Genuine 455 Super Duty: 1973 Pontiac Firebird Formula

As our new car market begins to show more of a preference for hybrids and zero-emission vehicles, the current crop of performance models will develop greater significance with each passing year. However, that also means that past generations will likely grow even more desirable. The 1973 Pontiac Firebird Formula already creates a stirring in the market, but when one as special as our feature car appears, that ramps things up a notch or two. What makes it so special is that it is one of a very limited number that rolled off the production line with the legendary 455 Super Duty V8 under the hood. It is an extremely tidy survivor that is now looking for a new home. Located in Tampa, Florida, you will find this very frisky Firebird listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding sits at $53,100, with the reserve unmet. If this is a “must-have” for you, there is a BIN option of $90,000.

The presentation of this Firebird is pretty impressive. The owner isn’t sure whether the car has received a repaint in its original Ascot Silver or whether a clear coat has been applied at some stage. It holds an impressive shine, but this isn’t a pristine example. There are a few small flaws in the paint, and there are some cracks in the nose. These are minor, and it would be worth the effort and expense to have a specialist shop repair them. Rust is not an issue that will need to concern potential buyers because this Firebird is about as clean as they come. The panels show no apparent problems, while the floors wear their original undercoat without any signs of corrosion. The Window Sticker is included in the sale, and this reveals that the original owner wasn’t scared to splash some cash on his purchase. That is why the vehicle wears a rear spoiler, along with a set of 15″ x 7″ Rally II wheels. These are in spotless condition, as are the trim and the tinted glass.

Now we get to the area of this Firebird that makes it special. There isn’t a lot to indicate that the 455 ci V8 under the hood is anything out of the ordinary, but it is a motor that is guaranteed to command respect. This engine effectively said goodbye to the original muscle car era in style and was a tribute to the engineering team at Pontiac. Development on the engine ran behind schedule, so the Super Duty came late to the performance party. However, with a lot of careful internal work and different cylinder heads compared to a standard 455, this beauty punched out a healthy 290hp. This was at a time when the best that you could hope for from a Corvette was 275hp, while the Camaro and the Mustang offered 245hp and 243hp, respectively. Point any of these cars at the ¼ mile and the significance of those numbers became graphically clear. The Firebird could complete the journey in 14.4 seconds. The Corvette would have been next on 14.9 seconds, with the Mustang third and the Camaro finishing last on 15.5 seconds. Thus, a legend was born. This Pontiac is a numbers-matching classic, and it comes with all of the paperwork to verify its authenticity. This is vitally important when we come to consider its relative rarity. Bolted to the back of the 455 is a 3-speed Turbo Hydramatic transmission, while the vehicle also features power steering and power front disc brakes. The owner says that it is a pleasure to drive, and while it looks mean, it sounds even meaner!

The interior of the Firebird shares similar traits with the exterior. It presents well, but it isn’t perfect. However, the only real fault is some fading and edge wear on the carpet. The upholstery looks magnificent, while the dash is unmolested and free from problems. It’s interesting to note that the console was a $57 option. You will occasionally find examples of the Firebird Formula 455 SD where the console wasn’t ordered. These cars will usually feature a column shifter, but they are a bit of an automotive unicorn. As well as looking nice and unmolested, the Pontiac comes with some desirable optional extras. These include air conditioning, a Rally gauge cluster, an AM/FM stereo radio, and an 8-track player.

I have always lamented the loss of Pontiac as a manufacturer. Economic rationalism was the key to its demise, but it also meant that the world lost a manufacturer who was always prepared to push the boundaries when it came to the question of performance cars. The Firebird with the 455 Super Duty was a perfect example. Emission regulations had begun to strangle the American V8, and many models had become wheezing and asthmatic shadows of their former selves. The 455 Super Duty was a fitting way to farewell an era, but it sold in minimal numbers. Only 43 examples of the Firebird Formula 455 Super Duty rolled off the production line during 1973, making these a rare car. Today, a pristine example can comfortably command a six-figure sale price. That means that even at the BIN price, this looks like it could be a good buy. If you return to my earlier thoughts about hybrids and zero-emission vehicles, that has to make you wonder what it could be worth in the future. That has to be something to think about.

