Saturday, January 4, 2014

Readers Ride: 1971 Pontiac Firebird project

Craigslist Firebird flies again. Chris George, a Marine stationed in North Carolina, was determined to build his latest online find, a 1971 Pontiac Firebird, into a beast. Visions of a full restoration were quickly put to rest as George decided a budget build was the best way to avoid frame-off frustration. A fresh engine build and a $75 paint job put this bad ’Bird back on the road.

A fresh engine and primer turn this 1971 Firebird into a respectable cruiser.

First car fun
  “My first car was a red 1984 Pontiac Trans Am,” said George. Now, 25 years old, George remembers the fun he had cruising the hills of New Hampshire in his first car without a license. New Hampshire authorities may not look back so fondly on all of the details.
  "I bought it when I was 15 years old and it ran like a champ," said George. “I put 2,000 miles on it before I had a driver’s license.” The T/A’s still potent 305-V8 engine helped George forge a strong bond with Firebirds.

Road trip reward
  Prepared to buy, George took cash and a friend along on the 6-hour drive to look at the lime green 1971 Firebird. “The car gave me goosebumps when I saw it online,” said George. “I had to have it.”
  The owner was a country boy with a yard full of old, classic, junk cars and parts. “Engines, transmissions, halved cars and wrecks. It was like Disney Land for gear heads.”
  A deal was made on the green project Firebird with a seized 400 Pontiac engine.

1971 Pontiac Firebird as it was found on Craigslist ad.

Custom diamond tuck interior dates the ’71 Firebird.

Engine bay of the 1971 Firebird was a ready for revival.

Building on a budget
  George decided to fight the urge to do a frame-off restoration on his non-running, second generation, F-body project. He knew that the sooner, he got the car running, the better. Spending money on a car you can drive will keep you motivated. 
  The glowing green Bird’s big ’n little wheel/tire setup was a clue as to what extinguished his Pontiac’s fire power. During the engine teardown, George found a broken valve parked inside the #7 cylinder. The block had been bored .060 over by a previous owner and had a history of drag racing abuse. 
  “I bought a 400 Pontiac block cast in 1976 and built a new engine,” said George. A Holley double pumper carb and some 350 Pontiac heads cast in 1968 were also added. “The car gets up and wants to go.”
  George sanded the body down to bare metal and removed five pounds of Bondo in the process. Fifteen spray cans of primer/sealer managed to cover the entire body in three light coats.

Future plans: Sell now
  George’s 1971 Pontiac Firebird has found its way back to Craigslist. After buying the Firebird in 2008, in North Carolina, George relocated to Virginia during a job reassignment. The Firebird has been kept in storage, except for rain-free, weekend outings. George is now ready for another automotive challenge. The Firebird is listed on Norfolk, Virginia’s Craigslist site for $9,500. If your interested, send Chris George an email at

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

1976 Pontiac 400 block and 1968 Pontiac 350 heads motivate the ’Bird now.

New seat covers freshen up the cockpit of the 1971 Firebird.

George only drives the 1971 Firebird on weekends.

Driving or parking the ’71 Firebird in the rain is a no-no.

1971 Pontiac Firebird project with a coat of primer
15 cans of primer coat the ’71 Bird.

Rescued ’71 Firebird as it looks now.

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