A bold new eggcrate grille decorated the front end of the base Firebird, Esprit, and the 1973 Pontiac Firebird Formula; but something far bolder could be tucked beneath the Formula's hood. Instead of the standard 350-cid V-8 a few lucky folks got the new Super-Duty 455.
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Most of the 1295 SD-455 motors issued in 1973-74 went into Trans Ams, but a hundred found their way into Formulas (43 of those in 1973 models). Initially rated at a whopping 310 net horsepower at 4000 rpm, most SD-455 engines actually held a milder camshaft and measured 290 horsepower.
Among other goodies, the SD-455 had a stronger block, four-bolt main bearings with provision for dry-sump lubrication, forged rods, and TRW pistons. An SD-455 could accelerate to 60 miles an hour in under 5.5 seconds -- astounding for this era of declining performance -- and run the quarter-mile in as little as 13.8 seconds, even with automatic.
Once again, the "ordinary" 455-cid V-8 (detuned to 250 horsepower) came standard in Trans Ams, which could have a four-speed manual or Turbo Hydra-Matic and Safe-T-Track. Trans Am hood scoops now were blocked off, thus nonfunctional.
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Radial-ply tires were available on both the Formula and Trans Am. Even if performance was sagging a bit, Trans Ams could hardly fail to capture attention with their new, monstrous hood decal.
Firebird volume rose sharply, and Pontiac's overall sales hit a record -- but then came the OPEC oil embargo, which threatened to pound the final nail in the coffin of performance motoring. Fortunately for Firebird devotees, Pontiac failed to respond to the calls for moderation.