Parked 10 Years: 1973 Pontiac Firebird Formula

In an era when the muscle car revolution of the 1960s was fading away, the Pontiac Firebird bucked that trend in the 1970s. They couldn’t build Trans Am’s fast enough in the second half of the decade. The seller’s car, a Formula, was the second most potent Firebird. It was powered by a 400 cubic inch V8 but could be ordered with the Trans Am’s 455.  It was running when it was parked 10 years ago, and Mother Nature has had her way with the car since then. Sitting outside in Phelan, California, this Pontiac project is available here on craigslist for $11,000. Thanks for another great GM tip, Pat L.!

By 1973, the base Firebird was the only way you could get one with an inline-6 (a Chevrolet engine). The Esprit had a 350 (400 optional), and it was strictly big blocks for the Formula and Trans Am. You could get a Formula 400 with a 4-barrel 400 that was rated at 230 hp SAE net. The ’73 Firebird was identifiable over a ’72 from the front. Tightening Federal impact regulations required strengthening of the front bumper, so the grille was moved forward in the nostrils to accommodate the new bumper hardware.  The grille design was changed to a coarse rectangular grid often referred to as an egg-crate replacing the honeycomb pattern of 1972.

The seller’s Formula 400 is one of 4,622 built in 1973. Apparently, it was in regular use when the seller parked it a decade ago. It doesn’t run now as some woodland creatures have built a nest inside the engine bay. The odometer reading is some 61,000 miles, but we’re told it’s both broken and has rolled over. The 400 V8 is paired with an automatic transmission.

While most of the body wears faded red paint, there is evidence of blue under the hood, suggesting that’s the original color of the car. The interior looks a bit better, and what we see of the car is wearing mismatched wheels. So, saying this car is a project is a bit of an understatement. Would you take on a restoration at the seller’s asking price?


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  1. 19sixty5 Member

    Russ, PLEASE stop referring to Pontiacs with the description of big-block or small block. There is no such thing. Pontiac V8’s are all basically the same block, with different bore and stroke combinations.

    Like 21
    • KnotMe

      Worse than that, some in the Pontiac community, myself included, consider all the large journal blocks to be a “big block.” It was popular back in the day, I do agree it’s arguable as to whether it is or not, but to me, it’s just a way of saying, ‘more special’ when referring to a classic Pontiac, however, at no time ever, was the 400 considered a big block. The 421-428-455, were the unofficial big blocks with their larger main journals. So it’s a real rookie mistake to call a 400 Pontiac, a big block.
      In HS math class I used to stare out the window at this 70 Silver Formula parked across the street, it just looked so good and I always remembered the elegance of that car, I preferred the look over the Trans AM, as I always liked the sleeper look. A few weeks ago I took my son to my old HS, and I kept my eye out for that car from my youth and even told him about it. Of course it was no longer there, and neither was Hotrod City. Memories…

      Like 9
      • 19sixty5 Member

        It’s all good guys! It can be a bit confusing. Many people make the assumption that 400 CID is the magic number for a “big block”. Use Chevrolet as an example to confuse things a bit. No one would argue the 396 was a big block, and in 1970, they actually displaced 402 CID. Now add in a few years later the small block 400 CID engine. Ford also has just as much confusion, the 390 is considered to be a big-block, shared many similarities with the 428 and others. I happen to have a Corvair with a 350 mid-engine conversion. Today’s kids think it’s a big block based on the “large” engine. It can be a bit confusing, but… Pontiac is clearly different. This Formula could be a nice car, but you will likely sink enough into this to have bought a nice one. I have a soft spot for a 70-73’s, a few including a 73 TA, Buccaneer Red, 4 speed, AC car. Not blazing fast, but an overall well balanced car. Another one I regret getting rid of.

        Like 1
      • Winesmith

        And, there is no such thing as a “classic” Pontiac.
        Unless, of course, you are being “generic”, as Russ says.

    • Russ Dixon Russ Dixon Staff

      Sorry, I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s when “big-block” engines had displacements of 400 cubic inches or greater, so I was using the term generically here.

      Like 11
    • V

      maybe he still likes playing with blocks. i myself like my sons mega blocks

    • Tom

      Absolutely correct, there is no such thing as a “big block” Pontiac!!! Main journal sizes and cubic inches have nothing to do with it, it’s the size of the block. You could put a 301 and a 455 side by side and most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Please make it stop…

  2. ccrvtt

    $11,000? I needed a good laugh after the Colts’ debacle this afternoon. Another example of a misplaced decimal point.

    Like 6
    • Stan

      What a collapse by Indy. Wentz absent on the big stage

      Like 4
  3. George Mattar

    Yeah. About $10,000 too much. Mecum sold a mint 73 Formula today for $33,000. Done, near perfect. Turn key. Drive.

    Like 1
  4. douglas hunt

    lot of work to do, have to get this one for next to nothing and just love working on it yourself……plus it needs to be a 4speed …sigh

  5. Claudio

    It once was a beautiful automobile

    It could again be but at 11k , the chances are extremely slim

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