Many things in life trigger fond memories—music, food, smells, etc. IIf you are on our site reading this article, it is safe to assume there is a particular car that reminds you of your childhood or adolescence. In this case, it’s a 1969 Pontiac Firebird 400 that reminds our customer of the one he cherished as a teenager. Due to a string of bad luck he eventually lost the car, so we have been hired onto the task of restoring (or should we say restomodding) a childhood memory.
The 1969 Firebird came with 5 distinct option packages (Firebird, Firebird Sprint, Firebird 350, Firebird 400, and Trans Am), but we are starting this 69 Firebird build with the plain-Jane Firebird 350. Why, you say? First, since the big block 400 option package is rare and more desirable it fetches a pretty penny, making the Firebird 350 more economical. Second, although our customer does want a 400 big block 69 Firebird, he has decided to go the Pro Touring route with a modern drive train, brakes, suspension, AC, and slightly customized interior. The intention is to eventually drive it on our local road course, Atlanta Motorsports Park.
*Disclaimer: We know that plopping a 400 cubic inch engine into a standard Pontiac 350 Firebird does not automatically make it a Pontiac Firebird 400. Yes it was an entire options package including special emblems, special hood, suspension, etc. We found this nifty link that help buyers identify a real 1969 Pontiac Firebird 400.
We are a full service shop and about 4 or 5 times a year we are called on to actually look for, purchase, and pick up a car on behalf of our customer. Since the original suspension and drivetrain are not going to be used, our search was made a little easier because we could look strictly for a solid body with no concerns for the mechanics. We were lucky to find this one in an online listing labeled “rush sale” (someone needed money!). After a 1.5-hour drive, we arrived to find it at a shady, run-down body shop in South Georgia. So shady, in fact, that we thought we were being set up for a robbery and nearly left before we had a chance to look at the car. Thankfully, the owner of the car pulled up minutes after we got there and made us feel a little more comfy about the good ole boys in the corner staring us down.
After a climb about the trunk, interior, and engine bay, we spent some quality time rolling in the dirt looking at the undercarriage of the car. Luckily for us (despite the shadiness), the car turned out to be in really great condition. As can be expected with an old car, there was some minor surface rust here and there. Examination of the front grill area and frame horns looked as though it had never been hit, and everything was straight and solid. The only concerning issue was some poor bodywork on the roof. The car originally came with a vinyl roof, which can often mean the roof is now rotted or beginning to rot, and this car appeared to have that exact issue. After some discussion, we decided that it was a winner, negotiated the price, and hit the road back to the shop.
In the end it is a great car, complete and solid, but not without its issues. The roof turned out to be a bigger problem than originally thought. Someone had actually cut off the roof and replaced it with a roof from a salvage vehicle. The welding and bodywork were terrible, and to top it all off the roof had been welded on slightly askew! We did some measuring, made a jig and some strategic cuts, then welded the roof back correctly and arrow straight.
So far, we have completely disassembled the car, sand blasted it, and completed the initial bodywork. The next step is to install mini tubs for some meaty rear tires, then start fabricating for the new suspension and drivetrain. She’ll sit idle until the owner makes some strategic decisions and all the parts arrive. But stay tuned because we will keep you updated as this Pro Touring 69 Firebird project moves along.
For now check out these nifty time-lapse videos we made. The first one is the disassembly, and the second one is the bodywork. And, as usual, we have a full gallery that documents the entire build from start to finish. We hope you enjoy following along! And don’t forget to check back often.