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96 Mile 1987 Formula Firebird


Normally, we wouldn’t feature an eighties Firebird, but any 25+ year old car that is claimed to have only covered 96 miles in its lifetime is worth a look. When I saw this one, the first thought that came to my mind was that the odometer had been tampered with and that the seller was just trying to generate some hype. That may be the case, but there is an interesting story behind the car that makes me wonder if this tall tale is true. There is even some physical evidence to back it all up, so read the whole story and then let us know if you think it’s legit. Find it here on eBay in Reno, Nevada where bidding starts at $1,000. Thanks goes to Jim S for the tip!


Supposedly this Trans Am GTA Formula Firebird was stolen off the dealer lot in 1987 and by the time it was recovered, some of the body panels had already been stripped off. Naturally, it went to auction as many stolen cars do. The next owner excitedly acquired all the missing panels. Then they lost all excitement the same year and parked it behind their shop… Hmm, sounds fishy. That part of the story almost made me stop reading, but there there was something that caught my eye in one of the photos.


If you look closely, you will see the dealer sticker. Well, the lettering that was on it anyway. It appears that the sticker sat against the window in the heat long enough to actually transfer the ink unto the glass. This doesn’t necessarily prove anything, but it does make it a little easier to believe. Why else would anyone leave the sticker in the window that long? This was a special high-performance version of the Firebird, so any person who purchased one would surely be excited to take it for a spin and that pesky sticker would just be in the way!


The GTA was endowed with the largest V8 you could get that year. It was sourced from the Corvette and although it wasn’t extremely powerful, it was a potent machine for the times. I’m not sure that is enough to convince anyone that this car is worth restoring. Unless, of course, the mileage claims are true. So, what do you think? So you believe that this really is a 96 mile car? Or is it just someone’s attempt at dumping an unfinished project?


  1. MH

    Sounds like BS to me. Check the dealership and police records for the truth.

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  2. Scott Allison

    Looks like they recovered this car very quickly! Only the nose and hood are missing.
    I would expect the engine would have been the first thing stripped out.

    Too bad it wasn’t put back sooner, and left to rot.

    Legit… Looks like it – as long as all the documentation is there to prove it!

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  3. cory

    I dunno. Seems odd that it was plated. Also, interior looks pretty broke down, carpet is dirty, not sure about the tires. They appear to have a lot more miles. A closeup on the pedals would tell a lot. Steering wheel looks shiny from wear. Seems like a pretty bogus story. Hard to believe someone bought all the parts and gave up Unless some serious damage was done to the car.

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  4. hawk

    Typical GM paint work.

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  5. dj

    Look at the Drivers Seat. That wear is not from sun damage. The steering wheel has a place where the leather has no color from wear. It could and couldn’t. I’d lean towards the couldn’t. But it’s already $1000 and more than I’d want to spend. I worked at a GM dealership at that time. The GTA had all the ground effects on it. The Formula 350(which is on the door) had none. I don’t think this is a GTA but I might be wrong.

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    • C.W.Muse

      I agree. This is a Formula car all day except for the wheels.

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  6. Monty MaGill

    It takes quite a while to get plates in CA. They usually took several weeks in the 80’s, and you would drive around with a paper ad from the dealer where the plate would go and a small 3 x 4″ sticker in the front window indicating that it had been purchased. I dunno if they still do that- but the plate does make on suspicious. And someone started to strip panels and it was sent to auction? Really? Lots of car theft in northern Cali, and lots of fraudsters selling stolen cars. A hood, bumper and other seems a small value to get from stealing a car- unless they were caught in the act….

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  7. Steve

    Its not a GTA its a formula. It isn’t worth anything to restore if you ask me. Surely a cool car in its day. its auto because its a 350. The stick was only available as a 305. As far as the story goes, anything’s possible but im calling BS. It would have been picked up much earlier in its life I think. If its true there is something major that prevented someone from doing the TLC to get it back on the road.

