I’m pretty sure we all know that sinking feeling of regret. When you know you’ve done something stupid, that just can’t be undone. Maybe it’s crashing a car, maybe it’s walking in on your parents, or maybe it’s selling your pride and joy. In some situations the feeling kicks in straight away, while in others, it takes much longer to rear its ugly, unwanted head. For Daniel Vincent, it was the latter — the long, slow increasing feeling of regret about selling his dream car.
Sure, he replaced it with other cars, plenty of them in fact, but nothing could ever match the feeling that he got when he was behind the wheel of his ’67 Camaro. Like most custom car owners though, Daniel always likes to be a bit different, and prefers not have a car the same as anyone else’s. So what do you do when you’re in this situation? The more he thought about it, the more the idea of building a Pontiac Firebird grew on him. They rolled off the same production line at the same time as the Camaros and shared the majority of their parts. Despite this, the angular-nosed Pontiacs are few and far between these days, especially compared to the much more common Camaros.
In early 2010, Daniel bit the bullet and made the purchase of a Firebird. He decided on a ’68 model, and it wasn’t until it landed in New Zealand in April of that year that he finally got to see it in the flesh.
Having previously had Jason Skinner at Scatpack Restorations help him out on various cars, he would once again turn to Jason for help with the Pontiac. What started as a simple task to get the car domestically legal soon spiralled into an all-out build that would take another 18 months to complete.
As anyone who’s built a car will tell you, picking a colour is one of the hardest parts of the process, and for Daniel and the Pontiac, it was no different. “Trying to pick a colour was hard — orange, blue or purple. Jason had a Dodge Charger door painted Plum Crazy Purple so I picked that and told him to get the paint before I changed my mind,” says Daniel.
“The next day I was in Hamilton and saw a new VE Commodore in Morpheus (purple) and in the sunlight it looked pink. The original colour of the ’bird was a special order colour in pink, which apparently makes it quite valuable. So Morpheus it was. I had to let Jason know before he bought the Plum Crazy. I think the colour has been the making of the car with a great job achieved by Jason,” he says, and we couldn’t agree more.
While Jason was seeing to the body side of things, Daniel was hatching an evil plan for the motor side of the build, and to help with that he turned to Jim Carlyle at Cambridge Engine Services.
Jim was responsible for freshening up the Camaro-sourced big block, and bumping capacity out from 454 to 468ci. As if an engine that size wasn’t enough on its own, he took things a few steps further by adding a Weiand 6-71 blower to the top of it. With roller rockers, big valves, MSD ignition components, and a pair of 660cfm centre squirter carbs, it’s an impressive package. As it’s never been on a dyno, Daniel’s not sure exactly how much power it’s making, but it’s fair to say it’s probably somewhere between plenty and far too much.
Phil Dove from Automotive Engineering Services in Cambridge performed some magic on the cross member to allow a Turbo 400 trans and high-stall converter to be fitted to the back of the motor. The weak link of the whole package is the stock 10-bolt diff, which at this stage has been left untouched. Despite it holding up to the job so far, with that much power up front, Daniel is well aware that it’s only a matter of time before it implodes into a pile of shrapnel.
With the car on the road and the build nearing completion, Daniel turned his attention to making it nicer to drive. This was achieved by adding both newer, more supportive (and far better looking) seats, and aftermarket discs and calipers to the front end. With a CPP booster fitted, the car now stops just as well as it goes, and Daniel couldn’t be happier with how it is to drive.
Of course, it wasn’t plain sailing, and there were plenty of dramas along the way — such as the rear tyre hooking the guard during a brake test and ripping the side out of a brand-new $500 tyre; or all the dramas involved in getting the twin exhaust system to pass the certification process, which eventually it did when toned down to an impressive 97dB.
With the car now complete though, Daniel is safe in the knowledge that there’s not another Firebird on the road remotely like his. It’s got plenty of power, awesome looks and a high-quality finish. What more could you ask for to help you overcome the regret of selling a car you once loved?
This article is from NZV8 issue 88. Get your copy here.
1968 Pontiac Firebird – Specifications
Engine: 468ci big block Chev, 454 block, roller rockers, big valves, twin 660cfm centre squirters, 6-71 Weiand supercharger, 120gph mechanical fuel pump, -10 fuel lines, MSD ignition, Hooker two-inch headers, three-inch twin exhaust, SRP alloy radiator
Driveline: Turbo 400 transmission, high-stall converter, stock 10-bolt diff
Suspension: Koni shocks, replacement bushes, stock springs
Brakes: Aftermarket discs and calipers, CPP booster, drum rear
Wheels/Tyres: 17×8- and 17×10-inch Boyd Coddington Smoothie II rims, 245/40R17 and 275/40R17 Goodyear Eagle tyres
Exterior: VE Commodore Morpheus Purple
Interior: Aftermarket seats, B&M Hammer shifter, SAAS steering wheel, aftermarket gauges
Daniel Vincent – Driver Profile
Occupation: Self-employed builder
Previously owned cars: Lots, but favourites include a 1978 Sandman panel van, 1967 SS Camaro BB, 1977 LX SS Torana hatch, 1956 Chev Pickup BB
Dream car: First-generation Camaro
Why the Firebird?: I had my dream car and I let it go, then I got a bit older and I realised first-generation Camaros are cool but first-generation Firebirds are better. Camaros are like those things with horses on the front — everyone has one
Build time: Six months (14 months to road legal)
Length of ownership: Two years
Daniel thanks: Most of all Jason and Lisa Skinner from Scatpack Restorations, Cambridge, for letting me come out every five minutes during the build; Alan Jones in California, for finding me a great car; Chuck and Bob from Chucks Restoration, Auckland, for the importing and parts supply; Neil Millar from Modified Vehicle Certification, Hamilton, who gave great advice and help; Erin Cross from Cross Auto Electrical, Cambridge; Phil Dove from Automotive Engineering Services, Cambridge, for engineering; and Jim Carlyle from Cambridge Engine Services, Cambridge, for the engine strip and rebuild, and of course my lovely wife Lisa
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Adam Croy[Gallery not found]