1996 Pontiac Firebird WS6 - SOLD
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  • Overview & History
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Shockingly, only 524 buyers ponied up for what was arguably the ultimate F-Body, and even fewer opted for the 6-speed manual as in this car.

Horsepower was readily available by the mid-1990s and there were all kinds of choices. But if you were the kind of guy who wanted something that kicked ass and took names, something that wasn't about luxury and comfort but took performance seriously, and did it with a bargain-basement price, then there was no bigger bang for the buck than this 1996 Pontiac Formula WS6. Shockingly, only 524 buyers ponied up for what was arguably the ultimate F-Body, and even fewer opted for the 6-speed manual as in this car. With just 26,546 original miles, this is the one to own if you like a little future collectability with your hardcore performance.

The WS6 package was all about going faster. No stripes, no body kit to add weight, just serious hardware for the serious business of driving. In addition to the obvious Ram Air induction (which raised horsepower to a Corvette-threatening 305), you also got almost everything that was part of the track-oriented 1LE showroom stock package, including firmer springs, bigger sway bars, and upgraded shocks. In fact, the only thing you didn't get was the ride-destroying ultra-hard race-grade bushings, but on the street, you'll never miss them and the car rides well even over broken pavement. The Formula WS6 was the smart choice because it eschewed the heavy Trans Am body kit, and the fellow who originally ordered this Torch Red coupe was smart enough to skip the T-tops (for a more rigid structure) and kept the cloth seats, which hold you in place like Velcro. In 1996, no other pony car could touch the WS6's performance, especially at such a reasonable price.

In the years since, most of these cars have been enjoyed properly—going fast at various road courses and drag strips, not to mention on the street. A massive aftermarket popped up to make go-fast parts for the LT1 engine, so more horsepower was always a phone call away. Yet, the fellow who has owned this car for all these years resisted the siren's call of more power, keeping this car 100% STOCK, right down to the original exhaust tips, which are worth about $1000 all by themselves. That's right, there are no modifications, no questionable upgrades, no signs of racing or abuse, and the only notable deviation from stock spec is a CAGS-eliminator that deactivates the annoying "skip-shift" feature on the 6-speed manual transmission. You just gotta respect a guy who owns a car like this.

That said, the WS6 is by no means a low-profile stealth ship. Painted bright Torch Red (that's 100% original paint, by the way) and sporting that aggressive twin-snorkel Ram-Air hood, there's no question that this brute means business. Interestingly enough, the composite hood used for the Ram Air setup weighed less than the hood used on the standard Firebird, another little check mark in the all-out performance box. It's just beautifully preserved, owned by an enthusiast who understood that this was a very special car and didn't want to risk hurting it on the track or by doing something foolish. There's a shine that seems almost too good to be General Motors workmanship, but by 1996, the composite body panels were extremely good and GM was getting great results even on the affordable F-Bodies. Gaps are excellent and it has obviously spent its entire life out of the sun, because the black trim remains dark and rich, not faded and chalky. Original decals, including the Ram Air insignias on the hood and the 'Formula' callouts on the back are in excellent condition and only those who are really paying attention will notice the subtle 'WS6' emblem on the tail, but by then it's usually too late. If you want one that is as close to new as a 20-year-old original car can be, this is probably it.

The black cloth interior is a great choice, not just because it looks great with the red paint, but also because cloth upholstery is cooler and grippier—the enthusiast's choice. A bit more spacious than the Corvette, the Firebird seems to work great as a real car. Plenty of leg room, comfortable seats, and a back seat that's actually functional, not decorative. With so few miles, you know the upholstery is in excellent condition and thanks to careful use over the years, it shows almost no signs of wear in the usual spots on the outer bolsters. Big gauges are easy to read and Pontiac was one of the first to put radio controls on the steering wheel, so they're in place here as well. And just because the WS6 was built for combat doesn't mean it's stripped, because this car is loaded: cold factory A/C, power windows, locks, and mirrors, cruise control, a rear defroster, power antenna, and an AM/FM/CD stereo with graphic equalizer. Everything works except the radio, and we're not quite sure why—it has a new amplifier in back and powers up properly. Never mind that, though, because the most important piece of equipment remains the Tremec T56 6-speed transmission, which transforms the WS6 from merely a fast car to a true driver's car. There are no actual statistics on how many 6-speeds were built, but it's probably safe to assume that only about a third of the 524 WS6 Formulas built were equipped with manual gearboxes. So yes, it's kind of a big deal. You also get a good-sized trunk and a fold-down back seat that makes it easy to use the Firebird every day if that's your choice. This is one of those cars that just does everything well.

So it's got a nice interior, but you don't buy a car like this because of comfort. No, it's the potent 350 cubic inch LT1 V8 living up front. For 1996, all V8 F-Bodies got a boost to 285 horsepower, but the WS6 with Ram Air was rated a 305 thanks to some revised computer mapping to take advantage of the added airflow. In fact, Pontiac engineers quietly acknowledge that at speeds above 80 MPH, there's a mild supercharging effect that could add another 15 horsepower. Combined, that made the WS6 Formula one of the nastiest cars you could buy in 1996. Today, it's still thrilling to drive and if the last 20 years have taught us anything, it's that the LT1 is virtually indestructible. With so few miles on it, this one is barely broken in and since it has always been used as a collector's item and not as a real car, it remains extremely fresh. No mods, no damage, and lots of authentic details under the hood. You'll note original decals, factory clamps and hoses, and all the other stuff that makes untouched original cars so special. And it's easy to see how that Ram Air system can be so effective—there's a straight path from the nose to the throttle body interrupted only by a high-flow air cleaner. This car definitely nails it.

Underneath, it's totally original and in fantastic condition. There's zero rust, no damage, and other than the usual grease and road dirt, it's like new. You could clean up 80% of it in an afternoon and have the cleanest F-body around. It's definitely worth noting that the exhaust system is original, complete with catalytic converters, the body-colored floors are excellent, and it still carries those rather expensive DeCarbon shock absorbers that were unique to the WS6/1LE packages. This car has never seen snow or inclement weather, and may rain only a handful of time, so no worries there. 17-inch wheels were also part of the WS6 package, and while the design is the same as the other Formula models, they do make a significant difference in the stance—this car is about 1.5 inches lower than the standard Formula we have sitting next to it in the showroom and it looks downright predatory! It also includes giant 275/40/17 Goodyear Eagle F1 performance tires which are likely only the second set of tires this car has ever worn.

This is a seriously nice car, owned by an enthusiast who understood that it was special. The low mileage and awesome list of features and options makes it an A-lister for the guys who grew up with cars like this on our wish list. Don't miss this opportunity to relive one of the most exciting times in automotive history with one of the most under-rated performance cars of the decade. Call now!

Vehicle: 1996 Pontiac Firebird WS6
Price: SOLD
Stock Number: 114107
Mileage: 26,546
VIN: 2G2FV22P7T2218610
Engine: 350 cubic inch LT1 V8
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Gear Ratio: 3.42
Wheelbase: 101 inches
Wheels: 17-inch aluminum wheels
Tires: 275/40/17 Goodyear radial
Exterior Color: Torch Red
Interior Color: Black cloth
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