Virgin Formula: 1989 Pontiac Firebird

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Back in high school, there was a girl who was always somewhat quiet and reserved – a nice individual, but when you pictured her in a car, you might think a Corolla or Cavalier would be the vehicle of choice. When she showed up in the parking lot with a hunter green Firebird Formula, I was blown away and couldn’t help ogle it in the parking lot. Those memories came bubbling up when checking out this survivor-grade 1989 Pontiac Firebird Formula here on eBay with only 32,642 original miles. 

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This Firebird spent most of its life on the West Coast before migrating to Florida, where the current owner bought it and now stores in Delaware. He’s done some nice upgrades in that period, including swapping out the rear drums to create a true four-wheel disc setup. The interior remains in near-spotless condition and he claims it’s free of defects. With such low mileage, I’d hope so – and exterior cosmetics live up to the clean condition claims as well, with a dry chassis and reportedly only some door dings and paint chips as its biggest flaws.

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The Formula package added a number of suspension enhancements courtesy of the WS6 package, with bigger sway bars, a quicker steering box, unique struts/shocks, and wider tires. The fuel-injected 5.0L V8 was not a rocket ship compared to today’s modern muscle cars, making even less power than your rental-car spec turbocharged Mustang and Camaro. Although a 5-speed manual transmission would be preferred in this application, the automatic should at least provide years of reliable service given the low mileage claims.

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The rear spoiler helps give the Firebird some extra attitude, in my opinion, and the combination of white, black and the red pinstripe works well here. The seller has an opening bid of $3,000 and the reserve remains unmet; I’m not sure where I’d price this one, honestly. It’s not an uncommon car but it is in uncommon condition. However, the automatic limits some of the appeal (to me) and it’s likely not too hard to find a 5-speed. That being said, if the reserve price is $5,000 or less, this looks like a fun driver with plenty of life left in the drivetrain. Have any of you driven a Formula?

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Comments

  1. flmikey

    T-tops, plus V-8, plus low miles, plus no rust=10 grand final bid…reserve unmet….

  2. Vegas Vic

    Agree on 10k, maybe even as high as 12
    Great styling, good performance

  3. Jeffro

    I work in Dover. Might have to take a look just for sh!ts and giggles

  4. dirtyharry

    What’s not to like. The “L98” Tuned Port Injection motor is no slouch. You can make some serious horsepower with it if you want. There are plenty of performance upgrades for these, which is the same setup as the Corvette (a 5.7 instead of a 5.0). It was the last small block prior to the LT1. Having owned a WS6 Trans Am, these cars really do handle well at the expense of some ride quality. I personally see a good investment with a potential of some real appreciation as they disappear. This one came from California and the underside proves that. Buy, drive and hold this for 15 years. Drag it to the auction when all the “F” body cars from this period have been crushed and do a burnout for everyone.

    • Jack

      It actually started life in Oregon, according to the listing.

  5. Vin in NJ

    I purchased a 1987 Formula new back in “87. Back then they were hard to find, but i eventually found a white one like above with a Carmine Red interior, 305 not with TPI but with a carburetor and no t-tops. New it cost $14,500. Worth every dime as I fried those 50 series Goodyear Gatorbacks

  6. edh

    Cool in 1989, too bad it’s 27 years later and it’s no longer cool.

  7. JW454

    Jeff,

    I knew a girl just like the one you mentioned… The picture of a wallflower. Her car of choice was a new 1977 Trans-Am in blue w/ a black and gold screaming eagle on the hood. Her appeal jumped up tremendously for the guys.
    The feature car is a nice example of the breed.

  8. Paul

    I new a girl like that back in 73, drove a pink 55 Tbird , used to blow kisses at me when she drove by…..Ah those were the days for daydreaming ah shoot that was Suzanne Sommers in american graffiti!!

  9. Mr. TKD

    If purchased cheaply, this can be a fun weekend driver.

  10. Car Guy

    In 87 I ordered a new Trans Am GTA with the 5.0 TPI engine, 5-speed manual and 3.45 performance axle ratio. There was only a 10 hp difference between the 5.0 and 5.7 TPI engines. Best gear you could get with the 5.7 was a 3.23. the 700 R4 auto has a big gear spread between first and second. The five speed manual had much closer gear spacing. I had no trouble hanging with the 5.7 auto cars. After a couple of minor mods from Tuned Port Injection Specialities I could leaving them behind.

    This is a nice Formula but the auto really dulls the performance in these cars……..

  11. Chris Buchaniec

    I would bid as high as 14,000 as I love these cars and they are new enough not to have many demons.

  12. Prowler

    I think this car might even go 15k
    You have to Remember the guys that drove these in high school or just after graduating are now in thier mid to late 30’s. Making some money and have the 3 car garage….and who doesn’t want back the car they drove in high school…..these cars are starting to bring money
    And Paul….I’m pretty sure Suzanne drove a white t bird

  13. Angrymike

    Don’t get me wrong, but when new, these were the fastest GM’s no named corvette, my buddy had one, I was a road runner guy, and I was really impressed ! Not a rocket, but dang close !😉

  14. Weirzbowski

    Likely not too hard to find a 5 speed?? Most of these cars were automatic, hardly any were manual. Not only that, how many can be left now

    • al8apex

      Manual TPI cars are VERY scarce

  15. Tom Member

    Hey what’s under the cover in the garage?? why does the ODO say 26188 and the ad says 32642 miles? Nice car and nice photos. really. the guy with that brown 64 Cadillac should take photography notes from you. His photos were terrible….probably on purpose hide all the terrible things going on with that NOT 27K mile Caddy. Nice bird. Not my style but cool to see them this clean. Just had a 99 Trans Am in my by shop with 2100 original miles on it. Oddly enough, just had a 2002 Impala in here with 927 miles on it. Like brand new. This, like my Trans Am customer, is for the person WHO ALWAYS WANTED ONE….now is your chance! Have fun !!

  16. roger

    Always wanted a 3rd gen camaro or firebird.
    someday maybe I can get one………..

  17. Mike from Mass

    I bought a used, cherry example of the milder variant of this car out of high school right through to 2001. Base Firebird, 305 TBI (10 less horses), 5 spd, standard suspension. I always wondered what I was missing in the WS6/TPI version but it was still very fun to own. Very reliable and extremely easy to work on (though rarely needed to aside from wear items). Took very well to the aftermarket stereo scene which was all the rage at the time (car got picked clean twice before I gave up on that stuff!). After graduating college and growing up a bit, the leaky t-tops and rear wheel drive in New England winters finally got old with my new career and I had to part with it but it wasn’t easy. Some high school kid fell in love with it at first sight after posting it in the classifieds (remember those???). I often wonder what came of it and if it’s still around for me to track down but it’s probably best that I never find out. I’d probably be heartbroken. As somebody said earlier, I’m one of those guys with an empty garage that would love to have this car. Would I spend $15k? Probably not. But I would certainly consider $10-12k. Good luck to whoever ends up with it.

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