The 1973 Pontiac Firebird, Formula & Trans Am


This amazing white '73 Trans Am belongs!! My long search for a nice 70-73 Trans Am that could be had for a reasonable price finally ended when I found this Trans Am on ebay. I actually bid on the car and was outbid by another bidder who won the auction in the end as I had reached my limit. So a week goes by and the seller contacts me to let me know the high bidder backed out and he offered to sell it to me for several thousand less. Normally the alarm bells would go off at this point but I contacted the seller by phone and over the next few days we had several conversations over the phone. I had an impartial 3rd-party service inspect the car and following the report decided to buy it. I had it transported from Washington state to South Carolina, not the longest two points of separation in the US but it was a pretty long haul.

The car has a 455 with 4-Speed. Its heavily optioned and features power steering, power brakes, power windows, power door locks, rear defrost, tilt column, 8-Track, and A/C. I plan to add the power trunk and trunk light options. Its also got one of the not so common multi-color interiors. Its black with white seats, plastic and headliner. I like to call it the Tuxedo interior option. I removed the 8-track in favor of a standard console with the map pocket and I removed the original 4-Speed and swapped in a new Tremec 5-Speed (see below).

The car arrived while I was overseas doing some work so I didn't even get to see it until two weeks after it had been here. I got plates for it and a sticker and took it for a couple of short drives. The engine ran smooth but was really too quiet for me. The 4-speed was way out of alignment and shifted terribly but that seemed to be the worst of it. I drove it to work for the first time and on the way home it backfired and then died. I replaced the electronic module in the HEI but it still wouldn't start. I had it towed to a good friend, retired Air Force, that does repair work on cars out of the shop behind his house. He found that the gear on the distributor had worn completely down. We replaced it with a new one and it was up and running again. Unfortunately, the trouble did not end there. Only two outings later the engine began to pop through the carburetor and ran really bad. After doing some quick troubleshooting on my own, I towed it back to my friends house for the second time. We took the intake and valve covers off and after removing all the pushrods and lifters we found that the exhaust lifter on the #5 cylinder had failed. It had caved in on the end that contacts the cam. The pushrod was also bent and the cam lobe had been worn down too much. Basically the problem I experienced was that the exhaust valve on that cylinder was not able to lift off the seat.

So we pulled the engine and transmission out of the car and tore it down to the short block. A new cam, lifters and pushrods were installed, the heads were re-worked by a local machine shop and it was put back together. I repainted the engine the Pontiac Blue used in 69-70 because I love that color. When the engine went back in it was mated to a new set of headers and more importantly a brand new Keisler Engineering Tremec TKO-500 5-Speed transmission including a new custom length driveshaft. I also took the opportunity to add a lot of other new goodies. See the list below:
  • Comp Cams XE274H cam
  • Comp Cams Lifters
  • New Stock Pushrods
  • 4X-7H heads were cleaned up, angles re-cut and new valve guides and seals installed
  • New ARP head bolts
  • Tribal Tubes Tri-Y Headers
  • Flowmaster Delta 40 Series Mufflers with 2.5" aluminized pipe all the way back, x-pipe and stock chrome tips
  • Keisler Engineering Tremec TKO-500 5-Speed with custom length drive shaft and new Hurst shifter with the proper offset
  • New Stainless bolts were used for the valve covers, intake manifold, timing chain cover, oil pan, water neck, oil filter housing and water pump
  • New, correct '73 Quadrajet, restored, re-plated and then sent to Cliff Ruggles for a supertune
  • HEI Distributor re-curved and tuned by Rocky Rotella
  • New stock chrome Pontiac valve covers
  • Chrome Waterneck
  • Flex Fan
  • 160 Thermostat
  • Ram Air Restorations Billet Pulley Set
  • Ram Air Restorations Stock Timing Chain Cover
  • New Optima Battery
  • New Starter/Solenoid
  • Re-painted the radiator and added a new brass drain petcock
  • Removed master cylinder and re-painted black

Want to hear her run!? Check out this short movie my wife took. Its just after we finished putting it back together. It was going to the exhaust shop for the new exhaust the next day. Click Here.

