Rare 5-Speed: 1989 Pontiac Firebird Formula

This 1989 Pontiac Firebird Formula is a nicely presented driver with fresh paint and the rare five-speed manual gearbox. The seller reports that it runs and drives well with ice-cold air conditioning, and that it comes with upgraded suspension components. Overall, this looks like an awesome alternative to the classic Fox body that tends to be what most enthusiasts gravitate towards in the affordable muscle car space. The asking price is $16,500, which is definitely at the upper end of the driver-grade market, but I’d argue this one is slightly better than that – and the manual gearbox is a serious bonus given how many of these are equipped with automatics. Find the Firebird here on the Barn Finds classifieds.

The photos aren’t the best, but do reveal that the Firebird does indeed have the rarely seen manual gearbox. I get that most muscle car owners would prefer to have the cruising-friendly automatic installed, but there’s something to be said for having a V8 coupe that you can row yourself. Plus, while the 305 wasn’t the most powerful version of the Firebird, the manual gearbox will wake things up nicely, at least making it feel faster than it is. I would go so far as to say you’d be justified in swapping out the exhaust, too, for something with a little more volume to let that V8 soundtrack sing, which sounds so much better when you’re able to rev-match on the downshifts. The cloth buckets appear to be in good shape, with the rear seat looking largely unused.

The engine bay isn’t overly detailed and it clearly shows the aesthetical impact of having just over 80,000 original miles. Translation: it’s not a show car, and that’s OK. This is a great candidate for driving for a full three seasons if you live somewhere that gets winter, and all year round if you’re fortunate to live where the roads don’t get salted and sanded. Values of third generation Firebirds and Camaros are on the rise, for sure, as the asking price for this one goes to show. But it’s not so high that you’ll be scared to use it, and it sounds like it’s already been repainted so it’s not like you’re risking damage to an original paint car. The seller notes it has been updated with new freeze plugs and a fresh clutch, which should offer years’ worth of reliable cruising.

The exterior looks sharp, especially with the factory red pinstripe and “Formula” graphics on the body. The seller doesn’t specify why it needed a paintjob, and an in-person inspection will be needed to assess the quality of the work. The factory alloy wheels appear to be in outstanding cosmetic condition, and while the tinted windows won’t be to everyone’s liking, they likely helped to keep the interior in fine shape. The Firebird Formula is located in San Jose, California, and the seller notes that it passed California’s stringent smog testing with ease. This looks like a fun driver, and one that won’t lose any value any time soon.


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  1. The Tower The Tower Member

    Nice, but this is an L03 car with 170 HP. Even though it’s in nice shape and has a bit under 100k miles, the asking price is probably $6-8k higher than would a sane buyer will pay. If this had the LB9, I can see it being a legit $12k car, but even that would be top dollar.

    For anyone wanting to pay $16,500, I have a beautiful 60k mile ’87 Trans Am GTA with the 5.7 that I would sell for not much more than that!

    Like 20
    • Super Dave

      Agreed… $10K best case for this car, unless you plan to pull the motor anyways. Fair deal on the GTA, ’87 was still flat tappet cam car… ’88 and up became roller cam… but what color is your GTA?

      Like 2
      • The Tower The Tower Member

        Actually, ’87 was first year for the roller cam. ’88 was first year for hypereutectic pistons.

        Anyway, my GTA is gunmetal grey.

        Like 1
    • Tirefriar

      Tell me more about your GTA please

      Like 1
  2. Tom S

    I had an 88 Formula 350, couldn’t get t tops or manual with the 350 that year, same color combo. Loved that car until it was stolen and abused. Got it back but wasn’t the same.

    Like 10
  3. Raymond

    IIRC….IROC had a rare track package, LS2 or something, WS6 suspension, fog lamp delete, radio delete, no AC, no t tops, manual only lt1, or was it a dream,???…

    Like 2
    • jwzg

      1LE it was. You could get the same package on a Firebird Formula or TA.

      Like 5
  4. Stevieg Member

    Yeah, if you wanted a handshakes instead of a slush box, you had to get the 305 in these years. 350 was automatic only.
    I graduated high-school in 1988, started kicking around the idea of a new car that fall. Wanted one of these real bad! Test drove one like this, almost identical. Then I tried a 5.7 and automatic. My beater 1972 Electra I had at the time was faster than both. Back then, I was young & dumb. All I cared about was speed & girls.
    I passed on the new car idea after that.

    Like 1
  5. t-bone BOB

    Location: San Jose, CA

    Like 1

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