1-Of-350? 1971 Pontiac Firebird Formula 455

The 1971 Pontiac Firebird sales brochure confidently stated: “Every Firebird has an assigned task.” If the task you needed your Firebird to complete was being quick without looking fast, the Formula would’ve been the way to go. This 1971 Pontiac Firebird Formula 455 was found by a Barn Finds reader here on eBay in Albany, New York. This is not the traditional auction, as the seller has set a buy-it-now only price of $22,500.

The seller claims this is one of just 350 1971 Firebird Formulas with a 455. I can’t find any information to support or dispute that, but can confirm that 7,802 of the 53,125 Firebirds built in 1971 were of the Formula variety. That total Firebird output paled in comparison to many of its competitors but was actually the peak of Firebird production until its pony car competition shifted to a different segment or was discontinued altogether after 1974.

Even though this Formula has covered just 43k miles – which is documented – and has been garage stored since 1982, there’s definite signs of age. The dark green paint looks like it may have some life left in it, save for the peeling on the hood. There is corrosion on the lower quarters and fender. The seller says the “frame rails are pretty solid except one bad spot about 2×4 area on the bottom of each rail” and “the rear valence is rotted and the rear lower tailpan is rotted.” It’s also noted that the floor needs to be patched below the pedals.

There’s only a sneak peek of the interior, but what we can see looks presentable. A thorough cleaning is in order after 38 years of indoor storage which may go a long way, dependent, of course, upon whether the buyer makes this a driver or a show car. The seller describes the interior as “very good” and notes a rip in the driver seat.

Under the hood we find the original 455 4-barrel V8 engine. Power is sent to the rear wheels by a console shifted TH400 transmission. The seller says the car “starts, runs, and drives” but needs brake work.

This Formula is claimed to be 100% original, right down to the tires. While not an overly clean survivor, it is a documented low-mileage survivor nonetheless. If you’re into that kind of car – especially one that runs and drives – this one may be worth a deeper look.

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  1. Johnny Cuda

    Maybe the front tires are original, but the back tires are different than the fronts.

    Like 4
  2. Steve R

    Pontiacs are among the easiest cars to document, just call PHS and order it. Yet this owner hasn’t done so, or at least mentioned it if he has. All he’s done is taken a picture of a emissions decal on the radiator cover. Instead of writing about restored values, why not include engine codes and date castings? A real 1971 455 Formula would be rare, I had a friend with one, however, his had a 455 HO and Ram Air, this car has neither.

    If a seller want to ask big money, it’s up to them to do the work to justify the asking price, this owner hasn’t done so.

    Steve R

    Like 54
    • Tom Member

      Well said. A 4 speed would have made it much more interesting.

      Like 15
    • JoeNYWF64

      The 455 in this formula may not be a “station wagon” 455 either.
      Only 10 less hp than the 455 HO? …

      Like 2
      • Steve R

        This car does not have a 455 HO. Look at pictures 7 and 10 of the eBay ad, it has a cast iron intake and D-port heads, the 455 HO used an aluminum intake and round port heads.

        Steve R

        Like 23
    • Steve O.

      There was a comment by Steve R saying one can find the documentation on a Pontiac by calling PHS. I would really like to know about one of my cars and some actual numbers about it but cannot find anything on any site. What is the number or website please. Thanks

      • John Oliveri

        PHS historic services, Pontiac historic society, Rey simple, supply the Vin # and a ck, they do the research

  3. 71Boss351

    I agree completely with Steve R. Well said!

    Our family owned a 71 Pontiac Lemans and we replaced the 350 with a 455 in the 80’s so it’s not hard to swap engines in these Pontiac. I don’t think there technically is a Pontiac big block as well!

    Like 12
    • Fred

      All blocks were the same, cranks were changed.

      421/428/455’s had larger main bearings.

      Bores changed for engine size.

      Like 9
  4. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    No air? PASS. Too nasty of weather down south these days (all seasons) to not have it to take the humidity out of the cabin on a hot day.

    Like 4
  5. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Nasty rust through on the passenger side of that hood!

    Like 2
    • Steve R

      Formula hoods are fiberglass.

      Steve R

      Like 19
      • LB

        Oh it’s fiberglass, no wonder. I always wondered how they stamped that intricate hood.

  6. ClassicCarFan

    Yes, there as no such thing as a Big Block or Small Block Pontiac…physically the same size block for all the V8 family, just different capacities.

    Like 8
    • Steve Bush Member

      Good comments, especially SteveR on all the nuances of these. Besides the question of the engine, too much rust for the asking price. And the seller couldn’t be bothered to fix the brakes?

      Like 6
  7. Jm

    Nice but to get my money,3 pedals are required….a 455 is nice but not necessary in my book.

    Like 2
  8. Wayne

    Last year for Formula 455 was 1974. I drove many 455 Firebirds having worked in a Pontiac store back in the “good old days”. Some were very fast and some not so much. But one was in a class all by it’s self. I drove one of the very last, if not THE last Formula 455 SD. It came with the Trans Am hood and scoop. But I don’t remember about the rear spoiler. (it was optional anyway on any ‘bird) That car was an animal. The customer waited over a year and a half for that car. As it was ordered early in the 1973 model year. I will never ever forget the feeling of acceleration in that car. The only thing that has ever come close was a Hennessy 550 Viper. And they may have been close for the first 1/8 mile. And then I know the Viper would pull away. But the Firebird was a much more comfortable car than a Viper. After that Firebird all other Pontiacs were never close. Not even 455 4 speed Grand Ams.

