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March 2, 2017

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My Firebird and me

March 2, 2017

My Firebird and me.                                                                                                                                                                                      

Let me start out by saying I have always had a Firebird in my possession since buying my first one in 1984. When I turned 16 and got my drivers license, in 1983, I was really not thinking about what car I wanted because at the time my friends always were doing the driving. The first car I really sort of liked was a 1966 Mustang, only because it was my birth year. But even in the mid 1980s, Mustangs were out of the reach of most high schoolers. My best friend George loved the TV show Night Rider. And he dreamed of owning a Firebird Trans Am like the one on the show.  His Parents couldn’t afford to buy him a brand new Trans Am, so his dad, being from Detroit MI, went out and found him a very nice 1973 Esprit. It was Navajo orange with Tan deluxe interior. It had the 400ci 2bbl carb and was our main ride for almost a year, when our friend Paul was telling us about the scary fast car his dad bought him. Intrigued, I went to his house after school and fell in love! The car was by no means perfect! Interior was completely shot! And it wasn’t a color I would have chosen, Castilian bronze, but it looked mean! It was a 1971 Formula 400, and I was forever hooked on Firebirds! Paul was used to VW bugs and didn’t care about going fast. After test driving it, I had to have it! $500 was the asking price, kind of steep when your only making minimum wage, but the deal was struck, and after 5 payments of $100 the car was mine! The car had a vinyl top, which was super faded; this was sunny San Diego after all. The head liner was hanging down in shreds so I just pulled it off completely, being careful to not damage the bows. And I put seat covers on the ripped front seats and scrubbed the rear seat. I washed the car every weekend, but the paint was too far gone, even for color back polish! I let another friend take in to the Auto shop at school to steam clean the engine, but somehow he tore the vinyl top, so being 17 I just ripped it off. That’s when I saw the factory welds at the top of quarters where they met up with the roof. No body filler. So I put on some Bondo and primered it. It wasn’t beautiful but it was mine! I wasn’t much of a car guy, so I had a lot of learning to do. I bought every book I could find on Firebirds. Then when I graduated in 1985, my cousin Steve and a couple of buddies of his flew down to San Diego and were going to drive the Formula back to Minnesota. We decided to use the NAS Miramar auto hobby shop paint booth to paint the car my favorite color, sapphire blue metallic. We had never done any bodywork in our lives, but we spent one day sanding and the next day we got the car in the booth and started spraying. We didn’t use any reducer and paint went on real thick, but it looked ok. When we painted the hood we actually used some reducer and the hood looked perfect! We were proud of our selves. We waited a week and decided to head to Minnesota, three teens and luggage. It was also super hot. We headed up I 15 and made it to Victorville when the car overheated, big time! We pulled over under an overpass and bailed out. We thought the car was going to catch on fire! The car kept dieseling and when it finally stopped the engine was whistling like a tea kettle. It was 110 degrees outside, and we found our way to a pay phone to call my pops. In a way I was glad she broke down because it would have been a road trip from hell! When we got back to the car and it cooled down we just pulled the thermostat and drove it back down to Dan Diego. The car was on the road for two more years when the engine finally gave out. July 4th 1986. I was racing my friend in his moms Datsun 240 Z. I was kicking his but when I spun a bearing. The Auto hobby shop on base to the rescue again! They had a full machine shop and super helpful  staff. After a couple of months she was on the road again. I sold her in July 1987 for $1800. So from there I was hooked on Firebirds. I have had not in any order, but a 1968 Firebird, a 1971 Formula 400, a 1970 Firebird , a 1970 Formula 400 4 spd, a 1977 Firebird, a 1978 Y88 gold SE Trans Am, a 1988 Firebird, a 1995 Firebird and a 1999 Trans Am. I currently have the 1970 Formula 400 4 speed, 1988 Firebird, and Karen’s 1976 Trans Am.

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