1968 Pontiac Firebird - The Bionic Bird
A '68 Firebird. A Wide-Track legend barely alive. "Gentlemen, we can rebuild . We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic ." Doug Baril's Firebird will be that automobile. "Better than it was before. Better, stronger, faster." So said Oscar Goldman (sort of) in the opening credits of the '70s hit show, The Six Million Dollar Man.
And so the story begins when Doug Baril of Gainesville, Florida, found a completely rusted '68 Firebird in 1998. "I was driving through a bad neighborhood in Gainesville and I saw the car up on blocks under an old oak tree," he remembered. "Actually it was a big mistake. I never should have bought it because it was a complete basket case. I was young, inexperienced and overeager, but thankfully I was motivated. Practically rusted to the ground, the Bird had been sitting for about 15 years."
The Body And Paint
Baril soon found the body panels on his Bird had all decayed to the point where he had two choices: walk away from the project entirely or replace every body panel. He decided he would work the Firebird back to life, no matter what the obstacles-and there were many. This was his first restomod buildup, so he had to learn along the way, and he depended upon the help of many friends to get him through the five and a half years of the project. "It was tough," he told HPP. "There were many times I wanted to abandon it, but I kept going because I wanted to turn it into the best Firebird I could create. My dad worked for a company called Grumman, where he helped build F-14s, lunar modules in the sixties, and the space shuttles in the seventies and eighties. So I figured, 'How much harder could reviving a destroyed Firebird be?'"
Not giving up on his project, Baril replaced the sheetmetal primarily on his own with help on the larger panels from friend Keith Hendry. "I decided to do the metal work in my garage, so I went out and bought a small Lincoln welder and then proceeded to replace my firewall, dash, both floorpans, center console hump, both rear wheelhouses, all five pieces of my trunk floor, both quarter panels, the taillight panel, the rear deck filler, the trunk gutter, both door skins, the rear window channel, and a large portion of my hood," he said.
Was there anything not rusted on the Firebird? "Not really," Baril told HPP. "I also bought new fenders and fenderwells for the front, a donor car for its subframe and all of the other minor things that were needed. The only body panel that is original is the roof." Replacing the rust with new metal was a one-year sub-project, and the weekend welder did the work entirely in his own home garage.
For finishing bodywork and paint, Baril delivered his Firebird to Huegenics of Trenton, Florida, where Chris Dobbs sandblasted the subframe and the body, smoothed the panels and prepared the automobile for paint. Dobbs told HPP, "After we had a completely bare body shell, we coated the sheetmetal with PPG DP90 epoxy sealer, and then we did all of the necessary bodywork. We recoated the body with DP90 again to float the body filler in what we call a body filler sandwich. Then we blocksanded and reapplied K36 three times until the body was completely straight. Next, we wet-sanded with 600 grit to prepare for paint. We resealed the body again with DP90 and then applied three base coats of Adriatic Blue and three coats of PPG 2021 Concept Clear. Color sanding beginning with 1,000 grit working our way up to 1,500 grit. All together, we put 500 hours into body and paint. It looks awesome and has to be the best looking '68 Firebird I've ever seen."
The Drivetrain
Though it entered life with a 250 OHC-6, by the time Baril bought the Bird it was already fitted with a desirable, yet tired, 428 engine. Via boring the block to 4.180 and installing a 4.210 stroke 455 crank, the 428 grew to a 462 engine. Baril performed the engine build and the installation in his home garage with the help of friend Mark Robertson of Gainesville, Florida, who worked on Top Fuel dragsters for many years. The rotating assembly uses a stock 455 crank connected to stock cast rods that pump CP forged dished pistons. A TRW pump draws oil from a Milodon pan to lubricate the internals and the factory windage tray saves a few ponies.
Edelbrock 72 cc aluminum heads were ported and blueprinted by Butler Performance of Leoma, Tennessee. CompCam's hydraulic flat tappet cam delivers 224/230-degrees duration at 0.050 and 0.524/0.528-inch lift with a 106-degree LSA. The pushrod holes were elongated for use with CompCam Energizer 1.65:1 ratio aluminum roller rocker arms, which compress CompCams 987 springs to open Ferrea SS 2.11/1.77 valves. Compression checks in at 9.8:1
A Carter electric fuel pump with built-in regulator feeds a Holley 770cfm Street Avenger carburetor with vacuum secondaries and an electric choke, which sits on top of a polished Edelbrock Performer RPM intake. To increase spark discharge, Baril installed an MSD 6AL ignition box and an MSD Blaster 2 coil. Spark travels from the MSD distributor through MSD wires and to NGK Iridium plugs. Exhaust exits through 1.875-inch Doug's Headers with 3-1/2-inch collectors and a stainless steel ceramic-coated exhaust with 3-inch H-pipe, Flowmaster mufflers, 2.5-inch tails and 3-inch Magnaflow angle-cut double wall T304 stainless steel tips.
