All posts by firebirdclub

3rd Generation Collection of Ken & Josh Travis from Candler, North Carolina

This issue’s featured car is actually more than one and is the collection 3rd generation Firebirds and Trans Ams of Ken and Josh Travis from Candler, North Carolina. Here is the story:

I have been a member of the club since I acquired my first 1991 Trans Am Convertible, which has been a few years now. I am submitting the following saga and a few pictures for your interest and consideration.

I purchased my first car when I was 14 years old. The year was 1964. The car was a beautiful 1952 Pontiac 2-door Catalina hardtop – no door posts or door window frames. The straight eight was internally damaged, and I spent my summer break from high school being caked in black gunk as I worked on the engine and EVENTUALLY brought it back to life. I have been an auto enthusiast ever since! I later owned a sweet 1956 Pontiac two-door hardtop Catalina Custom, and then a fabulous 1963 Grand Prix. Chief Pontiac has been in my blood almost all my life. Apart from the 3rd generations that have taken up residence here, I drive a 2006 G6 GTP Coupe when the weather is fair and I’m not wearing shop clothes. My daily go-to most everything car is a sweet little 2000 Pontiac Sunfire Coupe. Even after a gazillion miles it still runs like a little hot dog on its original 2.2L 4-piston pumper.

I ended up working for a major manufacturing corporation as a mechanical manufacturing engineer. Working on cars just naturally falls into the realms of professional expertise. Reading technical drawings, working with extremely tight tolerances, most aspects of industrial plating and paint finishes has aided me well in my passion for preserving these wonderful cars.

With intense enthusiasm, my son Josh works side-by-side with me. He is exceedingly methodical while working with fit, finish and assemblies. I am blessed, as he is a walking encyclopedia of GM part numbers, torque specs and possesses a wealth of parts sources in his head. Accurate research is his forte. He likes the smaller “fiddly” tasks, I love building the engines and other mechanical systems.

Josh and I affectionately refer to our present collection of 3rd generation F-Bodies as members of our Bird Coup, a throw-back from Fire “bird” and the “Screaming Chicken”, which now number eight in the garages! There are (3) 1991 Trans Am Convertibles, (1) 1992 Trans Am Convertible, (1) 1992 Formula 350 T-Top, (1) 1991 Formula 350 Hardtop (at present under full nuts and bolts restoration), (1) 1989 Formula 305, with a 5-speed transmission and a Borg Warner 3.44 rear axle (also in stages of restoration) and (1) 1989 Formula 350, waiting in line for its full-blown restoration. All eight possess TPI engines.

I only acquired the white 1992 Trans Am convertible a few months ago. A previous owner has badged it as a GTA, which we all know is not correct, but for the time being I will leave it as is so as not to risk damaging paint to remove them. Also, the car was born with a 305 TPI, but somewhere in its dubious history it received an engine swap to a 350 TPI. No new convertible ever received a 350. I have plans to add sub-frame connectors to stiffen the chassis because this bad boy does LIKE to go down the street!

The two 1991 red convertibles and the 1992 white convertible were all originally ordered by and delivered to Pontiac Corporate Headquarters and then later put out for auction. I’m not clear what Pontiac Division did with the cars while they were in their possession. The third 1991 Trans Am Convertible, white with black leather, was delivered to and owned by the owner of a Pontiac dealership in Ohio. Restoration on it has not been started.

The two red convertibles and the green 350 Formula have had extensive restoration/preservation work accomplished 100% in our home shop. Engines have all been completely machined with all new internal parts, rotating assembles all weighed and balanced. All have received new sensors, injectors, MSD distributors, etc. Transmissions have been rebuilt with heavy duty internals to produce a positive shift. All the suspension parts, including rear axle housings, have been sent out for sandblasting and powder coating. All the under floor pans, gas tanks, engine bays have been thoroughly cleaned and repainted. All suspension components have received new bushings, new steering linkages, new ball joints, springs, new shocks/struts, new universal joints, brakes and anything else needed to make these old bad boys as good as, or better than when new. Four of the flock are tagged and insured, but only driven in 100% fair weather. The only item I have deviated from factory original is the exhaust systems: Magnaflow seems to suite them well

It has been a pleasure to work on these fantastic old cars. They draw a lot of attention and admiration whenever they get out to go play. It is amazing how many people admire the convertibles and comment that they have NEVER seen one before. Small wonder since so few were built and even fewer now are still in existence, especially in pristine condition.