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  8. PJ

    I don’t know how dealerships and tagging work anywhere else in the U. S. of A. but where I live a dealership hardly ever gets actual tags for a car on their lot except if it is a permanent feature (Chrysler dealership down the road from me has a prowler with tags, but it belongs to the head salesman), and if you have a car that you is a long term project you cover it and keep the plates inside (the plates go missing). Also, the door says Formula 350 which implies that, if the seller is telling the truth, the doors were stripped off or damaged in some way and replaced with just what ever he could find. . . that matched the paint right, if he went through the trouble of matching the paint why not do the little extra work and get the GTA doors? The sticker might be convincing, if I could read it. Granted I am suspicious of anything that sounds particularly great because I was cheated a couple times in my youth, I hope it turns out to be the real deal, I would hate for anyone to get burned.

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    If this was a recovered stolen car, it would have a salvage title, but this pinkslip does not show that.

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  10. Justin in indy

    the window sticker burn-in is the coolest part of this car. Everything else seems like BS to me.

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  11. RN

    Seems like BS to me. The GTA did have full ground effects. Check with the dealer and the police reports.

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  12. FRED

    it’s hard to tell. after reading everybodies posts a couple times i think it’s a bs story. of course i could be wrong but that ain’t likely …lol.

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  13. Mike

    I think its legit, first look at the engine bay closely, particularly the ac evaporator and the emissions tubings side of the exhaust manifold, as well as the original belts on the engine and the cleanliness of the bay area, the age of this car this would be entirely caked, and this is most any gm because of the eventual leaks etc. then if you look at the shift lever, its new still, the plastic would be worn smooth with 25 years of driving, as for the steering wheel , its leather, the sun would burn the spot it was hitting daily for the past 25 years sitting in the same spot obviously because the paint looks like it basically fell off the car sitting still. My bet its legit, and will probably fire right up with fresh gas and the missing parts back in place. Good find.

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  14. OKCPhil

    Honestly the GTA did not come with Formula decals on the side. I graduated high school in 86 in NJ so yes I know my fire chickens. (Humor here)
    So this car was stolen, had the GTA seats and othrr parts removed, then painted a non-GTA color and the Formula decals added…..then they took part off and then the new owner bought GTA parts and stuck it behind the shop? This touches the ludicrous button on every level. More than likely the speedo is new.
    This is not a GTA……..its maybe a Formula which is cool but not valuable.

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  15. Tim Moore

    Smells awfully fishy. The seats and carpets are worn and dirty in the places a driver would dirty them.. The seatbelt looks used, it’s plated.. It’s well worn out looking. I think this car has turned over 100 000 and the story is made up.

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  16. SoCal Car Guy

    I’m with “dj” on this. As to the driver’s seat, well, my ’99 Formula WS6 1LE’s driver’s seat is in better shape with 42,000 miles than this supposedly 96-miler’s seat. Ditto the steering wheel.
    My personal B.S. detector hit an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10.

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  17. John

    The present owner says it “cruncked up”? And why change out the wheels? The whole story just has too many unanswered questions!

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  18. PaulG

    There are conflicting items as mentioned above, but a personal inspection would be the ONLY way to purchase this car (if you wanted to verify the low miles). That said, it’s not a GTA, and the value of a Formula 350 vs. a GTA would be about -20%. This 350 TPI motor generates some great torque; I own a ’90 IROC with the same engine, and it’s fun to put the hammer down…

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  19. Jimbosidecar

    The seller does not have a pristine reputation on E-Bay either. I’m with the majority on this, I think it’s BS

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  20. Gaurdstang

    It would make a great donor car for your rust bucket F-body that you have owned since high school

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  21. Dan h

    Ha ha! That odometer is so rolled back it not even funny! Those zeros are WAY off!!

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  22. Dan

    I remember a few years back one of the car magazines had a story about a 1970 LS-6 El Camino being stolen off the lot, it was found 15 years or so later with only 14 miles on it…so this story is believable…..

