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1967 Pontiac Firebird - Dumb Luck

Photography by Wesley Allison

The story behind this Firebird is a variation on a classic tale. An old man buys a cool musclecar back in the day and drives it into the ground with no regard for its collectibility or potential as a street machine. It serves time as a family taxicab and then gets parked, only to suffer the ravages of time and weather. A local hot rodder stumbles upon it, covets it, but is rebuffed in his efforts to acquire it. Years pass, and the hot rodder goes about life and forgets the car. Then, through chance, fate, or just dumb luck, he becomes reacquainted with the car, still in the hands of the same old man. The spark of passion is rekindled, but his renewed efforts to own the car are again rebuffed. Then a miracle happens. The old man, finally coming to grips with the fact that neither he nor any of his kin will ever resurrect the car to its former glory, has a change of heart. That's where Frank White comes in.

This story began in 1967, when Frank's former neighbor purchased two virtually identical '67 Firebird 400s. One was white and the other was yellow, but both were equipped with 400ci Pontiac engines and four-speed manual transmissions. For years, both cars served as daily transportation for the man and his family, including the ignominious task of hauling a progression of college-bound U-Haul trailers up and down the state of California. Somewhere along the line the white Firebird was totaled, and the yellow one acquired several bad paint jobs before being parked permanently sometime in the late '70s. Frank stumbled across the car in 1987, but he didn't become its owner until about 10 years later after he had moved away. A chance trip back to the old neighborhood revived his interest and eventually led to the original owner agreeing to part with it.

For Frank, who spent a decade away from the street machine world campaigning a series of roundy-round cars on local dirt and asphalt tracks, returning to his roots was a chance to build what he figures will be his last, but best, hot rod. First, the Firebird was stripped of "about an eighth of an inch" of previous paint jobs, and repainted in its rare and original Marigold Yellow, which was a special order-only color back in 1967. The interior was restored to stock, and the car was upgraded with factory-style single-piston front disc brakes, a lowered suspension, and a set of five-spoke 17-inch wheels. Frank had plans to rebuild the original 400ci V-8, but as luck would have it, a friend of a friend had an unruly 455 sitting under a bench collecting dust, and Frank picked up an 11:1 455 with Ram Air IV heads for less than the cost of a basic rebuild.

Problems with the final modification Frank made to his Firebird are ironically what led to it being on the cover of this issue. Fed up with the stock manual steering, Frank ordered a rebuilt power-steering box through the mail, installed it, and brought it down to a nearby shop to have the alignment checked. While it was in the shop, the mechanics discovered that the rebuilt box had a bad valve, so it sat there for a week while a replacement was ordered. Frank says he chose Spence Wheel Alignment in Glendale, California, because it was the only nearby shop with old-school alignment pits that would accommodate his slammed Firebird, and it just so happens that we took our '65 Biscayne project car to the same shop for an alignment while the Firebird was laid up.

Perhaps it was inevitable that this Firebird would wind up in Frank's hands and on the cover of Car Craft. Or maybe it was simply chance, or fate, or just dumb luck.

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