The above is a quick and very short version of how and why these cars have, or are, transitioning back to their original awe. I appreciate and have enjoyed the Eagle these past few years and look forward to many more issues.

 

What To Do With a 40 Year Old Trans Am

by Chuck Lincoln

I refer you all back to an article from the January 2010 issue of the National Firebird and Trans Am Club Eagle. I am the original owner of a 1976 Trans Am. Living in Upstate NY and wanting to “keep this car for its life;” it has not seen a Syracuse (a.k.a. “The Salt City”) Winter – stored every year since I have owned it. This year I decided to take it into a local, full service speed shop (White’s Auto & Speed, Cicero, NY) to discuss what critical maintenance needed to be done to a 40 year old car with 120,000 miles on it. As we put it up on the rack, one could see that all the rubber bushings and spacers were shot – dry rot mostly; some even gone. So we elected to get the Energy Suspension bushing & frame kit and replace them all. Also, it was also noted that the engine was leaking oil. Leaks were coming from the valve covers, oil pan, intake tray, timing cover, around the fuel pump, the rear engine seal and a few other places. So we also purchased the engine gasket kit.

As we totally took the front suspension apart, we decided to replace other worn items: upper & lower ball joints, new front shocks (the third set for this car), and coil spring isolators. While most of this stuff is boring, it needed to be done and should bring the handling to better than Factory original. While this work was contemplated, it was determined that in order to properly get at the rear engine seal, the engine would have to come out of the car. So once the engine (a 400 cu. in. Pontiac engine) was out of the car, we did a leakdown (compression) check which revealed that four of the cylinders (1, 8, 4, & 7) were leaking 30%. Two more, 2 & 5 were at ~ 23% blow by. The normal guideline is < 20%. So we decided to consider an engine rebuild. Bore & hone all the cylinder walls, new oversized pistons & rings, polish the camshaft & crankshaft (keeping the original components), new connecting rods and main bearings, a valve job, new oil pump, new valve guides and new brass soft plugs. While removing the engine, we also removed the radiator – the original 2-core. We saw the condition and decided to recore the unit with a 3-core replacement as these Firebird engines were noted for their overheating issues.

While this was certainly a good plan, the 64 million dollar question was: “is the engine still in good enough shape to merit a rebuild?” As we took the engine apart, we all agreed that it was still in good enough shape the warrant a rebuild. This Pontiac engine is strong, all cast iron: block, heads, intake, etc. I have religiously changed the oil and have used nothing but Mobil 1 since the first oil change at 1,000 miles. While the cylinder walls had the expected wear ridges at the spot where the pistons reversed direction (< 0.006″), they were Bored then honed out 0.030″ and the pistons were replaced with oversized ones to accommodate this machining. The crankshaft was in great shape and needed to be just cleaned and polished std/std and fitted with new bearings. The camshaft was another thing. Three of the lobes were worn past their Factory specs and so we decided to replace it. We put in a new OEM camshaft to stay “original.” In the cylinder heads, three of the exhaust valve seats angles were out of spec – probably from the Factory, so all the valves and valve seats were machined back to original tolerances. Also, 3 of the valve guides were worn past Factory specs and were fitted with new valve guide inserts. The cylinder heads were also resurfaced .005″ for a good head gasket seal. All engine parts were dipped, cleaned and shot blasted and repainted the original Pontiac Blue. (see photo).

We also rebuilt the carburetor, which was the original Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carb and actually really didn’t need anything more than a good cleaning, but we did it anyway, while it was off the engine. [Note: I have always used HiTest gas in it.]

Before the engine came back together and went back into the car, we power washed, painted and detailed the engine compartment and overall spruced it up. We also changed the oil in the rear differential and 4-speed Muncie manual transmission. All looked well with both so no other work was done here. The clutch was fairly new and was in good shape. We also put in a new (rebuilt) starter as the electrical connections on the original one were pretty well shot.

