Rare American Classic Car: The Pontiac Tojan
F-body fans, have you ever heard of the Pontiac Tojan? We are guessing the name doesn’t ring any bells. That’s all right, few people have ever heard of, let alone seen a Tojan. For those of you who do not know, the Pontiac Tojan was a super car built by Knudsen Automotive from 1985 to 1991. While it may look like a kit car or a body kit for a third gen Trans Am we a sure you it’s not. The Tojan was a production sports car that is based off of the F-Body Platform.
According to Ken Lingenfelter these cars were commissioned by GM to be built by Knudsen Automotive. They were built so Pontiac would have a car that was be capable of competing with Ferrari. They wanted a sports car that could go toe to toe with a Ferrari on a road course yet was still affordable to the average American.
Production was limited, only an estimated 150 to 300 Tojans were produced between 1985- 1991. These cars were assembled in Omaha, Nebraska at the Knudsen plant. GM provided Knudsen with GTA frames, Tuned Port Injection 305 engines (LB9’s) and 700R4 Transmissions.Knudsen then beefed up the stock suspension so the Tojan could corner like it was on rails. Then equipped it with power disc brakes on all four wheels and power steering to make handling easier. These mods would allow it to run with the best Ferrari had to offer.
The cosmetics of the car are 100% original, they were designed by Knudsen. The body’s 1980’s styling looks like the radical love child between the Trans Am and the Fiero. The Tojan’s styling was actually heavily influenced by the Ferrari 305. It’s influence can been seen on it’s rear trunk lid and rear tail lights. Further adding to the Italian super car influence, a Lamborghini style wing was available as an option.
The Tojans were then given dished Gotti Wheels which were wrapped in 345/50 R15 tires for added grip. Knudsen then Back to the Futured and Knight Ridered the interior of these cars. They were given leather Recaro seats, a wooden dash which equipped with Back to the Future style digital gauges. They were was also given cruise control, a till steering wheel, power windows, power mirrors, and the power hatch release from the F-Bodies.
The Tojan was a built to order car, to purchase one you simply went to your local Pontiac dealership and they called up Knusden who then shipped it to the dealership. The starting price was $21,995 and the price could climb as high as $55,000 depending on the bells and whistles. These bells included a B&M Supercharger and B&M Superjection as well as a 3.73 Posi. Other options included aforementioned Lambo wing and AM/FM Cassette with Equalizer (that was a big deal in the 80’s).
Besides being designed to compete with Ferrari the Tojan could also be considered GM’s answer to the Ford Saleen Mustangs. The idea behind the Pontiac Tojan was that a drive could build his own super car for a fraction of the price.
While it may not have been a big seller Russ Knusden managed to put a super car in the hands of blue collar Americans. Due to their limited production, perhaps one day the Tojan will become a renowned collector’s item similar to a Cord 812 or the Phantom Cosair. Some love these cars others see it as one of those odd cars from the 80’s. Love it or hate it you gotta admit the Tojan is one wild car.