WANT ADS

WANTED 1966 Pontiac Grand Prix Rust free vehicle. Interior and motor/transmission not important. Need good sheetmetal Contact

WANTED 1930-1941 Ford Covertible Unrestored Contact

WANTED 1965-1985 Chrysler Fullsize Roadtrip car for crazy swede Nice original fullsize US car, up for a 5000 mile trip. Max 10 k USD. Contact

WANTED 1961 Chevrolet Biscayne Looking for a 1961 Biscayne in decent shape for an everyday driver. Will also consider Bel-Air Contact

WANTED 1975 Chevrolet Impla/Caprice Hood. Decent Condition / No Junk Contact

Submit Your Want Ad

Comments

  1. George Mattar

    I had the great pleasure of driving and writing an in depth article about a 4 speed version of this very rare car about 15 years ago. It is owned by Rick Mahoney, who owns some of the finest PMD cars on the planet. It was an experience I will never forget.

    Like 18
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      George, is the article available anywhere on-line?
      It would make for a great read, I’m sure.

      Like 2
    • Hurlbird

      For me it depends on what itch you are trying to scratch with a car like this. If it is classic muscle car performance then for the money I would build a better car which I did. 68 Firebird 428 5 spd Tremic. Best classic driving experience i have had and i love it. If collecting then I think it sounds steep for an automatic car and a Pontiac. If both collectability and performance then I still say too expensive since driving it will in theory devalue it and the automatic for me would lessen the thrill. Just my take on it.

  2. Skorzeny

    In my opinion, and everybody’s is different, this was the most attractive American car ever made. It is nearly the ONLY car that I wouldn’t mind having an automatic in. I really don’t care what the price on this is, it’s worth it, given the apparent condition. Wow. I would drive it every day it didn’t rain.

    Like 20
  3. Jerry

    Love this Firebird SD but I would hate to come up to a light and have a new V6 SUV blow me of the light. My V6 SUV makes 290hp. But this car us a beauty and i still would love to drive it.

    Like 5
    • Skorzeny

      Not always about the speed Jerry, that’s why people love their old Mercedes diesels…

      Like 11
    • Zach

      Yes but that’s a LOT of torque and would likely blow your V6 out if the water

      Like 19
      • notinuse

        No, it won’t. Beautiful car, though.

        Like 1
    • Timmerz

      Right there with you, Jerry! Really hard for me to think about reaching for my checkbook for a “muscle car”, even a good looking one like this, when my SUV’s 1/4-mile time is right about the same…I’m having a lot of inner turmoil over this…
      Tim

      Like 1
      • Lance

        It’s a beautiful car. I’ve always wanted to know if the SD455 was an option on the 1973 Grand Am. I never got an answer. Does anyone know?

    • Steve R

      Everyone that hasn’t pointed their car down a real race track tends to think it’s faster than it is. That’s where reality collides with expectations.

      Steve R

      Like 19
    • Jerry Member

      Hey I’m the OEM JERRY!!! 😁
      Guess this site lets u use the same name if u want?

      Like 1
    • Jerry Member

      Do a 1/4 mile run in your SUV and get back to us, I doubt it’ll do better than 14.4
      For one, I met a Old Pontiac engine designer at a all Pontiac show years ago, he told me the SD 455 was severely under rated on the HP and was closer to 400 HP.
      And no, cancel your shrink appt. you’re not talking to yourself!!

      Like 4
    • Jost

      The next one made is always faster, but this was the fastest in its time. A special car indeed.

      Like 2
  4. Jeff

    It’s Ba Ba Ba Bad, Bad To The Bone!

    Like 11
  5. Steve Numrich

    Boy…almost perfect, but the misfitting nose panel on the passenger side, evident in one of the pictures is worrying…

    Like 3
  6. Troy s

    The fact it’s a Super Duty 455 Formula already had me dead to rights, the color is my way…not bright and blinding or full of useless decals. Nothing but raw serious muscle in a stealth like finish. Never knew these were more rare than a ’66 427 Fairlane, that’s absolutely crazy rare. 43, in the whole world!

    Like 6
  7. JoeNYWF64

    I wonder if any sd-455 formulas were TOTAL strippers – i mean no styled wheels or tach or extra gages or radio or posi or p/s or p/b or a/c or rear spoiler or console – theoretically possible. (The t/a came with std gages, posi, p/s & p/b.)
    I believe i seen an sd-455 formula with hubcaps!
    Thank goodness this car has no vinyl roof.