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  23. Dolphin Member

    This looks like a story. Maybe there’s some paperwork somewhere to help the basic story along, but so what? The car shows wear from being on the road and sat in a lot, and no pieces of paper are going to change that.

    Maybe the engine ran a year ago (is that what he meant by “IT CRUNK UP”?) and maybe the drivetrain is worth buying the car for, but to know that you’re into time and probably money to get it running before the auction ends. And if you do get it running you can bet this seller will add a note in GIANT TYPE to the ebay listing saying so. Then…surprise…a whole bunch of ‘watchers’ suddenly get interested in what might (or might not) be a lo mile drivetrain and start bidding it up.

    Call me cynical but I think it’s the same old story:
    Man gets excited and buys car.
    Man finds out the car needs work and money.
    Man decides to get out from under by making up too-good-to-be-true story for ebay auction.

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  24. paul

    Back in those days you could go to a salvage yard buy a wreck or stolen & recovered, fix it & drive it or sell it & the title was not marked as salvage or rebuildable. My wife & I drove many cars I fixed. I bought from a yard an Audi 4000 with 10 miles that was stolen & recovered, someone broke the ignition drove it, bailed, danced on the deck lid, kicked in the rear window & the tail lights & that was it. Why the guy abandoned the project is suspect to me & why after all this time is he unloading it, why isn’t he fixing it???

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  25. fred

    I don’t know what the desire factor is right now for 80’s Firebirds, but if it ever gets high, there is an all Pontiac collection in my small town that will definitely get the attention of the collectors. The owner bought them new and stuck them away for years, then died last year. His wife doesn’t want to sell them at present. As I recall it is mainly 80’s and early 90’s Firebirds, Trans Ams, etc. They are in a building adjoining a retail store and customers are often invited to walk right over and look at them.

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  26. DT

    The pink slip says date first sold 1987,it says date issued 1988,that does not jive with the story about it being stollen right off the the dealers lot

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  27. DT

    Owned by a little old lady who only drove in reverse

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  28. MikeW

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the 7 digit odometer that didn’t appear on American cars till the early 90’s.

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  29. BradL

    The fifth character in the VIN is an S, which denotes a Firebird. It would have to be a W if were a Formula or Trans Am. The eighth character is an 8, so it was built with the L98 350 ci engine.

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  30. Rob K

    What we have here is yet another lying, deluded eBay seller. I think the car would have more credibility as a Formula 350 that just covered its’ 1,000,096th mile. I’d buy into that story. As for the window sticker, anyone with a printer and a damp sponge can do that….

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  31. Tom Greenacres

    Incidentally, between the Formula and GTA, there was the normal T/A. I had one. And I envied the gold BBS wheels (and more umph) on the GTA.

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    • Chuck Foster Chuck F

      Did you notice some pictures have black wheels and a couple have gold wheels? Oooops.

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      • Carver

        The rims were swapped. States it in the listing. Not an oops

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  32. DonS

    If the doors were swapped out as people guessed above, then the window sticker is from a different car. I think the doors are original to the car.

    I wish he’d have left the original wheel\tire combo so we can check tire manufacture date code. If they are original and old and with little wear, then maybe we’re getting close.

    The wear could be from a hundred kids jumping in and out of the car.

    Somebody get out there and figure this one out!

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  33. mike

    The front seats are wrong for the car. You would sit down in firebird seats with side bolsters. Those seats are from a sunbird. Ive done this swap before because its was hard finding origional firebird seats in good condition.

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  34. dj

    What I find great is that most all of us on here agree that this is a bs story. We all know little things to look at that are tell tale. We all see things that we know can’t be true for a car that states it only has 96 miles. And the GTA bs when we all see the Formula sticker on the door. We all have been screwed before and are cautious on the “Too Good To Be True” stories so we know what to look for.

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  35. bruce R. Colbert

    ” IT CRUNK UP. ”

    Adds so much credibility .

