The 68 Firebird

It’s a little known fact that I like to waterski.
My best buddy Joey’s got a hand-laid fiberglass Mastercraft ski-boat and we use it faithfully.
Joey and his family have become my surrogate family.
When I’m alone on any family get-together time: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter – I’m always invited to their place.
Their dog Scout even likes me too for some odd reason.
When I saw on Facebook that Joeys’ daughter Madison had finally gotten engaged I was elated.
Madi’s like a little sister to me.
And she’d been dating her high-school sweetheart for over nine years.
Over the years, I had heard thru the grapevine, that Madi wanted to be able to drive her Aunt Jennies’ car away from her wedding.
Aunt Jennie’s car – the first car she got after she got her drivers license- is a 1968 Pontiac Firebird convertible.
Unfortunately, the Firebird had seen better days.
It had been sitting for over 10 years and needed a lot of work.
Since Madi’s boyfriend Stephen had finally proposed, it was time to get to busy.
Especially since the wedding was in September and it was now late June.
I called up my buddy Mike to see if he was up to the task.
You may remember Mike from “Rods ‘N Wheels” on Discovery & Velocity. 
Mike used to build cars at the GM, Van Nuys assembly plant, and he’s had about a dozen first generation Camaros over the years, so I knew he was the right man for the job.
And he’s a good friend.
After we coordinated, Mike came down with his trailer and picked up the old Firebird to begin the rebuild.
While we were loading it up, Aunt Jennie told him she just wanted to be able to drive the car and not have it leave her stranded.
Sounds pretty simple, right?
She said she never took the Firebird out anymore because it would always break down and leave her stranded.
After we listened to what she wanted, Mike got busy.
He went to Summit Racing and put in an order for a GM crate 350, Edelbrock intake and carb and lot of random accessories.
He ordered the 200R4 Transmission from Championship Transmission in Thousand Oaks:
Front disc brakes from National Parts Depot.
The weather strip kit from Classic Industries, and the wheels from Wheel Vintique.  
Once all the parts were ordered, we got to work.
When we got the Firebird up to Mikes we pulled out the old Pontiac 350 and Power Glide Transmission.
She’s keeping the original engine, her husband Doug wants to clean it up and put it in their living room.
I fully approve.
Once the engine and transmission were out, the real work began.
And The Professor made it look easy.
He sanded the engine bay, smoothed it out and sprayed it with a black semi-gloss paint.
It was starting to look good.
Mike had the foresight to pre-order brackets for the 350 from Bills Hot Rods.
Once the engine arrived, he installed the intake manifold, carburetor, brackets, alternator and power steering pump.
It was all coming together.
He ordered all the brackets so they’d match a 68 Camaro accessory drive, so if something were to happen, Aunt Jennie can to go to any auto parts store and get a replacement part.
It’s just that easy.
One of the many things I love about Mike is that he works on cars thinking about the next guy who’s gotta work on it and how he can make things easy for him.
Doing the job right is one thing, but pre-planning for the next job is why The Professor is The Man!
After everything was bolted together we slid the engine & trans back into the Firebird.
It was slowly becoming a car again.
And it was looking good.
When we picked the Firebird up I remember hearing Aunt Jennie tell Mike: “I’ve always wanted to be able to open the hood and have one of those really clean engines.”
Take a look at it now:
After Mike had it all buttoned up, I brought my Porter Cable dual-action polisher over and started polishing the old paint on the Firebird.
It’s amazing what a 12-pack of Tecate and some elbow grease can accomplish.
The Firebird was shining bright again.
Version 2
When it was ready we trailered it up and brought it down to Aunt Jennies.
They initially wanted to surprise Madi with the car at the wedding, but they couldn’t wait.
Jennie called Madison and made up some excuse for her to come over to their house.
As Madi and her mom arrived Mike and I were backing the Firebird off of the trailer 100 yards away… She didn’t even notice.
After she got to the back yard, I pulled the Firebird around into the driveway.
To say Madi was surprised is an understatement.
She was blown away.
I think Aunt Jennie was blown away at how good the Firebird looked too.
Mike did a great job.
The wedding was the following weekend.
And I was asked if I’d mind driving the Firebird from their house to the wedding in Temecula.
It was an honor.
It was an honor for me to be a part of the whole build process, and to be able to drive it out there.
I feel like I’m fueling the flame of the Firebird and keeping it alive for Aunt Jennie to enjoy.
And it was the icing on the cake for Madison’s wedding.
I’m just glad I was a part of it.


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