Every once in a while there is a car that makes us stop and smell the roses. There’s always that one hiding out that turns heads and makes us truly appreciate the true art of automotive customization. Even more rare is a vehicle that allows us to appreciate our culture’s heritage all while simultaneously recognizing the technological advances that have made the community evolve into the product that we see today.
That very car exists in the form of Dave Willis’s 1968 Pontiac Firebird. What started out simply as a classic has evolved into something much bigger. The days of old are maintained only through the ‘bird’s original body. Meanwhile, just about everything else in the car has been made bigger, better, and all around more reliable than what was provided by the factory in 1968.
First, let’s take a walk down memory lane. When the Pontiac originally rolled off of the showroom floor at the A.E England Pontiac Dealership in Hollyood, CA, it was owned by a school teacher. We would assume that a teacher would be the ideal tame original owner for somebody looking to pick up a second hand car, especially a muscle car.
The car was then purchased by the second owner from the teacher’s estate years later. The new owner would take one look at the cost of restoration and decide to pass it on yet again to Dave in the early 2000s. Ever since he’s been saving and adding to his project, which, save a few odds and ends, is now complete.
It would all start off with the heart of a lion… an untamed gnaw-your-face-off kind of creature. A 556 horsepower supercharged LSA, most often seen in late model CTS-Vs, complete with warranty, was ordered directly from GM and now resides under the iron clad hood. Dave wanted an engine that had an abundance of power and was built to last; good choice, Dave.
As the car was designed to be driven it’s only right that a Tremec TR-6060 manual transmission was attached to the LSA. Now that the car had all of this new-found power, it was time to update the running gear as well. Modernized independent rear suspension and front tubular construction complete with adjustable coilovers all the way around replace the original suspension in order to make the driving experience resemble that of a roller coaster glued to the rails.
Also giving the bird a breath of modern air are Wilwood disc brakes on all four corners. All of this was deemed necessary due to the nature of Dave’s driving which includes, but isn’t limited to pro-touring events (after rollbar installation of course) and spirited Los Angeles canyon cruises.
With the addition of automatic headlights, seven speed wipers, power windows and door locks, heated and cooled bucket seats, and an iPad mini, we are trying to convince ourselves that this thing is actually from 1968. Looks aside, it is tough to differentiate Dave’s bird from modern day touring vehicles.
Some people claim that they have blood, sweat, and tears into their ride but they are just looking for attention. In contrast, it seems to us as if Dave has legitimately invested every last ounce of himself into this build. Everything you find on the car is unique and he has sculpted a piece of art that is truly his own. Kudos to Dave on a truly bad ride.