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Not A Trans Am: 1979 Pontiac Firebird Formula


This 1979 Pontiac Firebird Formula isn’t a Trans Am, but that may not be a bad thing in this case–sometimes it’s nice to be a little more subdued than a screaming chicken on the hood! It’s currently found in Duluth, Georgia, despite the North Carolina license plate, and is up for sale here on eBay with a buy-it-now of $5,800 but bidding at $1,525 as I write this.


I’m a fan of the somewhat calmer graphics of the Formula package, and I’ve always loved the snowflake wheels. The ad says that this car has the WS7 performance package, which is the famous WS6 suspension and brake package without the rear disc brakes as Pontiac had difficulty sourcing enough of them. There’s a lot of trivia about the 1979 Firebirds and Trans-Ams available here, and some of the information there had me wondering if the “Formula” lettering on the lower doors was original. It turns out not only is it original, but you can get a brand new set of the graphics right here!


The exhaust isn’t stock, but the seller says it has a nice sound, despite small leaks on each manifold. I think I’d rather have the stock system. When I saw the license plate I did a double take, as the 1975 North Carolina plates were on my first car I could legally drive. I’m sure a lot of you don’t like the blacked out tail light treatment or the huge rear spoiler, but I remember them fondly from my youth. I wonder if this car’s heavy doors drop half an inch when you open them like my high school friends car’s did? The seller tells us the only appreciable rust is on the inner rear of the trunk lid and is kind enough to show a clear picture of it. It’s not horrible, but I’m not sure if I’d repair it or replace it.


Worn carpet, worn seats, cracked dash, but still somewhat presentable. I could live with this interior until I could afford a new one. The automatic is a deal-killer for me, though. According to the seller, there are some shifting issues with the current transmission, but even if there weren’t, I’d want a manual in this car. I’d also look for a set of the WS7 rear brakes, too!


Here we see the standard 403 Oldsmobile engine. That’s right, the standard engine in 1979 Firebirds was an Oldsmobile engine. You may not remember that, but at the time when it came out, there was a big ruckus about GM putting engines from other divisions in cars. The air conditioning has been removed; that would be one of the first things I’d replace, and I’m not a fan of that big chrome air cleaner either. The original build sheet, manuals and other documentation comes with the car, so it won’t take much to figure out exactly what was there in the first place. So tell us; if you had a choice, would you rather have this somewhat understated Formula, or the same year and condition Trans Am complete with screaming chicken?


  1. Avatar photo grant

    Buddy of mine had a 76 formula with the 400 in about 1993 or so. Nice car, went like hell.

    Like 1
  2. Avatar photo MountainMan

    Tough call between this or the T/A. Both are good looking cars, especially for the era. Just have one of each so you can cruise either depending on the mood. The T/A with t-tops off and the giant chicken would be fun though!

    Like 0
  3. Avatar photo Terry J

    Had a ’76 TA . Super nice, white, shaker hood, 400 w/auto, red leather, no chicken. Best handling car in America according to all the magazines. Work to home was about 6 miles of seldom traffic and included a sweeping S curve that dropped off a hill and back up the other side. It was my “chicane” and at speed it was the best part of my day. Twice. :-) Terry J

    Like 0
  4. Avatar photo Chad P.

    Thanks for the well done recap and info on the ’79 Bird, my first car. 1979 Pontiac Firebird Esprit with too many memories.

    Like 1
  5. Avatar photo Rob

    I had a 79 T/A with the 403. Was a fun car, should have kept it.

    Like 0
  6. Avatar photo stp

    Love the color combo and the worn velour. ‘Birds and Camaros just seem to look right with a little wear on them. Get in mah garage!

    Like 0
  7. Avatar photo Chuck F.

    We had a twin to this car. I drove a ’79 L82 vette and the wife had a Formula identical to this one. Unfortunately, it was rear ended (totaled) by a drunk hit and run guy in downtown Detroit late on a Sunday night. We were on our way back from the Canadian GP at Mosport.

    Like 0
  8. Avatar photo pontiactivist

    I’ve had several T/A’s and formulas and one espirit. All Pontiac lowered. Have been around many others also. Would love to have this in my garage. Not a fan of the 403 but could live with it. Looking at a 301 powered T/A right now. Will be a nice daily driver fixer upper.

    Like 1
  9. Avatar photo Bobsmyuncle

    Funny I grew up with these and always disliked them. They just seemed cheesy, perhaps even as a young boy I could sense the stereotypical demographic wasn’t up my alley.

    Lately though… I’m taking a liking to them, this one is especially nice as mentioned BECAUSE of the subtlety.

    Like 2
  10. Avatar photo Gary I

    At this price somebody should be glad to get it. I have a 1979 Trans Am and have watched prices go up for the last five years. Still climbing and a $5,800 firebird doesn’t seem like a bad price.

    Like 0
  11. Avatar photo Ronniecarlo

    I like it…Wish I hadn’t sold my NASCAR recaro T/A.Gave $1800 in ’98,got $5500 in ’03.Turbo was an issue. But despite the awful burnout pick I had fun in her…

    Like 0
  12. Avatar photo Lee

    Just a side note as the 403 was not the standard engine for the Firebird. That would have been the Buick V6. The Pontiac 301 was the standard engine for the Formula and the Trans Am for ’79. The Olds 403 showed up as an option in ’77 as production of the Pontiac 400 was dwindling down and continued thru ’79. All Pontiac 400 engines for ’79 were leftovers from the ’78 model year and were earmarked for 10th Anniversary TAs and the leftovers went to ’79 Formulas and TAs when someone ordered a 400-powered model. As an aside the ’77 403 blocks are considered the strongest due to extra webbing in the intake area of the block.

    Like 0
  13. Avatar photo Bobsmyuncle


    Well bought in my opinion.

    Like 0
  14. Avatar photo Lillie Goodson

    This is my dads car! This is his literal actual car. The sticker on the driver side window was placed there by my grandfather! If you have any information on where this car is now I would love to know!

    Like 2

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