When it launched in 1990, Pontiac's Trans Sport minivan-along with GM's other "dust buster" minivans-were noted for unusual styling and utilizing a space-frame structure. Unique, perhaps, but the finished product was nowhere as wild as the concept van of the same name shown four years prior.
The Trans Sport concept featured a composite body with expansive panes of glass, and it eschewed the conventional sliding side door in favor of a gullwing design. Power-235 horsepower, to be precise-was supplied by a prototype all-aluminum, 2.9-liter, turbocharged V-6, which was also contemplated for the Fiero GT.
Until this point, minivans were largely the homely, box-like appliances churned out by the Chrysler Corporation. Pontiac injected lots of styles and some edge into the concept and created a show car as avant-garde as it was family-friendly.
The novelty of minivans, in-car computers, and steering wheels laden with a million push-button controls has faded over the past twenty years. However, the Trans Sport still is interesting to look at-especially in contrast with the bastardized version that ultimately rolled off the assembly lines.
Minivans bolstered the Pontiac organization for several years. Still, the Trans Sport offered to consumers was virtually no different than the Lumina APV or the Silhouette offered across the street at Chevrolet and Oldsmobile dealers, respectively. In later years, GM tried to shed the van's mom-mobile image by adding cladding, a new Montana nameplate, and an ungainly nose. Few consumers were fooled, and the van lineup was ultimately killed in the U.S. in 2006.
Engine & performance:
Type: V6, turbo
Capacity: 2838 cc
Power: 127 hp
Top speed: 170 km/h
Front: 185/75 R14
Rear: 185/75 R14
Length: 4600 mm
Width: 1600 mm
Height: 1490 mm
Wheelbase: 2950 mm
Weight: 1400 kg
Source: Orphaned Concept Cars - www.automobilemag.com; allcarindex
Images: www.highperformancepontiac.com; JOHN LLOYD Collection
Pictured above: The 1996 Pontiac Trans Spot Concept brought from renderings to the Detroit Auto Show.
Pictured above: A production version of the Trans Sport debuted for the '90 model year. This is a '93 model, the last year for the original exterior design before a '94 facelift. While it was toned down a bit from the radical concept version, it was still a technical and design breakthrough, with its spaceframe construction and plastic body panels. It was a little too radical for the market, though, and sales picked up when it was replaced with a more conventional minivan design in 1997.