffany III - as not all Firebirds are created equal.

You'll have to excuse the dirt. Although it only snowed for a day or so, the roads are gritty and dirty and I didn't have time to give her a polish before I snapped these pictures.

First off - the basics... Tiffany III is a 1985 Pontiac Firebird 'Trans Am.' The Trans Am was a specialty package for the standard Firebird sports car, which included uprated suspension, brakes and more horsepower.

Tiffany has a 305 cubic inch V8 engine, generating a modest 190bhp (which isn't too bad considering she's such a light car.) That gives her a top speed of about 140mph and a 0-60 time of about 7 seconds.

Okay, so she's not exactly a race car - but I'm still pretty impressed.

The things I love about the third generation Firebirds are the pop-up headlights. Ever since my first car, a '78 Triumph TR7, I've had something of an obsession with pop-up headlights.

Tiffany III is remarkable in having an original set that still work (most Firebirds - even my old one, on Long Island, are stuck with one or both headlights permanently up.)

Another great original feature of Tiffany III are the 'aero' alloy wheels.

These are sixteen inch alloys that were generally not a standard feature on Trans Ams of that period (well, Knight Rider didn't have them.)

Big wheels need big tires, so Tiffany is booted in a set of Goodyear Tripletreads - special all-season tyres with a 'v' shaped groove in them to improve traction in the rain.

We were contemplating Michelin tyres - but Tiffany is an American car and it made more sense to keep her in American rubber.

Most GM cars would have originally come equipped with Goodyear tyres.

In fact, the crusty old GTII's she was wearing when I bought her might have been the original tyres!

Finally, big tyres need big brakes - and the Trans Am came fitted with an uprated handling package. This included air-scoops behind the front wheels, designed to increase air-flow to the brakes and maximise cooling.

Plus they look really, really cool!

Speaking of things that look (and in this case sound) really cool...

Pop around the back of the long car and you'll see twin 3.5 inch exhausts.

These big pipes were an aftermarket installations by the previous owner and give Tiffany a loud, aggressive purr.

It's a cliché that big cars sound like lions or tigers - but there is something threateningly feline about the burble of these twin exhausts.

They also increase the air flow and squeeze a few more horsepower out of that lazy, but powerful V8 engine.

Finally, up top, Tiffany comes with twin t-tops - which to all intents and purposes transform her into a convertible during the summer months.

They do have a tendency to leak - but so do all t-tops. In the summer, though, they're wonderful and make air-conditioning (which Tiffany does have) all but redundant.

You'll also spot a little addition I made - a SIRIUS radio antenna. Although the engine's pretty loud, there's always room for The Best Radio on Radio™.

Inside, Tiffany III is pretty much original to her '85 specs. The bright yellow bucket seats are actually her standard chairs with some aftermarket pleather covers. They're really comfortable, but a bit bright!

The cockpit looks wonderful - a blend of futuristic styling (à la 80's) with the businesslike, aggressive styling of the previous Trans Am models (like Burt Reynold's car in Smokey and the Bandit.)

The Trans Am logo is proudly printed wherever and whenever it can be. 'Trans Am' is actually another company's branding, so General Motors had to pay a $5 royalty for each car they produced under the 'Trans Am' name. Therefore, they got their money's worth by slapping the name on every surface they could find!

The most unique feature in the cockpit in the 5-speed manual transmission. America is a land dominated by automatic 'boulevard cruisers' so a 'stick shift' is pretty rare.

In fact, in 1985 General Motors only produced 661 manual transmission Trans Am Firebirds and they're getting increasingly rare.

A recent search of Autotrader revealed less than 20 third-generation manual Firebirds for sale (at that exact moment) across the entire United States.

The 5-speed 'box is a pretty clunky affair - more like a truck's gearbox than a nimble sportscar. But once you get the hang of it, the car shifts with riflebolt precision and you get a wonderful rein on that powerful 5.0 litre V8 engine.

Remarkably, most of Tiffany III is absolutely original, including the '85 Delco FM radio and cassette player.

Given the fondness for 'hot rodding' in Firebirds, radios are often the first thing to go - so to find an original unit is pretty special.

The sound is pretty tinny in comparison to, say, my 'pimped out' Lincoln Town Car - but it's a 23 year old radio, so who's complaining?

And although the radio is 23 years old, it was still easy enough to install a SIRIUS radio - this is a $39.99 InV2 model, which offers cheap-and-cheerful reception of all the SIRIUS channels through your car's original FM radio.

It was quite a struggle getting clear reception (I ended up having to tape the FM Extender Antenna around Tiffany's front fender-mounted whip antenna) but now I get 130 channels to enjoy.

So that's my brief tour of Tiffany III. She's a truly lovely car and wonderful to drive. I admit, the commute up and down Route 1 isn't exactly ideal for a powerful sports car, but when you get her on the open road, that exhaust sings and she's fantastic to drive.


SignGurl said...

What a sweet ride!!!

Kitty said...

*Wolf whistles at Tiffany* x