1 Of 179! 1970 Pontiac Formula Ram Air III

While this 1970 Pontiac Firebird Formula may not have the visual pizazz of a Trans Am, looking a little closer reveals a set of options that could have only meant one thing; whoever spec’d this car out was interested in going very quickly! It’s now listed for sale here on eBay while bidding at $8,300 has not yet met the reserve — which reflects the amount of work that has already been completed on the car. After winning the auction (of course you’ll be bidding) you Poncho fans can travel to Stoughton, Wisconsin to pick this baby up.

Someone, presumably the seller, has completed a ton of work on this rare Ram Air III Formula 400 car already. The seller points out that it is a factory four-speed car with a 3.73 to 1 limited slip differential — one of 189 made with this drivetrain. Although it doesn’t appear to be wearing any at this point, the car was painted Coronado Gold from the factory. Those are new door skins and the bodywork may be ready for paint, depending on how picky you are. Those two front wheels & tires don’t come with the car; the original Rallye wheels do but the tires are permanently flattened; bring two of your own.

Much of the work that has been done is under the skin. The following parts were replaced with new components:

-Inner and outer tie rod ends
-Upper and lower ball joints
-Tie rod sleeves
-Idler arm
-Control arm bushings
-Upper and lower control arm bumpers
-Control arm bolts, washers and nuts
-Brake dust shields (NOS)
-Wheel bearing caps (NOS)
-Rotors & pads
-Rebuilt calipers
-Sway bar bushings, brackets & bolts
-Steering rag joint

Additional improvements include a full set of new brake lines and fuel lines and new rear springs.

This is not the original interior, although it is the original color; the seller chose to upgrade to the “deluxe” interior due to personal preference.

As you can see, the engine bay is ready for that engine. About that engine — all of it doesn’t exist.

The correct cylinder heads and manifold are here, but no engine block. There is a Holley carburetor instead of the factory GM model (although the seller has one available at extra cost–why not include it in the auction in the first place?). So if you choose to take this on, one of the first tasks will be finding a correct (or not so correct, your choice) engine block and making a decision how historically accurate you want the car to be. What would your choice be — strictly original, mild upgrades or what? Be sure and share your thoughts with other readers below!

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  1. Shaggin Wagon

    Looks like good bones for a fun project. I wonder if anyone will pull the trigger after reading about the (NOS) wheel bearing caps? ;)

    Like 11
  2. poseur Member

    Love these early Formulas even more than T/A’s.
    ANd the Ram Air 4-speed combo is sweet.
    Bummer about the lack of original parts but still worthwhile to do what it takes to get it back looking and driving nicely.

    Like 11
  3. Bmac777 Member

    Nice car with a lot of the BS already done.
    That top end would go nicely onto a 400 or455.
    I’ve owned a few ponchos and found that for street use the factory intakes are the best. I also like a good Qjet over the Holley.
    Qjets got the quadrabog name from guys putting one that’s usually a 750 onto some low compression 350 and blaming the carb.
    Another good trick was to tie back the vac secondary stop and make it a decent mechanical. Nothing sounds as sweet as a spread bore wide open

    Like 18
    • grant

      It’s “Quadrapuke” and there aren’t any good ones.

      Like 2
      • Maynard Reed

        I’ve had many good quadrajets over the years. You either need to find someone to work on them that knows what they’re doing. Or work on them your self.

        Like 12
    • Joey _2

      Had a Holley Qjet replacement, spread bore, mechanical secondary, double pumper on a a Rally Nova I owned.
      3.73 gears and a Muncie 4 speed to keep it fun.
      It worked very well adapted to the 70 lt-1
      that I had in it.

      Like 4
  4. dave

    Don’t know much, but that’s a Rochester Q-jet on top that manifold.

    Like 4
  5. F Again

    Carter AFB FTW.

    Like 1
    • 19sixty5 Member

      The carburetor in the photo is a Rochester Quadrajet, not an AFB. Two completely different carbs.

      Like 4
  6. Tom Member

    Trying to learn a little something here so if you can explain this to me that would be appreciated. I am a master detailer….., mechanic enough to be dangerous.

    Ok, 3:73 to 1 limited slip. The cars build sheet says Safe T Track which I had on my 67 Firebird 400 Convertible which means my car was NOT a posi-traction rear end. The drive wheel had 1 factory traction bar on it to stabilize the rear end to allow it better traction. I believe it was on the right side. The left side of the rear end had a “bracket” welded to the rear end BUT no traction bar was ever installed there. Probably the rear axle housing used for a POSI.

    A 3:73 limited slip, is that a POSI or not? If it IS a posi AND factory….I would think it would NOT have or need the Safe T Track. If it is NOT posi then the Safety T Track makes sense.

    Let me know if you can clear this up for me. Thanks!!

    Like 3
    • Steve R

      Positraction or “posi” and “limited slip” have more or less become the default term used over the years to describe a carrier that distributes power to both rear wheels on a street car. Safe T Track is just the name Pontiac used. Nearly every nameplate, even within the same corporation called it something different.

      Steve R

      Like 9
  7. Tom Member

    Where is the engine block? Sad to know it will NEVER be a numbers matching car.

    Personally, nice to see all the work done underneath but I really hate when people do work but don’t do a nice job from a detailing perspective. The underbody is black but looks like rust underneath much of it. Remember, this car was sold out of MICHIGAN….lots of rust in MI.