The 462 outputs power to a TCI Saturday Night Special 2,000 rpm stall converter connected to a Turbo 400. A B&M trans cooler provides extra protection and shifts are handled by a B&M Quicksilver unit. The stock driveshaft connects to a GM 12-bolt with Moser axles and an Auburn Pro Series carrier housing a Richmond 3.42:1 gear set.
The Suspension
The Firebird's front subframe uses Global West upper and factory lower tubular control arms with Del-A-Lum bushings to provide weight reduction, improved geometry and less deflection at the attaching points. QA1 coilover shocks with a firm 550 pound spring rate offer up increased adjustability for shock settings and ride height, and Superior Spindles 2-inch drop spindles ensure the suspension geometry isn't adversely affected by lowering the vehicle. A Hotchkis 1.125-inch front sway bar helps flatten out the curves. A 12.7:1 power steering box parted from a '90 T/A quickens turns-to-lock and increases road feel for comfortable back-road bashing.
With all that newer technology up front, the rear suspension had to keep pace. To that end, upgrades include Global West leaf springs with a 150 pound spring rate and Edelbrock IAS shocks. Chassis Works subframe connectors and Global West aluminum subframe bushings tie it all together and stiffen the chassis.
What good is all the go power and handling upgrades if the car is saddled with stock 9.5-inch drums? To ensure stopability commensurate with go power, Pro-touring brakes from Wilwood featuring 13-inch rotors and four-piston calipers were bolted in at all four corners.
The finishing touch came where the rubber meets the road with Budnik Fontana 17x8 and 17x9.5 wheels wrapped in Kumho Ecsta MX 245/45ZR17 and 275/40ZR17 exotic rubber. With 4.75-inch backspacing in front, and 5.25-inch backspacing in the rear, these rims bolt right on and do not rub.
Interior Design
The flawless paint and bodywork on this Firebird is complemented by its breathtaking custom interior. Fiero front seats and stock rear seats were re-covered in aircraft-quality cream-colored leather installed by Levin Horton of Aerotech in Daytona Beach, Florida. The seats are accented with aircraft seatbelts, built by Aircraft Belts of Kemah, Texas. Aerotech also designed the custom door panels, the remainder of the interior and the trunk area.
Horton told HPP, "Mr. Baril brought us a Firebird with basically nothing in it. There were no seats, panels, or dash. We had to fabricate all of the panels and supply the foam for the sculpting of the custom design in the panels. We color-dyed the interior pieces to match the leather covered front seats and we installed all of the billet handles, the Bird emblems, the gauges, and the shifter console. Even the headliner was dyed to match the leather. We have 180 hours into the interior work. When it was done, we were impressed. He had a vision of what he wanted and it turned out very nicely."
Like most Pro-Touring conversions, the sound system is also incredible. The design of it is competition-quality and was conceived entirely by Baril. It features a Pioneer Premier head unit with Orion 6.5-inch speakers housed in hand-built custom fiberglass enclosures up front and in the rear. The trunk holds two 12-inch subwoofers and three Orion amps, all hidden underneath a Baril-designed false bottom floor.
The Results
Doug Baril is proud that, "I built it primarily by myself," as his Firebird has won numerous awards in different categories in Gainesville-area car shows. In fact, every time it has entered a show, it has come away with an award. Because he is a real estate agent and works on the weekends, Baril hasn't been able to get his Firebird to national shows. He is confident that his Pontiac can be a national contender in the highly-modified classes.
Baril's courtship with his near-death Firebird has never stopped. "I'm totally in love with the car. I love the body style, the paint, the interior design, the engine combo, the way it handles and the looks I get when I drive it. The attention I get over the car is almost uncomfortable. It has really taken a lot to get used to that. Even though I don't want to be the center of attention, I sure am with this Firebird." A five-and-a-half-year odyssey for Baril and his Bird has indeed resulted in a Pontiac that represents his best efforts and is "better than it was before. Better, stronger, faster."

Photo Gallery: 1968 Pontiac Firebird - High Performance Pontiac

Read More | Digg It | Add to del.icio.us