    Like 13
  9. Troy s

    Being quick without looking fast, I don’t know but the Formula looks kinda fast to me with those big scoops at the end of the hood. That’s funny.
    I tried driving one of these with a 400, looked like this one but colored like Rockfords…4 speed which I wasnt used to at all at the time. It was kinda quick when the owner drove, with me at the wheel I kept going from 1st to fourth,,,,DUH! The slow way.
    I can’t believe this has the original tires that’s just nuts. Like the dark green paint, the snappy interior, wheels and of course 455 cubes. Most of all I like those hood scoops a bit more than the Trans Am scoop.
    Can’t believe this has just been sitting all these years, what a waste of time.

    Like 3
  10. John Oliveri

    Guy in my neighborhood had one, his plate was Gimeegas, bronze car 400, was quick, this one no air, not great color, no sale to me

    Like 1
  11. Blake

    I have a 71 formula 455. Had it since high school. There were 671 455 formulas made in 71. 321 had the Ho with 197 head castings,and 350 had the standard 4 barrel with number 66 heads.

    Like 7
    • Ed

      Had a 350 with a 4 speed Muncie trans those were the days

  12. ACZ

    I always appreciated the looks of the Formula. Down to business, clean and sleek. Not the same as a Trans Am with all the bolt-on stuff. Not putting down the T/A, just an uncluttered look. Elegant.

    Like 5
    • MoPar Mike

      I’d rather have the Formula, that 73/74 hybrid’s body and paint is hideous. At least with the Formula you can see what the body needs.

      Like 1
    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      Embarrassing. I really want to like this blue ebay car for the ask. Look at the fit of that hood and trunk lid! Looks like a Formula hood for a car with hidden wipers fitted to a standard 74 cowl. And in the very first photo. Interior too–driver’s door car bends upward where your elbow would rest. And an AC car with no functioning air. Cloth upholstery up front on incorrect seats, factory vinyl in back. Grab handle over glovebox crazy-glued on? Fuel filter and lines running near the pittman arm and h balancer seems dangerous.

      Like 2
      • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

        Funny, if Formula hoods are fiberglass how on earth did this blue one on eBay get bent up in the middle?

  13. TimM

    It’s a nice car but it’s not what the owner says it is so the asking price is ridiculous!!!

    Like 4
  14. Keith Eisenbrei

    For all to know the 455 HO did have round port heads and a aluminum intake but the intake was painted engine color so a little harder to tell .It was a two piece intake with a separate heat riser in the middle. The were identical to the Ram Air 4 intake of 69 and 70 era cars but for what ever reason painted engine color.The 455 HO engine cars were the fastest cars to roll out of Detroit in 71 and 72 only to be beat by the SD cars of 73 and 74. Pontiac’s could not be beat in those early years of the seventies.

    Like 2
    • JoeNYWF64

      Well, Chrysler still had the high compression 426 hemi & 440 in ’71, & Mustang had the high compression boss 351, all of which i would think were faster than the low compression pontiac.
      The ’71 birds might have been a few tenths faster if they had the much lighter camaro “single blade” std bumper.

      Like 1
      • John Oliveri

        Maybe your confusing our 455 Firebird with your 350 Camaros, there’s nothing out there like a 455 H/O either, or a 67 thru 79 428,no low compression there my friend

        Like 2
      • JoeNYWF64

        John Oliveri, the Pontiac 1971-2 STOCK 455HO & 1973-4 SD-455 were both 8.4 to 1 compression. My friends ’68 nova with the 250 ohv strait 6 has higher compression(8.5 to 1 & runs on 87 octane). The 455 HO was 300 hp net. & it didn’t even have forged rods(the sd did).
        The only 455 that had high compression was optionally avail in 1970 in the GTO, but not firebird, & was not really considered to be the motor to get in ’70 – the 400 ram air IV was.
        Has anyone here with a 426 hemi or boss 351 raced a 455HO?

  15. Rick Rothermel

    ‘Fraid not.
    Northern car, vinyl top, rust mentioned elsewhere, too many generalities for the price. They were uber-cool and underappreciated when they were new.

    Like 1
  16. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    One of the best cars I parted out in the early 80’s…..great return on the invested money !

  17. Don

    Lots of work to do on this one.. Body and paint isn’t cheap… and for an automatic, non-ram air, non-ho 455 I think you would be upside down very quickly..

    I think the low mileage is accurate, though at least the passenger fender has been replaced (holes for fender brace used in 73 and later I believe).. Master cylinder has the bleeder screws which was how it would have come originally..

    As for the “original tires”, I didn’t realize that bias plys lasted over 40,000 miles especially behind a big V8…

    Like 1
  18. John Oliveri

    1971, was not a low compression 455 Pontiac, even station wagons were animals, and a 455 H/O would’ve taught anyone a little respect, or if you wanna talk about a 67 thru 69 428, you better put a diaper on,

    Like 1
  19. Stevieg

    Cool car, but not $22,500 worth of cool. Maybe 1/3rd the price because of condition.
    I do wish I owned it.

    Like 3

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