Once I had the completed car back the first very noticeable improvement was how quiet it was cruising down the road. When I hit a bump, there were no more rattles and noises – those new bushings along with tightening things up really did the trick. Next was how much cooler the engine was running after obviously cleaning it all out and recoring the radiator, now much more efficient. The engine starts quicker, the choke engages properly (had always been a problem before) and it runs super smooth. As I presently have break-in oil in it, I haven’t yet really gotten on it to see what real performance improvement I gained, but more to come.

Also, since we put in all new bushings throughout the frame and steering suspension, I took it into a local body shop with new digital alignment equipment to insure that everything was properly aligned. My 1976 Trans Am has been given a new life with this expensive rebuild and will provide many, many more years of pleasurable driving and cruising. I am truly looking forward to it!

This is a story in progress with more to come (photos too). I made additions to this as the engine was being rebuilt.

Firebird and Trans Am Day at the Pontiac Museum

Ken Pitcher

What a fun and fantastic time we had in Pontiac, Illinois again this year, as we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Firebird, at the 3rd Annual All Firebird and Trans Am Day at the Pontiac Museum in Pontiac, Illinois!

This event is co-sponsored by Midwest Firebirds and the Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum. All proceeds from the event go to help the museum continue their great work promoting the legacy of the Pontiac Motor Division of General Motors and the Oakland Motor Car Company, which produced cars from 1908 to 1931 and then became Pontiac Motor Car Company in 1932. I am ecstatic to report we had 85 Firebirds and many more people at the event, and were able to generate over $4,300 to the museum’s bottom line! As Penny Dye from the Museum told us: “That’s a huge impact to the museum for a day of cars, music, food, and fun in the sun on the square in the beautiful little town of Pontiac, Illinois.”

Our club’s involvement with the museum started in 2014, when we did a Spring Cruise down Route 66, ending at the museum. We then met up with members from the Indianapolis Firebird Club and did a tour of the museum led by curator, Tim Dye. Tim approached me with an idea. He asked if we would consider co-hosting an event with them for Firebirds of all generations the next year – which he dubbed “All Firebird Day at the Museum.”

We just completed our 3rd Annual All Firebird and Trans Am Day at the Museum a few weeks ago, although you could argue we’ve actually been there for four years in a row! And every year we are getting more Firebirds coming from further away, as interest in this Firebird gathering is gaining some serious momentum.

One of the cool things about this event is that it is not just a “car show”, the museum is open the whole time, and special behind the scenes tours are offered, including the new art gallery, which our club helped sponsor last year.

Part of the day’s events include a tour of the private auto collection of Alan Finkenbinder, and a tour the Dongbai Art Studio. The Village of Pontiac provided Trolley service to all of these locations, as well as shuttling our group to Mario’s Pizzeria for a special pizza lunch prepared for the participants.

The museum always provides one or two of their special display Firebirds for us to examine up close. And this year was no exception, as they brought out the 1970 special-color, 433 original-mile, restored Firebird Formula that was featured in the current Smoke Signals magazine, and a real Sportsman-Series 1979 Trans Am race car for all to enjoy.

You should have heard the noise coming from the race car when they actually drove it into place under its own power. It was quite an attention getter!

Being a First Generation Firebird club, this is a wonderful event for us to co-host, to unite all Firebird enthusiasts. We truly enjoy seeing all the years of Firebirds, especially those rare Anniversary and Special Edition Trans Ams and Firehawks, you just don’t see at every car show. The idea behind the show has always been to create a fun event for Firebirds of all generations to celebrate our Pontiac car model, and support the POCI museum. Kind of like a smaller version of the Trans Am Nationals, held in the heart of Illinois. And other than Illinois, we had Firebirds come in from seven different states including, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio and even Mississippi!

If you want to be a part of this Firebird get-together next year, mark your calendar now for the 3rd weekend in May. We hope to have even more Firebirds on hand for another wonderful day at the museum.

’67 Firebird of Dan & Debbie Tietze “Freeda”

A National Firebird and Trans Am Club featured car is the ‘67 Firebird of Dan & Debbie Tietze from Firestone, Colorado. Here is their story:

We purchased our 1967 Firebird in 1997. It has always been a Colorado car, originally sold in Grand Junction, Colorado. Although the cosmetics were in sad shape, it was a rust free car. After having an interior kit installed and the body stripped; Freeda, as we call her, was sprayed in her original color – Cameo Ivory. She has a bright blue interior. We enjoyed the car along with our 1971 GTO convertible.

