All Original: 1976 Pontiac Firebird Formula 400

We see more than a few Pontiac Trans Ams here at Barn Finds, but far fewer examples of the Firebird Formula. There is probably an excellent reason for this. The simple fact is that the Trans Am managed to generally outsell the Formula by a ratio of better than 2:1 during its lifetime. That makes vehicles like this 1976 Formula 400 a bit of a rare treat for us. It appears to be a clean and tidy survivor that is original and unmolested. It is also equipped with an excellent selection of optional equipment, which should add an air of luxury to the classic motoring experience. The Firebird is located in Melbourne, Florida, and has been listed for sale here on Craigslist. All you need to do is hand the owner $16,000, and you can drive away in this frisky Firebird. I have to say thank you to Barn Finder Pat L for referring the Pontiac to us.

This Firebird is a clean and tidy vehicle. The owner does indicate that the original Cameo White paint isn’t perfect and that it has a few minor chips and scratches. It presents well in the supplied photos, with no significant problems. The panels appear to be remarkably straight, while there are no signs of any rust problems. The Blue stripes add a nice contrast, and these appear to have avoided becoming faded or cracked over the past 44-years. The Rally wheels are a bit of a surprise packet because there are no signs of any pitting or corrosion. The Pontiac comes equipped with tinted glass, and this also appears to be in good condition.

This Pontiac is called a Formula 400 for one obvious reason. Lifting the hood reveals a 400ci V8 engine, which is backed by a Turbo Hydramatic transmission. At 185hp, the “400” wasn’t the fire-breathing monster that it had been only a few short years before. It also meant that the Formula 400 struggled to break through the ¼ mile in 17.6 seconds. However, it could still wind its way to a top speed of 124mph, which was quite respectable. This Firebird has recently been fitted with new shocks, new tires, and a full 3″ MagnaFlow exhaust. The owner states that the Pontiac drives smoothly and that it is reliable. I think that the thing that most impresses me is the cleanliness of the engine bay. It presents nicely, and there are no signs of any long-term issues with fluid leaks.

The interior of the Firebird is finished in a combination of white and blue, and it looks to be in good order. There are no signs of any rips or tears on any of the upholstered surfaces. Perhaps most impressively, the white vinyl has managed to avoid developing the yellowing that can be a significant issue with trim of this color. The carpet also looks to be in good condition, while the dash and pad are free from cracks. The only real problem that I’ve spotted is the fact that the original radio is missing out of the dash in the supplied photos. However, sourcing a replacement should be an easy assignment. As for creature comforts, the Formula does come with a few. The next owner will get ice-cold air conditioning, power windows, the Rally gauge pack, remote exterior mirrors, a tilt wheel, and a factory 8-track player. There is a Dire Straits cartridge in the player at present, so I take my hat off to the owner for having great taste in music.

In 1976, Pontiac sold 20,613 examples of the Firebird Formula. In the same year, 46,700 Trans Ams found their way to new homes. That is the primary reason why we see significantly fewer Formulas today. It is possible to find them for sale today for around the $10,000 mark. However, cars in that sort of price bracket will either need some form of work on the body and/or paint, or will not be completely original. It is also possible to find pristine examples pushing up towards the $25,000 mark. This one is a tidy and clean original survivor that comes equipped with some excellent optional equipment. I tend to think that at the asking price, it probably represents competitive buying. What do you think?

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  1. Jack M.

    I have read a number of reviews that claim the Formula 400 runs the quarter mile in 17.1-17.6 seconds. My Mother could probably do much better. I went to Cayuga with my buddy in 1979. He had a bone stock 1977 Formula 400 automatic and ran consistently in the 15.7 second range.

    Like 8

    I used to know a guy who had a ’76 Firebird Formula that was nowhere near as nice as this one. Should this example look good in person, it seems to be priced decently…but I’d hold out for one equipped with a 4-speed. And were it a Trans Am, a Jerry Reed 8-track would be most appropriate!

    Like 7
  3. Steve R

    Though not cheap, if the car turns out to be as nice as it looks the asking price seems reasonable. Really nice turn key performance oriented cars from this era are getting hard to find. Change a few things, like a gear swap and removing the tacky Ram Air decals on the hood are about all it appears to need.

    Steve R

    Like 7
  4. Superdessucke

    This has the standard Formula paint treatment. I much prefer the W50 Formula Appearance Package. That’s the one that has the black bottom with “Formula” spelled out on it and color keyed rally wheels. A friend of mine had an orange one in high school and I thought it was a great looking car. Otherwise, a very nice example.

    Like 13
  5. Jcs

    Listed as original with mostly original paint. Curious as to why the pictured build sheet indicates lime green interior trim numerous times yet the trim is blue(ish). Other than that anomaly, pretty cool Pontiac.

    Like 4
  6. Johnny

    The looks of it–the report of it–the price of it-$16,000———–ALOT MORE CAR -THEN ANY OVER PRICED NEW CAR OR TRUCK TODAY. I like it –the price and the looks alot better then any new one.

    Like 3
  7. md

    Another departure from original may be the instrument cluster…I don’t believe the “quartz” clock came out until a few years later?

    Like 1
  8. md

    It looks like a nice car, but as others have said, I’m not a fan of the stripe pkg. on this one

  9. jrc

    I do not believe that is the correct tach,looks to be 80-81

    • wjtinfwb

      Good eye! That is an 80-81 tach/clock. Different font and type.

  10. Troy s

    I don’t know which publication came out with those quarter mile numbers and I wonder if it was the usual removing or loosening of the belts, removing the air cleaner lid and filter, fiddling with air pressure or sometimes removing and fiddling with a lot of things after a rather sluggish baseline line run. Nice car no doubt about it and it sounds like the owner already upgraded the lousy stock exhaust. A car this sharp looking needs to run and sound like what it’s representing. What I think anyways, which might be worth two bits.

  11. JoeNYWF64

    Odd pontiac would tool up a 1 year only formula hood & no longer fiberglass EVER AGAIN on any f-body.
    Surprised the t/a hood was never fiberglass.
    I guess there were structural/cracking issues.

  12. Stevieg

    I think this is a very reasonable price, if as nice as represented. A nice combo of sporty and luxury, with an engine that could be toyed with a bit & be very fun. Nice car!

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