Curbside Capsule Redux: 1991 Pontiac Formula Firebird – The Subtle Trans Am


The late Third Generation Pontiac Firebirds are among my favorites, and the ’91-92 Formulas sit at the top of the list with its Banshee concept car-inspired nose. The preceding Second Generation ‘Birds are (to my eye) cartoonish caricatures by comparison, including the barely-less-garish-than-a-trans-am 1979 Firebird Formula Tom posted earlier today.


This generation was greatly cleaned up from the preceding, and the Formula was a real sleeper… it could be optioned out similarly to the Trans Am, and indeed, our subject car is wearing both T-tops and black/silver lace wheels, indicating it likely has the Chevrolet 350 c.i.d (5.7l) V8 under the hood.


I love the assymetric bulge in the hood, and this one clearly demonstrates the paint quality issues (presuming this is the original paint) that GM was having at this time due to changing regulations. If I recall correctly, Firebirds were built in two different facilities, one of which was in California. Regs there required a change from solvent-based paints to water-based, and it took a few years to sort out the resulting quality issues. Meanwhile, Pontiac Division decided volumes didn’t justify two plants any more, and true to GM form, it was the California plant that kept production.


Only 5,544 Formulas were sold in 1991 and 1,052 in 1992 as customers held onto their cash waiting on the upcoming Forth Generation Firebirds introduced in 1993. In fact, sales of all 1992 Firebird trims combined were just over half that from 1991 (50,234).


A friend from college picked up a ’91 Formula some years ago as a hobby car – he specifically chose it because performance was about the same as the Trans Am, but in a much more subtle way. Wonder if he still has it? At any rate, this one caught my eye—it speaks of high speed, but in a calming sort of way.