 In 2008, after the GTO went by the wayside, I decided to pull Freeda’s original 326 engine, which is now stored. I replaced the engine with a nicely built 400 YT code engine with factory crank, speed pro rings and pistons, Eagle connecting rods and Crane cam. The 6X heads were treated to some port work and three angle valve job, and an Edelbrock intake with a 750 Holley dual feed. Cooling is taken care of by a Meziere water pump, 16″ electric fan and a Griffin radiator. The original 350 turbo was built by Ram Transmission Gear and underneath the front drums were replaced with a Hurst roll control and Wilwood disc brake system and also rebuilding the front steering components. Quick Time performance servo controlled exhaust cut-outs and FloMaster mufflers, and Competition engineering subframe connectors. The ten bolt third member is loaded with 3.55 gears and of course body bushings will Edelbrock INS shocks for handling.

Freeda enjoys some car shows and going to Sonic Burger Friday nights, seeing other muscle cars – some oldies but goodies and even some rat rods. Freeda was built in Lordstown, Ohio, not fifty miles from where I was born. Colorado lets you run the year license plate of your car in place of your collector plates.

My wife and I will enjoy Freeda until the bitter end.

Happy cruisin’

’79 Trans Am of Michael Bartholomew

I am forwarding some photos of my 79 T/A which I hope some of which you will put in the member magazine.

Car info:
1979 Trans Am
Automatic Transmission
403 olds engine
AM/FM/8-Track Radio
CB Radio
T-Tops
Space Saver Spare Tire

 When I first found this Bird, I really wasn’t looking for a car from this era. After bringing her home, I quickly fell in love and this car can also be credited with starting my love affair with Pontiac. It accompanies my daily driver, a ‘64 Bonneville, in the stable. From early on, this car has been on a journey to go “back to factory” replacing a ‘77 nose that had been placed on it with the proper ‘79 nose among other changes that the previous owner had made. One of my favorite “upgrades” that I’ve made is getting the snowflake wheels with reproduction period correct tires put on all 4 corners. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed shows and cruises with my kids, but also introducing them to things like 8-Tracks, the CB, and getting dirty under the hood. I look forward to many more years of fun!

Michael Bartholomew
Dunedin, Florida

Technical Sections Volume III Now Available

A  complete copy of all the Technical Sections, topics, questions and answers published in the EAGLE from 2008 to 2017. It is indexed by category such as electrical, suspension, etc. for easy reference and accessibility and contains over 100 pages. $15 plus $5 shipping and handling for the printed version.

 It is also available on CD-ROM for PC or Mac (can also be emailed with no shipping charges) in combination with Technical Section Volume II. It is indexed by category and contains over 250 pages. $15 plus $5 S&H for the CD which contains both Tech Sections Volume II and Volume III (emailed $15).

Available from the NFTAC by ordering on the website at www.firebirdtaclub.com/regalia.htm or by using the order form in each issue of the Eagle..

It can be purchased as part of a 3 volume combo that contains Tech Sections Volume I, II and III all printed (over 400 pages) for $40 plus $10 S&H or a CD combo which contains Volume I printed and Volumes II & III on CD for $30 plus $5 S&H. Other options available on the club website at www.firebirdtaclub.com/regalia.htm and in the club magazine.

National Firebird and Trans Am Club Advertisers – Insurance, Parts, Publications and Literature, Service

These are the people and services that help bring information to our club members by advertising in our club publication, the Eagle. Please support them.

Insurance

Classic Auto Insurance, 1-800-397-0765, www.classicins.com
collector car insurance for less

Parts

Ames Performance Engineering, 1-800-421-2637, www.amesperf.com
Firebird and Trans Am restoration parts

Convertible parts, 1-800-343-4261, www.hydroe.com
pumps, cylinders, roof rails, weatherstripping and more!