    Like 2
  8. CarCrazyTroy

    $90k?
    Where are the other two that come with it???

    Like 4
  9. EPO3

    It,s had a full repaint. You don,t get gaps like that from the factory couple days to line them up all good.Real nice bird

    Like 2
  10. Jcs

    Surprised to see the recessed wipers listed as an option, never realized that.

    The scariest thing about this spectacular American automobile is that she is worth the ask.

    Like 4
  11. Bultaco

    I didn’t know you could get the SD with A/C. This one is about perfect, although I prefer the Formula hood over the shaker, which I think came on all SD birds. With very minor tweaks to the advance curve and carburetor, the SD produced closer to 350 net HP. Sure, some modern SUVs will outrun it, but they’ll also outrun a Ferrari 250 GTO. What would you rather be driving?

    Like 9
  12. Keith

    Never get 90k but you have to start somewhere. 70k should be the selling price. I bought a 74 T/A super duty just for the motor 25 years ago. paid 6k for the whole car . Car needed every panel but only had 25k miles on it. Still have the motor.

    Like 2
  13. Steve

    Worth every cent of the BIN price. Ultra rare, only going up in value.

    Like 4
  14. Jerry Member

    Some of u obviously dont know how rare a engine a SD455 is…..
    .

    Like 5
    • Keith

      I was a parts manager back then and ordered 4 bare blocks for engine builders plus not sure how many sets of heads. They were hard to get but was able to get them. In the early part of the release of the cars the only way to get parts was by a selling dealer giving the serial number to the sold cars to get engine parts ordered.My dealer sold two cars both 74 model years.

      Like 1
  15. JoeNYWF64

    If you subtract all the options, excluding the motor, the sticker is around 4 grand!(excluding fees & deliv), assuming you could get such a car & wait many many months. Pity all those who ordered & never got that motor.
    All those other options IMO defeat the purpose of the motor – this motor is not meant to be a grocery getter!
    http://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/QjkAAOSwvJ9f7MP6/s-l1600.jpg
    I wonder if that hood scoop has been opened up by 1 of the prev owners.
    When was the front end last greased?!
    Surprised even this motor was not only avail in Calif, but no air pump was required!! Why did the small block chev need one? Short stroke/higher revving?

    Like 2
  16. Scott F

    Guys this SD Firebird is the real McCoy. I was good friends with Don Bennett the second owner from Missouri. Don and my dad were good friends and drag racers. He is the one who put the 1 of 43 plates on the car. Don was the second owner of the car. The SuperDuty Formulas shared the engine with the SD TransAm. The SD Formula’s did not have the Fiberglass hood of the non SD Formulas’ They always had the TransAm protruding hood scoop Don passed away about 4 years ago. I was a pallbearer at his funeral. His collection of 12 to 14 Firebirds were auctioned off with a huge amount of parts and automobilia. I believe the current owner of the car is the second one since the auction. The odometer reading on the car is correct. The car was never repainted,it was buffed during Dons’ ownership. The car was rarely driven on the street and was trailered to shows or the drag strip. When loading and unloading the car Don always wore a White knee length lab coat. ( that coat now resides in my home shop) If you rode in the car with Don, you kept your feet on the floor mat and your hands on your lap. Don was a drag racing pioneer. He drag raced a 50’s (53?) Oldsmobile on the Daytona Beach in the 50’s. He grew up in the small town of Farnhamville Iowa. Served in the Navy during WWII. Work as a Oldsmobile then a Pontiac mechanic his whole life. He raced and was close friends with the likes of Arnie”The Farmer” Beswick. Don and his wife Lee moved from Iowa to Whittier California in the 60’s. This allowed Don and Lee to drag race year around. Don continued to drag race into his late 70’s. He did muscle car shoot outs with what he called his “Slippery Car” a 89 Turbo Charged Firebird. Anyone who attended a POCI Convention in the 80s through early 2000’s most likely saw Don and one of his Firebirds in attendance. He was a wealth of knowledge regarding Pontiac’s and Drag racing. He would share his knowledge with any one who would stop and talk. This car always brought on some interesting conversations as people thought it was a TransAm without the spoilers. Regarding the SD being beat by a V6. Unless it was an 89 Turbo Charged TransAm, the only way it would happen is for the driver of the SD to be sleeping at the light. I can assure you Don rolled over in his grave on that comment, and had a few choice words!