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  36. DonS

    A guy over on http://www.thirdgen.org sums it up best:

    “That’s no GTA:
    VIN is 1g2fs2181hl220007
    1- USA
    G- General Motors
    2- Pontiac
    FS- Firebird Base

    a trans am can be a GTA, a firebird can’t
    (besides it has Formula written on the doors)
    Discounting that, yes that is an amazing find.
    (especially the window sticker bit )”

    Google the VIN and you’ll find it for sale for a straight up $1550.

    Like 0
    • CARVER

      never said the car was a gta……..IT IS A FORMULA FIREBIRD THAT SOMEONE PUT TRANS AM PARTS ON…LOOK AT THE LISTING PLEASE! Before everyone continues to make false negative comments…send someone to look at it! I have already given out my number if anyone has questions!! I have nothing to hide and I am no scam artist. I don’t appreciate all the negative comments about myself or my integrity as the seller of this item. Send someone to look at the car and keep your negative comments to yourself. Thank you.

      Like 0
  37. krash

    Perfect !!!

    It’s exactly how it looked as it rolled off the assembly line!….

    Thanks GM

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  38. robert Burke

    Looking at that interior shot, somebody smoked alot of cigarettes in 96 miles?

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  39. DT

    he “thinks its never been registered” it has a lisence plate with a registration sticker,and a pink slip,something sounds “crunked up” all right

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  40. Carver

    Hi. I am the owner of the car and it is 100% legit. The Whole story is true. I have the title and documentation to prove it does have only 97 original miles. The odometer hasn’t been tampered with. Wear on the car is only due to it sitting for over 20 years. Thank you for featuring my rare car.

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  41. Carver

    Again I am the owner. I didn’t say it was a GTA, my listing states the parts were replaced with TRANS am parts. If anyone wants to contact Reno GM to request certification I’m happy to pick up the representative and bring him to the car. I’m happy to answer questions. You can reach me at 530-919-7980.



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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Carver – the title of your listing and the description contain the following, “RARE!!! 1987 FORMULA FIREBIRD GTA TRANS AM 97 ORIGINAL MILES!!!”. You might want to fix it since all your keyword stuffing did was confuse people.

      Like 0
  42. david

    Check carfax see what shows up.
    Sounds fishy to me
    I think whole car was tampered with.

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  43. Foxxy

    I call BS on this. the interior is in to rough of shape. I would check the engine # and that would tell whether it was a GTA or a formula. I’ve never seen a GTA with formula trim. If the ground effects were removed it would still show they were there. great 1000.00 donor car but thats all.

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    • PaulG

      The vehicle has been listed as a “Formula with Trans Am & GTA parts”. When you go back and read the E-bay ad, and the sellers comments above, it’s pretty clear.
      What isn’t clear is the inability to determine whether this is an actual mile car. As stated above, a personal inspection, and paperwork verification would be the proper way to determine the authenticity. Otherwise, it’s a project that looks quite complete.

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  44. Carver

    car was purchased from individual missing the following parts: good brake lights ;front nose cover and rims replacement parts or Trans Am GTA parts. that’s where the GTA Trans Am came from the car is a formula Firebird

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  45. Carver

    vin verification has been done on car…

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  46. mark

    I worked at a Pontiac / Chryler/Jeep/ Subaru dealership in the early 1990’s and I remember the GTA models having their own separate rims that were special to the GTA and you could not do a tire rotation. You had to leave the rear rims on the rear and front rims on the front for backspacing reasons on the rear. You had to rotate the tires off the rims for a tire rotation. I also know that the 350’s came with automatics and the 305 could have a manual trans. I worked with a mechanic who put a GTA hood on a regular Formula car and he had no ground effects which all GTA’s came with. If you rotated the rimes front to back the rims would hit the rear brake calipers.

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  47. mark

    I do believe the car is legit with different Pontiac Formula and Trans Am parts. I still think it shoud have been stored inside somehow.

    Like 0

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