THE CAR AND ITS OWNER
1989 20th Anniversary Pontiac Turbo Trans Am Indy 500 Pace Car #636 owned by Rob Austin

WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING
Pontiac aficionados look at this rare Trans Am with an approving wink and nod because they say that it -- and not the Corvette -- was the fastest General Motors car produced in 1989, despite relatively modest official performance numbers. With the turbocharged V-6 engine from Buick's GNX muscle car and factory-approved modifications from a California performance shop, the Trans Am was said by Pontiac to have 250 horsepower and reach 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds. However, tests by others, including a national car magazine, showed horsepower to be over 300 with a 0-60 time as low as 4.6 seconds.

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Austin deems his car "the Holy Grail of Trans Ams" because of its speed and the fact that only 1,555 copies were made. "Even by today's standards," he says, "this is a fast car. In 1989, it was ahead of its time. It was a natural 'Vette-eater' and, in fact, smoked most other cars that came its way, including the high performance European exotics."

HOW LONG HE'S OWNED IT
Since last year

WHERE HE FOUND IT
After taking his family to Ohio to inspect a Trans Am at a Porsche dealer, Austin ended up buying this one in better condition from an owner in Plainview, not far from his home.

CONDITION
"The car has only 26,000 miles on it and is all original, except for little bits of paint work here and there on the ground effects, which is pretty common," Austin says. "The leather interior is like almost new. Even the underside is spotless since I get underneath and clean it."

TIPS FOR OWNERS
"You need to know these cars inside and out when looking to buy one or just maintaining one," he advises. "In my view, always buy these cars with 'T-Tops' (removable roof panels) in order to really enjoy them."

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VALUE
Austin says he has seen cars in mint condition valued as high as $50,000, although the softening economy has put most of them in a range between $15,000 and $25,000.

PERSONAL COMMENTS
"Owning this car is a dream come true for me," he notes. "The car is awesome to drive and gets tons of comments from people, especially if they know the car. The fun part of this car is that it is a real sleeper because most people don't know about them. Owning these cars is like being part of a small club where many owners know each other."

If you want to show off your car, e-mail your information and a jpg photo (at least 200 dpi) for consideration to David Fluhrer, Newsday Wheels; thegarage@optonline.net