March 03, 2024
Wheels

Classic Wheels Spotlight: 1968 Pontiac Firebird

Cruising Wisconsin lake yields dream ‘68 Firebird

Photos by Rudy Host, Jr. - 1968 Pontiac Firebird Side

Ever since Paul Gundberg was a kid, he wanted a 1968 Firebird. Part of that passion stems from his visits with his Dad in the eighties to Duke’s Drive-In, the iconic classic car hangout in Burbank, where visits always included hot dogs, ice cream, and a lot of amazing cars.

Paul recalls one particular night when he and his Dad were heading home from Duke’s and they raced his Dad’s Oldsmobile against a 1968 Pontiac Firebird. When the Firebird emerged as the victor, Paul decided the Pontiac was the car to have.

The Rescue

Years later, after Paul had served in the Marines, he and his wife were out on a friend’s boat in Wisconsin when he spotted his dream car partially hidden in the weeds along the shore. On his way home, Paul drove to the house where the car was located. And pulled over.

Paul says his wife asked him what he was doing, and he explained he was going to look at the Firebird they’d see from the boat. He went to the door to talk with the owner, who told him that he would only sell him the car IF he could dig it out.

Photos by Rudy Host, Jr. - 1968 Pontiac Firebird Rear

The Firebird had been sitting by the water for many years, with weeds and some small trees growing up all around it. Not to be denied, Paul went directly to Home Depot and the nearest auto parts store, where he bought a chain saw, some chains, and some replacement parts. With some serious excavating, Paul was able to free the car from the overgrowth and get it started. He filled the tires with many cans of Fix-a-Flat and drove it home.

When he got the car home, Paul pulled it into his single-car garage. Having a family with a couple of small children, he didn’t have a lot of money to make many repairs. So, he began to take the car apart, to see how much TLC it needed. Later, Paul and his wife bought a larger home with a bigger garage, and he began to set aside money to put towards his project.

Some TLC

Most of the sheet metal on Paul’s ‘68 Firebird has been replaced, the drivetrain has been rebuilt, and the interior has been redone. The front seats are new from Procar Interiors, the back seat frames were sandblasted, powder coated, and recovered with Procar seat covers.

A Firebird has been embroidered into the middle of the back seat. There is a new tilt-wheel steering column, a Phantom II 6-gauge dash package, and a retro-looking audio system.

The 400-cubic-inch engine has been upgraded with aluminum heads, forged pistons, a hydraulic cam with full roller rocker set up, and a 670 CFM Holley 4-bbl. carburetor on an Edelbrock intake manifold. Between the engine and the Tremec 6-speed transmission, there is a dual-disc hydraulic clutch system with a steel “scatter shield” bell housing. The rear end features a 4.11:1 posi unit. The exhaust runs through Hooker Headers, a 2 1/2 inch crossover pipe, and Flowmaster mufflers.

Photos by Rudy Host, Jr. - 1968 Pontiac Firebird Engine

The suspension has been updated with tubular control arms, QA1 front and rear shocks, and a lowering kit to drop the car 1 1/2 inches. The brakes are now 4-wheel-disc, and an 8-inch brake booster from a 1964 Chevy Nova allows for taller valve covers. Paul’s Firebird sits on a set of Nitto tires with custom Center Line wheels.

According to Paul, it took him 10 years from start to finish to complete his dream Firebird. He did most of the work himself, except for the painting, which is a bold House of Colors “Orange Sunset Pearl” with silver flames. The flames were painted by Mark James. If you want to see some of his work, check him out on Instagram@AIREFXKUSTOMS.

Paul says the best thing about his car is “everything, and that I get to drive it now!”

Because he has another project underway, a 1973 Corvette (last year with chrome bumpers), Paul doesn’t take his Firebird to as many car shows as he used to. Maybe we will get to see his Vette when he’s finished working on it?

Paul, thank you for your service to this Great Country!

If you have a car you would like to see featured in Classic Wheels, contact Rudy Host, Jr. at Classic.Wheels.Rudy@gmail.com.