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Dusty 1979 Pontiac Firebird Formula 4-Speed

This 1979 Pontiac Firebird Formula is said to have been sitting for a long time. It is listed as a Trans Am but it is actually a Formula. Pontiac offered several models of the Firebird including the Esprit, Formula and Trans Am. The car is going to need some work and I think the seller is a little aggressive on the asking price for the condition. The Formula can be seen here on craigslist and is located in Chicago, Illinois on the northwest side. One of the neat things about this car is that it is equipped with a 4-speed manual transmission. The seller is asking $7,800. We appreciate Kenneth sending this tip our way.

The interior of the car shows a lot of wear but the car was ordered with the deluxe hobnail velour interior. The car has air conditioning and tilt steering. The seat covers are reproduced today and the car looks like it will need carpet, too. The Formula was ordered with T-Tops which are a lot of fun but I would check the floorboard to make sure they have not leaked and rotted out the floor. The seller states that they have clean title.

This engine compartment looks horrific but the seller says the car starts and runs good. The base engine in the Formula was the 301 cubic inch V8 engine (4.9 liter) which is what this car has under the hood. It could be equipped with either a 3 speed automatic or 4 speed manual transmission and was rated at 155 horsepower. The next step up was the Oldsmobile 403 cubic inch V8 engine which was only available with an automatic transmission and was rated from the factory at 185 horsepower. This engine met the stricter California emissions requirements and was installed in quite a few 1979 Formulas and Trans Ams. A buyer could order the optional W72 400 cubic inch Pontiac engine which produced 220 horsepower and only came with a 4 speed manual transmission and the WS6 performance suspension in 1979. Only 367 400 cubic inch V8 W72 Formulas were produced in 1979.

This car will need to be towed to a shop but it is a unique color that you don’t often see. The car is apparently optioned with the WS6 Performance Package which was a suspension handling package. In 1979, Car & Driver named the WS6 Trans Am the best handling car manufactured in the US. How would you restore this car?


  1. Big_Fun Member

    I would start by examining this one with the proverbial fine toothed comb…
    After that, fix the mechanics. If the floor isn’t solid, make a plan to fix.
    The 4.9 L is a Pontiac engine, which means a larger Pontiac engine should work *just fine* is one needs more power.
    A 4.9 in a same year Grand Prix is the one you want (biggest available). However, it seems that a 4.9 L in a Firebird body sometimes comes as a letdown as bigger cubes were available.
    Not me…4 speed, T Tops, 8″ wheels, work just fine.

    Like 5
  2. Stevieg Member

    I agree, the 4.9 should be adequate, as they say.
    I would still be inclined to go 400 or 455, at least after I destroy that 4.9 lol.
    I feel the price is reasonable, baring an inspection. If the floors are gone, I’d pass on it.
    If decent, I would restore the body & interior to factory appearance, then drive it until I were to replace the engine. At that point, detail & paint the engine bay. Until then, it would just get dirtier & grittier as I drive it anyhow.

    Like 7
  3. Wayne

    This generation (body style) of Firebird is quite heavy. (I believe heavier than a Caprice of the same year) But I have always like the body style anyway. I LOVE the color!
    If not rusty I would install a 1970 bumper and grilles, install a 455 engine and upgrade the shocks. (and possibly upgrade the sway bars) Naturally, with this car being a “T” top car, sub-frame connectors would be the first addition.
    Come on, it’s a Firebird, it has to me nasty!

    Like 2
  4. Fred

    Whoever buys it, please sell me the 301 flywheel!

    I need one

    Like 2
    • stan

      Fred, try Franks Pontiac in California

      Like 1
  5. Cav427

    The 301 was a V8 so one could say they had a V8. No such thing as a 4 barrel manifold for the 301. No high performance heads, few if any performance parts. Turboing it only gave one an additional 30 HP in stock form. The US auto manufacturers really lost their way after 1971 IMHO. However I really like the bodies on the Formula Firebirds, this has a 4 speed, that is awesome. A 389, 400, 421, 428 or 455 would be a great upgrade, along with a 12 bolt.

    Like 1
    • Kirk K

      I had a 79 grand prix with a 301 and a 4 barrel carb all factory far as i know . Actually worked pretty good .plenty of power to pass if dropped down a gear and opened up the 4 barrels had real duals and no cat so it even sounded good doing it. Just like most engines it could last a long time if you didn’t abuse and take the rpms higher than it could handle. They were no LS but a little more fun than 267 or 6cyl

      Like 1
      • Cav427

        Thanks Kirk K, I was not aware of that, there was a factory 4 bbl intake manifold! It looks like there are no aftermarket ones from a quick search. Also it appears that the 301 actually had a higher output with the turbo than I thought.

      • Big_Fun Member

        Yes! I drove an ’80 Buick Regal with a 301 4 bbl from the factory…
        A sales person who sold the 301 new said it was the best engine Pontiac ever made. Take that with a grain a salt – but he said reliability, durability, performance (for late 70’s – early 80’s) was above average.
        I liked the performance – a 4 speed would be fun. So would a 400 cid!. BTW, same guy told be the Pontiac 350 was actually a 355 cid. I would think cost to build a 350 would be similar to the 400. But, maybe not…

  6. Larry Ables

    from the looks of that heater box under the hood , that does not have a/c nor did it ever have a/c .

  7. Kirk K

    You’re welcome
    Seems I learn something I never knew about some kind of car truck bike boat RV etc every time come on this site that’s what keeps reading the comments

  8. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    The formula model still represents a good value compared to the Trans Am, like 50% cheaper.

    Of course, you would need to live without a screaming chicken and shaker. I know that I could.

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