1989 Pontiac Firebird Formula Is Junkyard Treasure

Pontiac has been gone for more than a decade now, and the 20th anniversary of the Pontiac Firebird’s demise takes place next year. Except for a brief period during the late 1970s, the Firebird spent most of its long career toiling in the shadow of its bigger-selling Chevrolet Camaro sibling, so I do what I can to find examples of the Pontiac F-Body as I wander the car graveyards of the land. Here’s a 1989 Firebird Formula, found in a yard just south of Denver last summer.

At the top of the 1989 Firebird ziggurat stood several versions of the Trans Am, with the 20th Anniversary Turbo Trans Am and its 250-horse Buick V6 at the very pinnacle. Then you had the Firebird Formula just a bit below the Trans Am; it came with a V8, hood scoop, fat (for 1989) 245/50R16 tires, and an AM/FM radio as standard equipment. Formula prices started at $13,949, or about $30,510 in 2021 dollars.

The base 1989 Formula engine was a 5.0-liter Chevy small-block V8 rated at 170 horsepower, and that appears to be what’s in this car. A hairier version of the 5.0 could be had as optional equipment, rated at 190 or 225 horsepower (depending on transmission and exhaust-system choices), and the 5.7-liter engine out of the Trans AM GTA could be had for $1,045 (about $2,285 today). That 5.7 made the same 225 horses as the meanest 5.0, but you got an extra 35 lb-ft of torque.

This car has the fragile 200R4 automatic transmission, which was a more popular choice for new-Pontiac buyers in 1989 but doomed it in the eyes of enthusiasts who might have opted to rescue this car. At least the Shrieking Pigeon emblems still look decipherable.

The T-Top roof option cost a sobering $920, which comes to just over $2,000 in today’s bones, or clams. That was just a bit less than the cost of the big GTA engine.

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