If you’re a purist, this car isn’t for you. I’ve always loved 3rd gen Firebird’s, and when I started looking for my own there were some things I really wanted; T-tops, L98, digital dash, and flame red metallic paint just to name a few. Unfortunately, these aren’t common because the digital dash was only available in 87/88 and the 5.7 with T-tops was only available after ’89 (this is according to the GTA source page – except for export, so you could find this in Canada). Either way, it would be a tough find, but I did stumble across one with an intriguing story….The previous owner to this car had a flame metallic red ‘87 GTA with 58K miles and totaled it in the early 90’s, but purchased it back from insurance hoping to repair it. After tearing into it, he saw that the body was too far gone, so he started searching for another car. He came across a theft recovered ‘89 gunmetal gray GTA, with 52K miles in New Jersey. The car was fine, but NJ law required it to have a reconstructed title, even though there was no damage. He checked it out and agreed to make the purchase. However, between the time he saw it and when he picked it up, someone stole the engine. He negotiated a new price with the insurance company and took it home.
He then decided to install the engine from his ’87 into the ’89 and while he was at it, also swapped the interior. He liked the Flame red metallic so much, that he repainted the 89 in this color (you can still see the gray behind the door panels). There were only 644 GTA’s in ’89 that were painted gunmetal gray. Keep in mind this was the mid 90’s and nobody had a clue what these cars would be worth, and nobody cared about the build numbers at this point. So, over the course of 4 years, he swapped the engine, interior, and painted the car in his spare time. When he finally finished it in the late 90’s, he had lost interest and put it in storage.
20 years later, he pulled it out of storage and decided to sell it. We made a deal and I brought it home and began a month’s long cleanup process. The first stop was to my local mechanic, who couldn’t believe the detail the guy went through on the engine swap. He said there are things that the previous owner kept and installed that most guys would not have reinstalled. He did a full service on the car, gutted the cats and installed frame connectors. Next, it was detailed with a ceramic coating and tuned with a new PROM. Then I spent months working on the odometer and DIC trying to correct the displays while not driving it to preserve the mileage until it was corrected.
It’s probably a one-of-a-kind bird. Like I said, not a number matching pure car, but I feel one with some of the best options. It has about 55K miles (engine has about 4KBen Schwandt more), runs great and is a blast to drive! Thanks for checking it out!
Josh Weaver, Strasburg, Pennsylvania
’99 Trans Am of Ben Schwandt
Greetings! I recently sold my 2000 T-top WS-6 Trans Am and decided I needed another to replace it! I found this beauty advertised for sale in your Eagle publication, spoke with the seller and the rest is history!
I had it shipped from New Jersey to my home in Minnesota sight unseen. It’s a beautiful car with only 21,000 miles on it. It is 1 of only 48 red WS-6 Trans Ams with a 6 speed. This Trans Am is a great addition to my black 1983 Trans am and my 2002 Collector edition convertible.
Ben Schwandt, Moorhead, Minnesota Editor’s Note: Photos of his 1983 and 2002 Trans Ams have appeared in the August 2022 issue of the Eagle.