Unfortunately, for the moment, my adversity with the car has not ended just yet. The engine runs great, it looks great, the transmission shifts smooth and really overall the car is such a pleasure to drive I am just in love with it. Unfortunately, shortly after I got the new exhaust installed and began driving it around a bit I noticed that its now smoking. Me and my mechanic are pretty certain its blue smoke and I'm betting either something wasn't done right with the seals in the heads or the rings need to be replaced. So its likely the engine is coming out again but I am not daunted. I love the car and I'm happy with the price I paid for it which is much less than most 70-73s are currently bringing. I will get past this problem and hopefully it will be the last for a while so I can just drive it and enjoy it.

Check out my ultra-cool 2002 Trans Am as well over in 2002 Firebirds Lot#1.



Duane Nicpon owns this freshly restored, Buccaneer Red Trans Am. Duane writes:

     "I am submitting to you our 1973 TransAm which has just completed restoration. This was a father and son effort and our pride and joy. The car is a PHS fully documented,76k original mileage numbers matching car. The only things that were replaced are obviously the paint, carpet, sail panels, and front windshield glass. This car was owned by a woman who purchased it in 1973 and owned it until 2003. We are the third owners and have copies of the titles. It has the original Unitized ignition still working, along with every piece the car was built with including the am/fm stereo and 8-track. This car has just been appraised at $39200 by a Northern Illinois Classics in Wauconda Ill. We also have owned GTOs, a '59 Catalina convertible, and my 99 T/A."



Red Trans Am (60962 bytes)

Red Trans Am (39322 bytes)

Red Trans Am (77137 bytes)

Red Trans Am (78118 bytes)

Red Trans Am (64585 bytes)
Doug Ford owns this red hot Trans Am. Doug writes:

     "My name is Doug Ford, and I live in Vernon, TX. I enjoyed looking at your site, and you helped me determine what I needed to do with my car. I have a couple of pictures I would like to send to you if you can find room for them, that would be great. The car is a 1973 Buccaneer Red Trans Am with the original 455 and TH400. It has the factory black custom interior and exterior appearance package. 
The car is about 98% stock condition. It came with Rally II wheels but I put together this set of Honeycombs, and refinished them, just to have the choice of either type, while keeping it looking stock and original. I am awaiting documentation from Pontiac Historical Services to see if I need the big bird or the small nose bird. The paint is relatively new, as is the interior and otherwise it is generally in great condition and only needs a good under hood cleaning and detailing.  I hope to get this done this winter, while it is cool."



73fr13.1.jpg (89677 bytes)

Burgundy Formula
A Ram Air equipped Formula. This pic was spotted by a site browser who noticed it was the car his brother had just recently sold. He graciously e-mailed me and provided me with some information on it. Its an uncommon 1 of 730 Formula with the factory installed 455. The big Poncho mill is completely numbers matching including the HO cam. The tranny is the standard TH400 that was installed in Firebirds during this model year. Options include power steering, power disc brakes, power windows, A/C, tilt wheel, a factory unitized distributor (HEI), 14" Honeycomb rims, and a dual aluminized exhaust which feeds a single FlowMaster muffler. The rear is a 3:42 posi-trac unit. You'll also note this particular Formula was built with the optional rear decklid or trunk spoiler and some aftermarket door bumper guards have been installed that run from the inner rear fender along the door to the inner front fender. These are often seen on Firebirds because they offer protection against door dings.

                         Rich's Classic Pontiac Server
Photo courtesy of Rich's Classic Pontiac Server. 1998       
This is truly one of the best Pontiac sites on the web!!!



Thunderbolt & Lightfoot Trans Am This picture was sent in by Chris Batson and is a picture of the Trans Am used in the movie "Thunderbolt And Lightfoot". Clint Eastwood was the big star in this movie and the car was actually purchased from him personally by the current owner. The owner, who hails from South Dakota, handles a lot of stars cars. He is the owner and publisher of the Deals On Wheels magazine, and the owner of The Performance Car Museum in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he displays the majority of his collection. In fact this photo was taken in the museum. The Trans Am makes its appearance in the very beginning of the movie when Clint is being chased. After a short while he trades it for a Buick Riviera and the TA isn't seen again. The short appearance is worth watching however as the TA is throttled pretty good. For some reason the TA in the movie has a red shaker scoop rather than the correct white one depicted here.



