Introduced on Ferbruary 23, 1967, General Motors released the Pontiac Firebird alongside the iconic Chevrolet Camaro. Ed Stutler of Menifee, California, has brought a ’67 Firebird back from the dead, restoring it from the ground up.
A member of the Canyon Lake Car Club, Stutler belongs to a group of automobile enthusiasts who each share great passion with classic automobiles. Whether it’s a classic car or truck, the Canyon Lake Car Club doesn’t discourage any of its members with their diverse array of cars and trucks.
A classic car enthusiast with nothing but time on his hands, Stutler set out to tackle the challenge of bringing his rusted Firebird back to its former glory. But first, let’s dive into a little history about the first-generation Pontiac Firebird.
The Coke Bottle Curves
The first generation of the Pontiac Firebird had strong Coca-Cola bottle design aesthetics. Coke bottle styling involves outward curving fenders with a narrow center, a popular style during the 60s muscle car era.
Heavily inspired by the Pontiac GTO, the Firebird’s bumpers were integrated into the design of the front end as well as its rear slit taillights. Labeled as the F Platform or F-body by GM, this specific body styling was a direct response to compete against the Ford Mustang.
Essentially cousins, both of General Motors’ first generation Pontiac Firebird and Chevrolet Camaro share similar characteristics in design and engine specifications. Although both cars had their own branded engines installed, they were the same in that both either had an inline-six cylinder engine or a V8 engine between 5.3 liters and 6.6 liters respectively.
However, it was the overhead cam six cylinder engine that made the ’67 base Firebird a more complex vehicle compared to the Camaro. Considered ahead of its time during its production, Pontiac’s OHC 230 cubic-inch 3.8 liter inline-six engine had a power output of 165 horsepower.
Moreover, a high-performance version was created in 1967, which produced 215 horsepower. With five different engine choices to shove under the hood of the first-generation Pontiac Firebird, it was clear Pontiac wanted to give consumers a bevy of options to choose from.
Pontiac V8 engines were constructed with an overhead valve design, and were known for strong low-end torque and quick throttle response. Although the Pontiac Firebird went on to be successful, the first generation Firebird was not as respected in the automotive market as the Ford Mustang.
What was originally a consolation prize for Pontiac, the company only strove to manufacture a two-seat sports car of its own design, based off of the original Pontiac Banshee concept car. However, despite their aspirations to be unique, General Motors feared the first-generation Firebird would create a rivalry, thus competing against Chevrolet’s Corvette.
Designed by none other than General Motors engineer John DeLorean, his vision was to build an automobile that could compete against the Ford Mustang. Not to mention, he is also responsible for the design of the Pontiac GTO, Pontiac Grand Prix, Chevrolet Vega, and the DeLorean DMC-12 sports car featured in the Hollywood film Back to the Future.
The Pontiac Banshee concept car first surfaced in 1964, with its sole purpose to establish interior and exterior design cues that would later be modified or revised for future production versions of Pontiac and Chevrolet sports cars at that point in time. Not to mention, the Pontiac Banshee influenced not only the Firebird but also the third-generation 1968 Chevrolet Corvette and first-generation 1967 Camaro.
One styling cue that spawned from the Banshee concept was the slit tail light design, which are quite similar to the ones found on the first-generation Pontiac Firebird. Although the Banshee never went into production, it was the building block for what was to become the Pontiac Firebird.
A Rough Beginning
Purchasing the car in July 2011, Stutler’s ’67 Firebird experienced a troublesome and problematic beginning. Only owning the car for three and a half years, he said the car was a challenge from the start.
Hauled to his home not running, with bungee cords holding the Firebird’s hood down, Stutler was determined to bring the aging automobile back to glory.
“There was no engine, transmission, or driveshaft when I bought it,” said Stutler. However, he had a big-block engine sitting in his garage that desperately needed a new home, so the plans were already set in place for the engine transplant.
It was declared a total loss and abandoned for about 23 years.
“The car had been in a flood and completely submerged in muddy creek water,” said Stutler. “The only saving grace was the body panels, which were in good condition with no major dents or tears.”
Exposed to the elements outside for so long, the Firebird was in despair until Stutler got his hands on it. What was only a rolling chassis and inoperable, Stutler envisioned the car’s true potential despite its ugly state.
Thinking ahead, he said the Firebird needed to be completely dismantled and reassembled due to its condition. Not to mention, he said the car required a fresh coat of paint and a brand new interior.
“The wiring, upholstery, and the rest of the interior was completely destroyed,” Stutler said. “Surface rust covered the metal of the interior.”
However despite all the setbacks, it didn’t stop Stutler as the overall challenge was his motivation to restore the decayed, beat up Firebird. Armed with all the tools and resources to succeed, Stutler remained determined to eliminate the rust that invaded the tattered Firebird.
Back To Glory
Realizing there was quite a bit to do on the aging and neglected Firebird, Stutler was prepared for the long road ahead. Choosing to do a majority of the work himself, he said he did 95 percent of the painting, engine work, interior restoration and glass removal and installation.
Stutler decided to paint his Firebird Firemist Green, an early General Motors coded paint. Also, he said no body modifications were performed as he wanted to preserve the original look of the Firebird.
As for under the hood, Stutler installed a 454ci Chevrolet big-block V8 engine that was bored out to 468 cubic inches. With such an enormous engine, Stutler aimed for two things: pure power and speed.
A Turbo Hydra-matic 700R4 four-speed automatic transmission puts power to the pavement. Moreover, an MSD Atomic EFI and MSD Ignition system are installed, giving the Firebird great performance and reliability.
The Firebird rolls on 15-inch American Racing mag wheels wrapped with 225/60R15 tires. For stopping power, the Firebird has a Classic Performance Products drilled and slotted front disc brake kit.
Stutler decided to keep the suspension parts stock, leaving the ride height unchanged. In regards to the driveline, Stutler had Inland Driveline of Corona, California, handle all the drivetrain work.
Moving on to the interior of Stutler’s Firebird, the car has a Classic Industries carbon fiber dash with a Dolphin Gauges instrument cluster. With the Firebird rebuilt inside and out, Stutler could only step back and reflect on what was accomplished.
All Said And Done
Stutler said the Firebird has been in its current state for four months. His Firebird finally became drivable and ready for the streets in September 2014.
He shows it off monthly, often at local car shows in Southern California. Other than that, Stutler said the Firebird basically stays put in his garage.
When asked what he likes most about his Firebird, he said the drivability and thrills stand above all. Owning this Firebird for nearly 3 1/2 years now, Stutler is proud of what he has accomplished with the project overall.
It’s a fun ride but it has really bad gas mileage.
– Ed Stutler.
Not sticking to any specific car manufacturer, Stutler also has several other cars: a 1949 Chevy Styleline two-door sedan and a 1950 Willys Jeepster. Garnering local awards, Stutler’s ’67 Firebird was a challenge met with great results. With an open mind to all car makes, Stutler is a car enthusiast who isn’t fascinated and defensive of only just one specific automobile manufacturer. Stutler’s hard work and tireless hours spent on the Firebird have paid dividends.
“As for what’s next, I’ll see what the future brings,” said Stutler. For a car that’s been to hell and back, Stutler’s Firebird doesn’t fail to disappoint. A product of blood, sweat, and tears, Stutler’s Firebird sits quietly at his home with clean, mean aggression.