The aerodynamic shape of the Third Generation Firebirds made it one of the best-looking models to come out of the '80s. For its time, it was one of the best-performing cars, too. It handled extremely well, accelerated with authority, and was surprisingly comfortable.
Despite all this, some may argue that the Third Generation F-bodies have been lost in the Firebird performance history mix. The First- and early Second-Gen cars were quicker, as were the LT1 and LS1 Fourth-Gen Birds that followed. Because of this, the Tuned-Port small-block-powered Pontiacs of the '80s and early '90s are often overlooked.
This state of affairs was of little concern to Terry Blanton, however, when he purchased his new 5.7L TPI '88 Formula in the waning days of the Reagan administration. The late Second-Gen cars prowling the streets en masse at the time were slower than his ride and the Fourth-Gens were still on the drawing board.
Paintwork was done by Doug...
Paintwork was done by Doug Johnson at Expectations Body Shop in Easley, South Carolina. The custom Formula door graphics were sprayed on and cleared over. Doug also airbrushed the screaming chicken on the front bumper.
Over the years, all this changed, of course. Terry began to realize that respect on the street and the show field would need to be earned for his prized Third-Gen, so some well-executed performance and visual enhancements were required. He decided to build his "underdog" into a proven performer and an over-the-top looker.
Grunt And Shift
With the LT1 and LS1 besting the TPI's power numbers, some changes were in order if this Formula was to keep up. Terry called upon Hawks Third Generation in Easley, South Carolina, to build his engine. Inside is an Eagle stroker kit featuring a forged 3.75-inch stroke crankshaft, forged H-beam rods, and a set of forged 4.030-inch flat-top SRP pistons. The stout bottom end now provides 383 cubic inches of displacement.
The rear Trans Am spoiler...
The rear Trans Am spoiler is the only body part of this Formula that isn't stock. The factory spoiler had been weathered, so a Hawks Third Gen fiberglass replacement was used. Everything is covered in PPG Electric Blue paint.
A pair of Brodix aluminum heads were ported by RaceKrafters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to flow 276-cfm intake and 210-cfm exhaust. They use a Brodix Top End Combo and feature 2.02 intake and 1.60 exhaust valves. The 64cc chambers combined with the bore size, piston-to-deck height, and head-gasket thickness result in an 11:1 compression ratio. It still enjoys 93-octane pump gas, however, due to the aluminum's heat dissipation qualities and chamber design.
A Comp Cams custom roller with 210/220-degrees duration at 0.050 and 0.500/0.510-inch lift directs the roller lifters and Comp hardened pushrods to bump a set of Harland Sharp roller rockers (1.6 ratio intake and 1.5 ratio exhaust) to open and close the valves.
The stock fuel system is boosted by a Walboro 255-lph fuel pump, BBK fuel regulator, and 30 lb/hr injectors. To get the most performance from the TPI system, Terry added a custom 3-inch cold-air intake and high-flow air filter, which feeds into a twin 58mm Accel throttle body and a 1,000-cfm Accel Super Ram intake manifold. For the ignition, MSD wires, coil, and distributor are used.
Terry wanted to stick with...
Terry wanted to stick with the TPI system on his Formula's 383 stroker, so he uses a 1,000-cfm Accel TPI Super Ram system with a twin 58mm throttle body. Further enhancing the breathing ability are ported Brodix RR180 aluminum cylinder heads. The engine was accented in red to add more color under the hood.
SLP 1 3/4-inch shorty headers evacuate the exhaust from the 383 and flow into a custom Hawks Third Generation 3.00-inch intermediate pipe. Out back, a Hawks stainless turbo muffler after-cat system completes the setup.
The computer was tuned by PCM For Less and contributed to the 340 rwhp and 420 lb-ft output on the Dynojet chassis dyno. These power levels are enough to play with the tweaked street cars on the road today.
From the factory, Pontiacs equipped with the TPI 350 were only available with a 700-R4 automatic transmission. If you wanted a five-speed manual, you had to step down in power to the 305. Terry decided neither of these options were for him, so he tore out the automatic and replaced it with a T56 six-speed he procured from a '96 Trans Am.
It uses a Spec Stage 3+ clutch and a Spohn Extreme Duty driveshaft to send the power to the Moser 12-bolt rearend. Inside the Moser unit is a TrueTrac posi, 3.73 gears, and 31-spline axles.