There are some people that just seem to always gravitate towards racing, no matter where they are in life. Kansas native, Robin Roberts, fits that mold perfectly. Robin got his start racing at a young age, and eventually took a break for his family. he has returned with an immaculate 1968 Firebird. Don’t let this Pontiac’s good looks fool you, this show car has the soul of a racing machine.
Robin’s dreams of racing were first realized growing up and playing with anything mechanical. He was always fascinated by things like engines, and used every opportunity he could to learn more about them. As he grew older, Robin did everything he could to constantly absorb information about performance-oriented mechanical objects.
“Some kids in high school snuck Playboy magazines into class. I was sneaking engine manuals into class to read. I always loved engines. My dad owned service stations, so that played into me trying to build things. I always told my dad when I was a kid I would build the fastest street car in America and prove it. He would always get a laugh out of that, but I was very serious,” Robin says.
To act on his declaration to his father, Robin began working on an old Trans Am as his first, big project car. Over time, he took the car from its humble beginnings and created an amazing machine that showed off the skills he had acquired. That Trans Am would be the vessel that carried Robin further down the path of drag racing, and led him to some of the biggest stages in the sport.
“In the late 1990s and early 2000s, we went and set the record at the Pump Gas Drags with the Trans Am. That car went 8.66 at 166 mph on just pump gas. That was huge back then, when street car racing was just taking off. We street raced that car all over the West coast, and never lost a race over a four-year span,” Robin explains.
Having a great time with your car is what every racer strives for, but there are times when other things have to take priority over what you do at the track. With business obligations mounting and a family that needed his attention, Robin made the difficult task to take a break from racing.
“Things got to a point where I couldn’t build or work on the car on my own anymore. I had four daughters in high school and three in college, and that’s what really forced me to take a break. I took five years off racing, and I told my wife when we had the time and money to get back into racing right, we would do it.
When Robin was ready to get back behind the wheel, he started calling around to try and see if he could find someone to build the exact car he wanted. After talking with several builders, he learned the wait time to get the car done – how he wanted – would be at least a year. With the itch to go racing at an all-time high, that wouldn’t work for Robin. After a conversation with Justin “Big Chief” Shearer from Street Outlaws, he had a new name to speak with about getting a car built.
“I had dinner with Big Chief at PRI, and he suggested I call Terry Murphy. I called Terry the day before Christmas, and he actually answered his phone. I told him I wanted, a 1968 Firebird built on a Pro Mod-style chassis that we could use to prove we have the fastest street car in the world. I went through everything I was looking for with him. He was quiet, and then, when I was done talking, he said, ‘I have one of those, a 1968 Firebird on a Pro Mod chassis that’s exactly what you’re looking for’. Needless to say, I was totally blown away,” Robin explains.
Robin found out the Firebird was actually Murphy’s personal car that he had raced in high school. Murphy had sold the car and the bought it back, racing it in the Kansas City area for close to 15 years. He then sold the car again and purchased it back once again. After he bought the car back for the second time, Murphy and Blake Housley spent two years turning the Firebird into a work of racing art.
“After my wife and I looked at the car, she asked me what I thought. I told her I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to purchase the car, because it was just too nice. She looked at me rather puzzled after I said that. I had to explain to her that if we were at a race and there was a body issue with the car, I would cut off whatever the problem was to keep going rounds. At the time I just thought the car was to nice to do that too,” Robin says.
After talking with his wife more, when they got home, Robin decided the Firebird actually was right for him. He made a deal with Terry, and brought the rolling chassis back to his shop. To make the Firebird a real contender at the track, Robin added a Proline 481x with all the bells and whistles. HPP Racing stepped up to help build a turbo system around the twin Precision turbos using Vibrant Performance parts. HPP also plumed the car and wired up the FuelTech system. The Mark Williams Enterprises rearend receives the Proline power from an M&M Transmission torque converter and transmission.
Robin has put a lot of time into the Firebird to make it his, and he’s ready to hit the track in 2019. “I really love street racing, and the closest thing you can get to that is No-Prep racing, so I enjoy that. We’re going to try and get on the next season of No Prep Kings and win that series. I enjoy the street-style racing, because it takes someone who really knows their car to win.”
Racing has a funny way of taking over your life, and sometimes it can cause you to make questionable life choices. Robin Roberts was able to resist the urge to take his racing to far, and it allowed him to get back behind the wheel of one sexy Pontiac when he was ready. If you see his Firebird at an event, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s a show car, this bird has some serious wings it uses to fly down the track.