Thunderbolt & Lightfoot Trans Am (39636 bytes)

Thunderbolt & Lightfoot Trans Am (51733 bytes)

Dale with T&L Trans Am (43888 bytes)
Dale Glasco was gracious enough to send me these pictures of the Trans Am used in the Thunderbolt & Lightfoot movie after seeing said car he on the site. Dale was the third owner of the car before selling it to its present day owners (see above). Dale writes:

     "I recently found your web page and have found it very informative along with some great pictures. When I saw the Clint Eastwood car that I use to own, I had to write. First I was the second owner of the car (third if you count Clint) and sold it in 1987 to its current owners. I had the car shipped to me in Miami in 1987 from California and only owned it a short while. The car was stored in my parent's garage and I did not realize at the time that the humidity in Miami did so much harm to an older car like this. The next time I purchase an older Trans Am or Formula, it will be stored in a de-humidified garage. Here are some interesting facts about the car:

1) Notice the liscense plate "TNDR BLT". This plate came with the car and was ordered by the first owner.
2) My friend, who went to school in Carmel, CA, used to see Clint driving this car to the Post Office.
3) Your question regarding the red hood scoop in the movie: The previous owner stated that the hood scoop was painted red to make it look like a used car on the lot. He had also found a gas receipt under the seat of the car signed by Clint Eastwood."

Webmaster: Thanks Dale for taking the time to share the pics and information with this site and its visitors!



Red Formula (30,163 bytes)

Red Formula (35,543 bytes)

Red Formula (36,666 bytes)

Red Formula (36,928 bytes)

Red Formula (36,565 bytes)
A Buccaneer Red Formula equipped with 400ci, Turbo 400 tranny, A/C, and Rally IIs. Although Formulas only received minor changes for the '73 year model, emissions laws and hp restrictions began to take their toll. The previously functional hood scoops were now a cosmetic addition. On the lighter side however the new SD455 produced in '73 was available as an option on the Formula. This engine option (LS2) required the installation of the rear facing shaker scoop instead of the standard Formula hood which is depicted here. Here's an interesting bit of information provided to me by a friend on the subject of the Ram Air setups of the '73 & '74 Formulas:

    "The Fabulous Firebird" by Michael Lamm (pg 74) states that the LS2 455 required the WU3 Ram Air hood.  The "FIREBIRD, A Source Book" by Thomas Bonsall has copies of a 1973 Firebird order form which lists the WU3 Ram Air hood as being optional on the Base & Esprit models and standard on the Trans Am.   However, we all know that the SD455 equipped Formulas came with the Shaker Scoop & T/A hood.  Apparently, the WU3 (WX3) Ram Air hood refers to the T/A hood in 1973."

Chris Giles wrote in and provided this additional information about Ram Air setups from 1970 to 1974:
     "On '70 models it came with the L74 Ram Air III engine (I have one of these). On '71 and '72's Ram Air came with the LS5 455 HO, and Ram Air was NOT available on lesser engined 70-72's. However in '73 and '74 the SD455 became a Formula option. These cars had non-functional shaker hoods. Lesser Formulas could be had with the WU3 Ram Air sytem, I'm not certain that it was available on 350 or 400's but it was definitely available on non-SD 455 Formulas in both '73 and '74. There was a fellow at the '98 TA Nationals in Dayton, Ohio who had a '73 Ram Air equipped Formula 455, including the original window sticker (not a reproduction). Ram Air was not available after 1974 (until the recent models)."



Rare White Ram Air Formula with the shaker scoop option. A rare Formula with an SD455 and a Trans Am hood and shaker scoop. Apparently this was a required option as stated above with this engine option, however I've already received an e-mail from someone who claims he received the normal Formula hood (as seen above) with the SD455 as a "SPECIAL" factory option. If any of you have any information on these interesting and unique cars please don't hesitate to drop me an e-mail at (remove the "1" before sending).



2scoop.jpg (40370 bytes) This diagram was provided to me by Phil Pollard. Its a graphical representation of how the Formula hood evolved from 1969 to 1981. A recent discussion about which hood was correct for what year model on the Pontiac E-Mail List proved that several people were somewhat confused as to which hood WAS appropriate for what year. As a result Phil drew up this diagram and forwarded it to me to display for you. Thanks Phil...

Diagram courtesy of Phil Pollard.



Brewster Green SD455 Trans Am Here's another example of a Brewster Green SD455 Trans Am. This one is equipped with honeycomb wheels but lacks the infamous hood bird or "screamin chicken". Does this mean the car isn't original or at the very least has been repainted? Not necessarily. In 1973 the large hood bird was only an option offered in place of the small bird on the hood normally seen on previous years. This was because '73 was the first year the larger hood bird was offered and a lot of fans of previous Firebirds weren't happy with this new addition to the TA styling. The larger decal would become a standard option in '74.



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