A Tesla Model 3 equipped with range-saving Aero Wheels recently battled an all-American muscle car — the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. In a standing quarter-mile race, the Long Range RWD Model 3 proved that while it does not have the brutal acceleration of the Model S P100D or the optimized setup of the Model 3 Performance, it still has enough power to make a strong impression on the drag strip.
During the unveiling of the Model 3 back in 2016, Elon Musk remarked that Tesla does not make slow cars. Tesla’s official figures for the single motor Model 3 are quite conservative, with the vehicle having a 0-60 mph time of 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph. Despite this, however, the all-electric sedan has been steadily gaining some reputation on the track, with the vehicle being able to run hot laps around the famed Laguna Seca Raceway and beating a Porsche to take the winner’s circle in a Time Attack event.
On paper, the race between the Model 3 and the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am is the very definition of a bout between past and present. The Firebird Trans Am, after all, is one of the most recognizable muscle cars ever made. Designed to be a competitor to the ubiquitous Ford Mustang, the Firebird Trans Am became iconic due to its sleek lines, long sloping hood, and its wedge-shaped profile. The specific trim of the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am on the race against the Model 3 was not specified by Drag Racing and Car Stuff, the YouTube channel that uploaded the run, but based on its design, the vehicle appeared to be a refreshed 4th generation model, which was produced from 1998-2002.
Power-wise, the 1998-2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am was equipped with a hefty 5.7 L (347.8 cu in) LS1 V8 engine that produced 305 bhp (1998-2000), or 310 bhp (2001-2002). During the 1998-2000 era, the Firebird Trans Am was listed with a 6.1-second 0-60 mph time and a top speed of 160 mph. During the final two years of its production, the Trans Am was listed with a 0-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 160 mph. These were the last Pontiac Firebird Trans Am to be made before GM stopped production of the vehicle. GM eventually opted to discontinue the Pontiac brand altogether, but rumors over the years have been emerging that the Firebird Trans Am line will be resurrected in the near future.
So what happens when the Long Range RWD Model 3 clashes with one of the Firebird Trans Am? Off the line, the Model 3 immediately gained a lead, thanks to the instant torque provided by its rear electric motor. Midway through the run, the Pontiac Firebird found its footing, and it started gaining on the Model 3. Unfortunately for the muscle car, it was a little bit too late, as the Model 3 crossed the finish line soon after.
The race ended with the Long Range RWD Model 3 hitting the quarter-mile mark in 13.68 seconds while traveling at 101.83 mph. The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, on the other hand, finished the race in 13.74 seconds while running at 111.85 mph.
Considering that Tesla is now producing the Model 3 Performance, it would likely not be long before the drag strip welcomes the electric car as its next formidable challenger. With a 0-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph thanks to its two electric motors, the Model 3 Performance would likely make an impact on both the track and the drag strip.
Watch the Tesla Model 3 battle the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in the video below.