    All new front end parts that are already starting to rust. How about powder coating or painting ….at least CLEAR them before you install them. The hardware is all starting to surface rust already. By the looks of things these parts were not installed carefully, lot of stuff scratched up under there. Honestly, if you care about it do it right, do it right. If I bought this car I would have to take what is already done apart prep and coat it all properly and put it back together. Sorry, I get cars in my shop all the time where people do a pretty good job and are just too lazy to do the “last 10%” of the job which IS THE DIFFERENCE between being OK and great.

    Like 12
  8. Troy s

    I don’t remember these being around all that much, other than clapped out used firebirds, not being harsh just thinking back, then some older dude pulled up in front of Pep Boys in a very stout Formula 400…sat kinda high, nasty idle, exhaust rumbling away…it was the best firebird I’d ever seen. The hood scoops fit the ride…a street/strip car as opposed to the flashy look at me Trans Am stuff I’d gotten sick of. That’s what I see here,
    a day two….or three street machine. Not as it sits now but completed. Never going to be original anyways.

    Like 8
  9. 433jeff

    I really like the quadrajet from small blocks and big blocks, also like the dial holley blower carbs, i also like the hitachi ( had to say it)

  10. Clipper

    Sold for $9750.

    Like 3
  11. Dan

    Everyone who was a Holley fan back in the late ’70’s called them Rottenchester carburetors.
    Not sure I would have wanted this car with engine situation and no transmission.
    But those new Wheel bearing caps really tempted me.

    Like 1
  12. JB

    JAMIE!!! Next time save yourself some TIME and just state, “NEW FRONT SUSPENSION”! Good grief.

    Like 1
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff


      Like 1
  13. mark

    I owned one and I am from Stoughton Wisconsin my 70 formula now recides in Monona Wisconsin . friend of my brother bought it from me when I left to move to Florida. miss the handling and performance Ram air 3 and speed 12 bolt positracton rear Differential

    Like 1
  14. Brett

    Rockford Files Car?
    Makes me curious about the car’s history. I know that the Rockford Files Firebirds were ordered as Formula’s in the same Coronado Gold, but devoid of any Formula Firebird trim items. I wonder if any of them were Ram Air III cars? What say you all of the Firebird experts?

    Like 1
    • Clipper

      Sierra Gold. You’re right, Brett — they were Formulas disguised as simpler, less powerful (and costly) Esprits — a model that “Jim Rockford” could actually afford. “He’d really prefer a Trans Am,” says James Garner, “But couldn’t afford one.” 1974 thru 1978 model Firebirds were used on the show. Garner didn’t like the 1979 model’s appearance, so the 78 was used for 2 more years. All had 400 or 403 ci 4 bbls engines. None were Ram Air III. I personally think all the older Firebirds look better than the mid-70s Rockford birds.

      Like 3
      • Brett

        Ahh, I knew someone had more the skinny on that. Thank you for the education!

        Like 1
    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      The Rockford Files wasn’t on the air when this car rolled off the assembly line. Earliest Rockford “Formulas disguised as an Esprits” in Coronado Gold would be later 1974-76 derivation. Later episodes featured 77-78s. Don’t think James Garner ever had to suffer with driving the facelifted 1979s — rumor has it he continued driving his 78 well into the final season.

      Like 3
      • Brett

        Loved the show and most of what I watched was in the rerun years and it has been a very very long time since I saw the last one.
        Thank you

  15. 3Deuces

    No question about it … THAT’s a Rochester Q-Jet mounted onto the intake in the photo, not a Carter AFB nor a Holley. These are great 4-barrels when properly set-up and dialed-in for the specific engine residing beneath it. Probably one of the most misunderstood carbs ever, thus blamed for everything that goes wrong with the car’s drivability and performance … sound familiar? Adjustments MUST be done correctly and all in a specific sequence, otherwise folks blame all that’s wrong on that dang, POS, no good “Rotten-chester” quadrabog! Same applies for supposedly poor performing tri-powers … it’s all in properly setting up and syncing the carbs and linkages (and in a very specific sequence of adjustments) I was a Olds/Pontiac dealership tech during the 70s + 80s and received my vocation on the Q-Jet (and the 2-Jet) at GM’s Denver training center + Denver Automotive & Diesel College. Don’t let the nay-sayers sway you, a properly set-up Q-Jet is an engineering masterpiece! I’ve rarely had an issue with one after I was done working my magic on it … and that was at 5,280 feet of altitude! Just my $.02. Now, someone please pull the trigger on that rare-bird Formula 400 and bring it back to its original glory!!! (I certainly would, but got my priorities set on doing a concours quality ’65 GTO) Stay well out there!

    Like 7
    • 68custom

      agreed the Qusdrajunk when properly setup is a wonderful carb! not so sure about the 2jet but it is probably a good emissions carb.

      Like 1
  16. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Get off your quad and talk about the car ……..geez Louise…..

    Like 2
  17. Don

    Seats appear to be from a later model and the fenders are missing the Formula small vented fender louvers where the Firebird logo is shown – which makes one wonder where the originals are, or if this is a base model Firebird with a coveted Formula hood. I would like another though!

  18. Stu

    The seats are the low headrest style, so they are from 1970.
    Also, only 1971 f-birds had those
    “vents” on the front fenders. Obviously not on any Trans ams.
    Those fenders look correct for 1970.
    You have to love the 12 bolt rear, for 1970 only, as well.
    I have a 70 formula 400, only with an auto trans. Love that hood!
    Stay well my friend

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