1989 Pontiac Firebird Formula 305 TPI from North America


If you want an F body, get an LS1


2 MAF sensors failed in one year, MAF burnout relay, alternator and power steering bracket randomly failed on start-up one morning, smashing the alternator. Needed to track down a new one from a junkyard. PROM failed. Needed custom one burned since it wasn't carried anymore. Trunk and headlight motors stopped working.

General Comments:

Not sure what to say. I've owned 13 different cars or trucks of various makes, this has to be the worst car I've ever owned.

I bought this car with all service records from the previous one owner, who kept it in a garage. This car was in good shape. It ran and sounded great as well.

I got it with the intention of building it and tightening up a few areas. I never got a chance.

I spent all my time and a lot of money just keeping the thing on the road. I even bought a second vehicle with the anticipation of it breaking down (it did a week later). Mind you, I didn't drive the car hard at all. I've gassed it now and then, but nothing out of the ordinary for a car like this. No burnouts or redline shifts.

Maintenance was meticulous. The Tuned Port is a poor design. While I understand this car is older with older technology, it's still very bad and expensive to get anything out of.

I don't like Mustangs, but a Fox body would be a better bet than a 3rd gen as far as potential. Handling was fairly good and better than expected. The transmission never gave issues as well. If you want to buy one of these cars, do it with the expectation that the quality will be typical of a GM older car and immediately yank that boat anchor of a Tuned Port engine. Heck, take the wiring harness and ECU while you're at it.

I eventually threw in the towel and bought a 1995 Lexus SC300 with a 2JZGTE Supra swap. I now have a reliable and much more powerful car with 205k on the chassis and interior that still holds together and looks great, while the Firebird falls to pieces at 70k.

While I still love American muscle in some regards, this car certainly pushed me further to the other team. The 3rd gen F body is born for the junkyard and it becomes very clear when you visit your local wrecker. Often times you will see complete cars. I couldn't get more than 3500 for my Firebird so I did the next best thing: I parted it out. A complete car with a clear title. Sold just about every part off the car and made about 3900 total. When there was just a shell, I cut that up with a torch and saw and sold the scrap.

All in all, the styling is decent for the era, but if you buy a 3rd gen, buy it with the intention that it won't be a powerful or reliable daily driver with the Tuned Port. Convert it to Carb or yank it and put something more worthwhile in it.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 11th September, 2010

3rd Nov 2010, 16:27

The 3rd gens can look good if well taken care of and a lot of attention is given to them.. A lot of attention. But they certainly aren't the best choice if you want something fast and reliable with good resale value. Not many people are willing to pay you much for a 3rd gen, even in good condition. A vast majority of them are in the junkyard or a trailer park. The people that have more than a few thousand to spend on a car tend to look for something more respectable. The Turbo Trans Am is an exception, but certainly not the norm. The Tuned Port is dooky and unreliable. For once I think going from FI to carb is a good idea.

I had a 91 Camaro a few years back as basic transportation for a few months while I finished my ACTUAL car. When I sold it, it went for 2300 with only 119k on it. It was actually in good shape. But nobody wants these 'Joe-dirt' cars. The man that bought it looked like he crawled out of the woods. Cigarette in mouth in an 80s Malibu wagon with his buddies. His name could have been Cletus for all I know. He took the car back to the swap and that's the last I saw of it. Didn't wanna shake is hand after the sale :(

4th Nov 2010, 11:07

"I couldn't get more than 3500 for my Firebird so I did the next best thing: I parted it out. A complete car with a clear title. Sold just about every part off the car and made about 3900 total. When there was just a shell, I cut that up with a torch and saw and sold the scrap."

Wouldn't it have been better to sell it whole? $400 is not much of a profit for the time and energy it took to tear down the car and then scrap the shell. Also, someone may have bought it and fixed it up again.

1989 Pontiac Firebird Formula 5.0 TPI from North America


Great balance between old and new


MAF was bad when I bought it.

Hood struts needed replacement.

Headlight motors needed replacement.

Factory CD player needed replacing.

General Comments:

I had owned several rear drive V8 cars in the past. I had sold them and gotten a Honda Prelude as a daily driver for work and school. I wasn't really looking for another car, but I had money in case something caught my eye.

I came across a black Firebird Formula that had just been put up for sale. It has the WS6 package, Borg Warner 5 speed and 9 bolt rear, 4 wheel disc brakes, Tuned Port Injection. The car was all original down to the factory CD player. I knew it was a steal at the price and mileage, so I jumped on it. I now remember why I loved American Muscle.

To my surprise, the Firebird outhandled my 2001 Prelude with the large front and rear swaybars, tight suspension and 4 wheel disc brakes. This may not be true with regular 3rd gens without the WS6 package.

The 5 speed manual is notchy with a heavier clutch, which took some getting used to with 300 ft/lbs of torque. It's not the fastest car on the road, but quick enough with its rather subdued appearance compared to the Trans Am GTA to surprise a few unwary fox bodies and similar performing cars.

Gas mileage is decent with fuel injection and gets low 20s on the highway. However, around town driving drops it into the teens. While it's comfortable to drive, and I have no doubts about reliability, it's not a car I prefer to drive every day of the week everywhere. It's not a quiet car, and it takes more attention to drive than some others. All in all, it's a great weekend car, and has plenty of room to carry luggage.

Parts are cheap and plentiful and it's easier to work on compared to a 4th or 5th gen. The only disappointments I have is that after 4500rpm it seems to hit a 'brick wall' in performance. This is mostly due to the TPI intake design. The factory clear coat is peeling, and the pop up headlights are a hassle. The hatch lock mechanism is also an inconvenience and I wish it was just a regular latch that you could just slam shut. It also has no cup holders!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 29th April, 2009

28th Feb 2010, 19:46

I had this exact same equipped model in 1989 that I ordered new. Beware that the Borg Warner T5 transmission is prone to some issues. Most common is that the gearshift will pop out of reverse while backing. My transmission was replaced under warranty for this issue. Also these engines are prone to leaking valve seals. My factory CD player quit working after a few years too.