    Like 19
    • Jerry Member

      I took 1st Place in August 2000 and also won the “Dealers Choice” award in the San Diego “YOUNG PONTIAC” sponsored POCI show in Jamul for my 76 Pontiac “50th Anniversary” Black & Gold Trans Am.
      Jim Wangers was there and I bought his book and he signed it for me.
      Regret selling that car for sure!
      The Pontiac “F” bodies are my favorite car body….always called the Camaro the “Economy Firebird” 😁
      The Pontiacs always had nicer interiors and other benefits as Chevy was GMs least expensive brand. (except the Corvette)

      Like 4
      • Keith

        Yes the Firebird was a great car and I have had a few but the one that really scared me was the 89 Turbo Trans Am. That was by far the fastest bone stock Firebird money could buy.With 500 miles on it it clicked off a 13:20 at 108 in the 1/4 mile. Nothing done to it stock everything. I put a flow master muffler on it and went into the high 12 second range. Sounded way better with that muffler.Car needed slicks for better times.

        Like 3
  17. JoeBob

    JoeNYWF64, I also wondered about how dry the front suspension looked. Maybe it was just really thoroughly power washed, but it looks really dry. And I wondered about someone ordering a SD455 but specifying ram air delete.

    • Keith

      No Ram Air Delete. Pontiac had some real trouble with getting this engine smog legal. They actually had to decam the motor to pass smog tests back then. They also got caught with a non functioning EGR valve above the rpm required for the smog check. This engine almost did not get into production and is a reason it did not make it into the 73 GTO.By far one of Pontiac’s greatest motor’s to be produced.

      Like 5
  18. Super Glide

    At 90 grand, what would you do with it? You ad more miles and it’s worth less money. Today Mustang GTs are faster and handle better. Unfortunately a 47 year old car with 290hp motor doesn’t sound that good to people under 57 years old, because they would have been 10 when the car was made and 290hp today is a minivan engine.

    The first questions anybody under 57 would ask is “is this a Trans Am?”
    or “Where’s the chicken?”

    If I was mad at my 90 grand of fun money, I’d start at 70 grand.

    • Jerry Member

      Its way more than 290hp…the factory lied because back then insurance companies were watching the hp of cars…..AND people forget about the freight train TORQUE!!

      Like 7
      • Keith

        There were a few that got out with the 310hp rating but they did not pass smog tests Pontiac decamed the engine. The 310 hp was with a Ram Air 4 cam lobe profile but with the SD engine it had a larger distributor gear unique to that engine.These engines with some compression put into them like around 11 to 1 would make in the 600hp range. Really the L-88 beater of the day.

        Like 5
  19. Bimmerbill

    Did the ’73 still have the small back window?

    • Keith

      Yes the last year for the small back window was 1974.

      Like 3
    • Jerry Member

      Yes…..

  20. Frank

    Scott, One othe small bit of trivia, I can recall a hot rod article on the S.D. that said the engine had a provision for a dry sump set up if you wanted to road race it.
    For all you arm chair racers, Remember Torque is king on the street and Pontiacs made a boatload!
    They were my all time favorite

    Like 3
  21. Frank

    Almost forgot, There was a Herb Adams that raced Firebirds and had a ton of improvements for them.
    You can google his name to find some neat articles.

    Like 2
  22. Jerry Member

    LANCE……I’m pretty sure the Super Duty SD455 was only available in the Transam and Formula and only made 2 years, 73 and 74.

    Like 1
  23. Jerry Member

    “You will occasionally find examples of the Firebird Formula 455 SD where the console wasn’t ordered.”
    No u won’t, they only made 43 in 1973 and 58 in 1974, the 2 years the motor was available!

    Like 1
  24. Jcs

    Lance

    Pontiac anticipated offering the SD in the Grand Am, there was even a promotional brochure that pictured one, turns out that it just had the call outs, not the engine. It never came to fruition however and none were ever produced.

    You could get the standard 250 hp 455 but only with the Turbo 400 automatic. You could get a 4 speed with the 400, those are bringing pretty strong dollars.

    Those Grand And are great cars but this Formula is absolutely spectacular. If only I….

    Like 2

Leave a Reply to Zach Cancel reply

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.

*

Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.