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Street Race Truck More... The Toolbox

1967 Firebird-Employee Rides: Josh Sullivan

9/15/2020

The most prevalent cars of our family history have always been Pontiacs. Through high school and college my Dad had several 65-67 GTOs. It was his calling card, and I was programmed from an early age that GTOs and Pontiacs were just a little more stylish and performance minded than any other muscle car. I even have an old title from one of them that had lived in the family for quite a few years. The title shows it's last owner was my Uncle who was selling it back to my Dad for his second stint of ownership of a Red 66.

When I was 13 it was my turn to join the club and one day there was a black 66 GTO on a trailer at our farm. I was ecstatic. There were a few small issues, like the incomplete engine block in the trunk, heads on the backseat and a healthy amount of rust but I had joined the club. Flashing forward 20 years and I still have the car today, with the drivetrain restored years ago and waiting for funds to do a lot of sheet metal and body work.

So for some time I've been hunting another Pontiac to add to the stable that could bypass the body shop and get on the road immediately. I love to work on the mechanical pieces of the car but lack a lot of the patience or facilities to tackle my own body work. An opportunity came up when a friend reached out about their 1967 Firebird. It had been restored in the 90s and was a very nice car the last I had seen it. It had been disassembled and a wrecked 2006 GTO was under the knife to donate it's 6.0 LS2 engine and t56 transmission. Unfortunately, the project never got a chance to be completed and the car sat in pieces for 5 years. They were interested in selling the car but didn't know anyone that would be interested in tackling the project and reached out to me for any ideas.

Hesitantly, I came up to help them gather up all the pieces and see if there was enough to reassemble a complete Firebird again. The car was stripped from the firewall forward, subframe, engine, suspension and body. After taking an inventory and estimating the time in labor, I decided that I was reckless enough to take on a basketcase of this scale. We struck a deal and I came back a few weeks later to trailer the car home.

I spent the fall of 2019 in my garage and driveway blowing the car apart even further to paint, repair and upgrade the Firebird and breath new life back into it. It has a 1972 Pontiac 350 in it that has been rebuilt at some point. I verified it ran and power washed the flaking engine paint off. I regasketed the oil pan and valve covers and painted a fresh coat of Pontiac metallic blue from Bill Hirsch engine enamels. I added drilled and slotted disc brakes, power booster/master cylinder and replaced all of the tie rod ends and ball joints on the suspension. Next I rebuilt an old Holley 4160 I had laying around and replaced the Edelbrock that was on the engine, mainly my preference is based on my familiarity with the Holley platform. A new Hays clutch, Tuff stuff alternator and new power steering pump were installed to help ensure reliability for years to come. One of seemingly the best upgrades I made was an aluminum 3 row frostbite radiator, the engine hardly ever breaks a sweat even stop light to stop light in 90+ degree weather. Fresh paint on the firewall, inner fenders, subframe and control arms has left me with a show quality underhood that I take a lot of pride in and show off as often as I can. The car has been complete for most of the summer and I have probably already put 2000 miles on it driving nowhere in particular and loving every minute of it.

Phase two of this project is to put a little pep in it's step and get my engine cubic inches to match the badges on this 400 HO hood and grill. I've dropped off a 400 Pontiac engine at the machine shop and will be assembling a new bullet for the Firebird this winter. With 1968 GTO heads, it will have closed chambers to get to 9.4 compression and 2.11/1.77 valves. I'm planning on a large lift and duration camshaft with roller rocker arms to upgrade the valve train and help the old Poncho turn some RPM. Coupled with my M20 Muncie, I'm hoping to have enough power to occasionally scare myself. Stay tuned for chapter two on the revival of this bird!

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