Firebird Central, 859-408-2000, www.firebirdcentral.com
the best parts at the best prices, 10% off online orders using coupon code: EAGLE

Frank’s Restoration Parts, 760-361-3242, www.frankspontiacparts.com
buy, sell, new, used and reproduction

National Parts Depot, 800-874-7595, www.nationalpartsdepot.com
Restoration/Performance Parts & Accessories

The Parts Place, 800-442-0411, www.thepartsplaceinc.com
original and reproduction parts from the Pedal to the Metal!

Parts for your Firebird or Trans Am at http://parts.firebirdtaclub.com.
parts for all Pontiacs and other vehicles!

Year One1-800-932-7663
www.yearone.com
Parts for your Pontiac, Firebird and Trans Am

Publications and Literature

Firebird and Trans Am color sales brochures, 315-432-8282, www.autolit.com
original sales brochures for most cars and trucks

Pontiac Shop Manuals on CD, www.firebirdtaclub.com/regalia.htm
with Fisher body service and 1963-75 Pontiac parts, for ‘67, ‘68, ‘69, ‘70, ‘71 or ‘72

NFTAC Technical Sections, 773-769-7166, www.firebirdtaclub.com/regalia.htm
Volume I, II & III. Copies of technical topics published in the NFTAC Eagle.

Service

Speed and Sport Chrome Plating, 713-921-0236, www.speedsportchrome.com, sales@speedsportchrom.com
chrome plating, 15 day service, specializing in classic cars

Book Review: Pontiac Firebird: 50 Years


by David Newhardt

Celebrate 50 years of Pontiac’s iconic muscle car

The early 1960s saw American auto manufacturers desperately trying to sell cars to the emerging baby-boom market. Pontiac attained success with its original muscle car, the GTO, but as successful as the GTO was, it was handily outsold by Ford’s grand-slam home-run pony car, the Mustang. In response, Pontiac entered the pony car market in 1967, its new Firebird, a model that became one of the most iconic cars of the classic muscle-car era. Eventually the top Firebird model, the Trans Am, became the standard bearer for automotive performance in the U.S. market, kept the muscle car flame alive throughout the dark years of the 1970s and led the charge when performance reemerged in the 1980s.

Pontiac Firebird: 50 Years chronicles the Firebird’s rich history, from the early attempts to reach the youth market in the early 1960s, through the potent and turbulent years of the classic muscle car era, the resurgence of muscle in the 1980s, to the car’s continued popularity today.

This 2017 hardcover book is, priced at $50.00 is available on Amazon.

Purchaser review from Amazon: Finally a big fancy and good hardcover book on one of my other perennial favorite vehicles, the Pontiac Firebird and its derivatives, the Formula, Trans Am and so forth. Beautiful book chronicling this vehicle that sadly is no longer with us. Smokey and the Bandit and movie cars and marketing genius is in the book. I would have like to have seen the current Bandit conversion T/A (Camaro with a body kit made to look like a T/A; they also have a GTO based kit and other kits from others) car and aftermarket Camaro based clones as well as the racing cars and racing heritage. Otherwise I love the cover, love everything about the book and the history contained in it as it is well written. Glad to have this book in my F-Body (Camaro/Firebird) Book collection. Hope one day Pontiac will come back with the Firebird, T/A and Formula (wishful thinking). In the meantime we have a book like this tha
t perfectly shows these legends. – Jose Lopez P

2002 Trans Am WS6 of George Bravo

A National Firebird and Trans Am Club featured car is the 2002 Trans Am WS6 of George Bravo from Marina, California. Here is his story:

This is my 2002 Trans Am WS6 which I changed the brake rotors to cross drilled front and rears. I installed the Lambo doors myself. It has the high performance super chip program on it. It has a Hurst 6 speed shifter. I also added sequential turn signal lights to it. I put the racing stripes on myself. I changed the ram air decals to chrome ones. I also changed the ram air grills to chrome ones. I didn’t want to get rid of my front chrome Firebird because I live in California that requires the front license plate, so I installed a front license plate that retracts to hide under the front bumper and it also displays my front license plate from a remote control key chain. I am a Marine Veteran who plans to work more on my Trans Am and to keep taking my Trans Am to car shows. I hope you enjoy these photos, I’ll post more at a later time.

2002 Trans Am WS6 of George Bravo
2002 Trans Am WS6 of George Bravo
2002 Trans Am WS6 of George Bravo

2002 Trans Am WS6 of George Bravo