Low-Mile Survivor: 1979 Pontiac Firebird Formula

We’ve recently seen a few low-mileage classics at Barn Finds, and this 1979 Pontiac Firebird Formula is up with the best. Although it rolled out of the factory in Norwood, Ohio, it is a Canadian-delivered car. That means that although its odometer reading is 19,116, that figure represents kilometers, which equates to around 11,878 miles. It is a tidy survivor needing a new home. Therefore, the seller listed it here on Craigslist in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They set their price at $28,900, and I must say a big thank you to Barn Finders Rocco B. and T.J. for spotting this gem for us.

My first thought when I realized where this Firebird started life was to wonder whether it had any existing rust issues. I’m not saying every car in Canada is a rust bucket, but when a model is already prone to such problems, it pays to be sure. However, the news with this Formula appears to be nothing but positive. The area around the back window looks okay, the trunk pan is solid, the floors are clean, and the prone rear valance is faultless. I think that covers most of the bases in that respect. Its Camel Metallic paint looks excellent, with a deep shine and no visible flaws. It cloaks panels as straight as an arrow and is perfectly contrasted by the Gold factory stripes and decals. The trim is excellent, the tinted glass is flawless, and the spotless Rally II wheels wear sparkling trim rings.

The 1979 model year was the last when buyers could order their new Firebird with a large capacity V8, but this Formula misses out on that. Its engine bay houses the more conservative 301ci unit that produces a modest 150hp. That feeds to the road via a three-speed Hydramatic transmission, with the original owner adding power assistance for the steering and front disc brakes. As you might expect from a car tipping the scales at 3,569lbs, performance is far from scintillating. The journey down the ¼-mile would take 18 seconds, with the V8 running out of breath with the needle nudging 119mph. We’ve discussed the odometer reading, and the seller doesn’t indicate whether they hold verifying evidence. However, it might be hidden away with the original Owner’s Manual, dealer paperwork, and other documentation included in the deal. The seller recently replaced the tires and performed a service. The Firebird runs and drives perfectly and has no mechanical needs.

To complement the exterior paint shade, the original owner ordered this Firebird with its interior trimmed in Camel Tan Hobnail cloth. They added air conditioning and an AM/FM radio but chose to forego such extravagances as power windows or power locks. The interior presentation is as impressive as the exterior, with only a dirty mark on the carpet near the driver’s left foot as a fault worth noting. Otherwise, the upholstery is immaculate, there is no cracked or crumbling plastic, and I can’t spot any aftermarket additions. This interior would undoubtedly receive positive comments from any enthusiast who learned it is original and unrestored.

Although it was becoming evident that the Second Generation Firebird was reaching the end of its life by 1979, that didn’t prevent 211,454 buyers from slapping down their cash to park one in their driveway. The rarest variant was the Formula, with only 24,851 people taking one home. Today, enthusiasts focus more on the Trans Am, which has become one of the icons of the North American classic scene. The Formula is less recognized, and many ended their lives as T/A clones or served faithfully until the almost inevitable rust claimed them. This car is an amazing survivor that has avoided those pitfalls, and its odometer reading places it in rarified company. The seller’s price is at the top end of the market, but if the odometer reading is confirmed, the figure is not unprecedented. It has only been on the market a short time, and although I doubt the seller will drown under a flood of inquiries, I think it will eventually find a new home.

Comments

  1. Grant

    The Formula was a better bargain back in the day. Could you get a 400 in one in 79? I do not recall. I think they look better than a TA. The 301 would not bother me, but I think blue was a better colour for them.

    Like 6
    • Bick Banter

      Yes, the W72 400/4-speed was available in the Formula as well as the Trans Am. But only 367 were built in ’79, as opposed to 8,326 W72 Trans Ams, so they are extremely rare.

      Like 2
      • mooseandsquirrel

        There was a reason they are rare. Folks preferred the T/A over it. Rarity on undesirable cars or options does NOT mean it is worth more

        Like 4
      • Grant

        Hey Boris, who said they were undesirable? Maybe not everyone wanted a screaming chicken on the hood. Ever stop to think about that? These had a cleaner dash and usually without the silly honeycomb wheels. Besides, the fake hood scoops look so much nicer in my eyes. Bet ya in Pottsylvania they had nothing this nice.

        Like 3
  2. Bick Banter

    It was all show and no go, as they used to say back in that era. The 301 is unfortunate and would’ve gotten zero street cred, but it may be one of the reasons why it survived this long in this condition.

    Its power deficit seems less of a big deal today. The top of the line engine in ’79 only had 220 horsepower, which is nothing in today’s times. But 0 to 60 would take 11.6 seconds according to Automobile Catalog, so you might want to consider some upgrades to make it more respectable, or even a SBC crate motor swap.

    Like 1
  3. BA

    I’m from the south & even a collector car should have A/C ! There is no way your painting a how much fun you will have with a non air conditioning car , zero chance, end of story!

    Like 3
    • Brad460 Member

      We live up north and the first car my folks ever had was a new 84 chrysler that they special ordered with air. They put ac in the new home they built in 1989.

      Pretty common up north to be without air.

  4. Stan

    Heavier than they look 👀

    Like 1
  5. Brian Bernsen

    Doesn’t look like it has A/C.

  6. George Mattar

    Great car. Junk engine. I remember these new ar Dix Pontiac in State Collwge, PA. Wanted to buy a new Nocturne Blue W72. But being a starving college student, I kept driving my B5 Blue 68 Plymouth Sport Satellite.

  7. Mattster

    Seems like brown and green cars survive because older people bought them! Just because its low milage is not where the value is. Its not far from where I live, maybe i should take it for a test drive and reserve my comments? But just remember that you may end up replacing all the rubber on this (bushings, hoses, belts, mounts, door and window seals and weatherstripping. Along with shocks, exhaust, brakes, gas tank, brake lines, fuel lines, etc), problem with age!

    Like 2
  8. Rob deez

    I bet it has like 3:07 Or 2:73 gear ratio?
    At 150 Hp Imagine if it had a/c -25hp
    125hp then like 90-100hp at the wheels.
    With this car I would do 3:42 gears, the 301ci engine I would want to seek out some information regarding wether or not this engine has bolt performance on options ? First rip off that converter!

    Beautiful car

  9. John Oliveri

    No A/C 301 no power options NO SALE

    Like 2

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