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Project Phoenix – Bringing the 1969 Pontiac Firebird back to life

Jeff Glucker November 28, 2011 All Things Hoon, Project Cars 26 Comments

Remember my friend Tom? He’s the guy whose wife gave him the greenlight to add a bit of classic GM goodness to his driveway. The car in question is a 1969 Pontiac Firebird, and it’s in excellent shape considering the bargain price. Still, there is work to be done, and the man is wasting no time.

Keep reading to see how Project Phoenix is coming along.

The Firebird arrived at its new Huntington Beach home in solid shape. The car was sent off to Tom’s mechanic, and given a proper tune-up, before the owner dove into a few of the problems on his own. Out back, the trunk was missing a lock, and so it was quickly given one. The side and rearview mirrors were replaced with units that stay in position, and the radio was swapped out for a working unit that I had sitting in my garage.

Small projects out of the way, Tom decided on tackling a larger item on his to-do list. He called me up ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, and told me to bring my toolbox over along with the food and beer. Our wives had planned the dinner, and Tom arranged for a bit of work before I could eat. We were replacing the Firebird’s carpeting.

The existing carpet wasn’t in terrible shape, but Tom plans on bringing the entire cabin space up a few notches on the condition scale. We removed the seats and center console before ripping out the old lower layers. Tom took the opportunity to respray the floor and seal up any holes that may have been hiding.

Cleaned up, we set about laying down the under-carpet padding, and then the carpet itself. We had to cut it down to size, as it comes out of the box with room for errors. A hole was made for the transmission, and we cut holes for the seat belt and seat bolts as well.

The front carpet went in after much moving, tugging, and trimming. Thankfully, the rear carpeting was even easier after our experience wrestling with the front portion. Time was not on our side, however, and the smell of turkey and stuffing soon started wafting from the kitchen, through the garage, and out into the driveway. Also, our beers were empty…

I’ll be bringing you the completed interior photos later in the week. This project has jump-started my own enthusiasm for a personal project. If you haven’t heard, I am the owner of a 2000 Honda Civic Si… which I got for free. I’ll explain more later today, stay tuned.

  • Tom, I live vicariously through you. Don't let me down.

    • I am on my way over to put the finishing touches on this project with Tom… Seats are going back in today.

    • Same here. I want a project car (I recently sold our third car), but I think we'll buy a house first…

      • OA5599

        Kill two birds with one stone. Buy a project RV.

  • What ever possessed people to cut holes for speakers in the door panels?

    • dukeisduke

      Back when you couldn't get decent factory stereos, people did it. I had holes cut in my newer cars way back when, but never in the old cars ('60s stuff).

    • OA5599

      Back in 1976, this was probably some kid's $800 used car. After he saved a few more checks from bagging groceries, he installed the best stereo Kraco sold, to keep his high school buddies from mocking him for having to listen to Led Zep on the few remaining AM stations that still played rock music. FM stereo AND 8-Track–it doesn't get much better than that.

  • Several years ago, back when I owned my MGB but before I had installed a trailer hitch on it, I decided to replace its carpeting. The previous owner had long ago redone it all in a quite sturdy grey indoor-outdoor material, but I wanted something a bit more correct, in black. In order to do this job properly, the top had to be removed (the whole frame, not just the fabric), along with the seats, center console, various bits of trim, and so forth. I set aside an entire weekend to do it all, working alone.

    After stripping down the car, just as I was trimming the first edge on the first piece of freshly-installed carpet, I slipped with the boxcutter and lifted a flap of flesh off the tip of my left ring finger. It bled profusely (but NOT on the carpet, thank you!). I stopped to assess matters. The finger could have used a stitch or two, but that doubless would have taken at least half a day, meaning I probably wouldn't have gotten the car back together in time to drive to work on Monday; the MGB was my only running car just then. The wound didn't seem to bleed too heavily as long as I kept the flap firmly in place, so I put some gauze over it and held it there with my left thumb.

    I then proceeded to install and trim the rest of the carpeting, reinstall the seats, console, and miscellaneous pieces, then reattach the top, all with effectively a hand and a half. The finger did okay overnight but reopened the next morning, so the second day was more of the same. I finished the last of the job late Sunday evening.

    The interior looked great. I never did get stitches. My finger still shows the scar. Overall I'm calling it a win.

    • wow, where were you when we needed you.

      • The trick is to slice firmly into the pad without completely severing the flap. Sorry I wasn't there to lend a hand.

        • Or, part of a finger…

  • Van Sarockin

    Sounds like a great start to the project. That Firebird sure got lucky.

  • dukeisduke

    Auto Custom Carpets is the brand I've used before. It was an 80/20 blend (just like the original GM stuff) and fit pretty good. You want to stay away from the 100% nylon stuff, because it's not as durable, and it fuzzes like crazy, even after it's been installed for awhile. My '66 Corvair had the 100% nylon when I got it, and it sucked.

    • Interesting….

      Tom grabbed his interior pieces from Classic Industries. The HQ is right in Huntington Beach, and you can literally drive down there and pick it up.

      • dukeisduke

        I would imagine the CI stuff is 80/20. I put an ACC set in my '76 Vega, I ordered a couple of yards of matching bulk carpet from them, which I had an upholstery shop use to re-do the back of the folding rear seat, and with making a new cargo area mat. It was a cut pile carpet, instead of the loop pile used in the Corvair.

  • OA5599

    This isn't Project Phoenix. You are thinking of a different Pontiac.

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  • dukeisduke

    When I got it, my '64 Grand Prix had shag carpeting in it. When I removed that, the original (still good) carpet was still underneath there.

  • Alff

    Vast improvement to the console. Is that new veneer?

    • He re-sprayed the black sides and buffed the existing veneer.

  • Got any plans for a new steering wheel? Driving using that split one must be unpleasant.

    Lovely car though, and I'm envious of the amount of space he has to play with. Nicola and I are currently looking to buy our first place, and on every single house we've seen, if you get a garage at all it'll be barely big enough for the Rover to fit, even if it breathes in.

    • pj134

      That was actually a very expensive option. When coming upon slow traffic in the left lane, you pull the wheel apart which raises the car while the wheels spread out and you simply drive over them.

  • GOD! Those floorboards! They are soooo perfect! Right now, I am systematically hating both California and Michigan!

    Very good start to a wonderful project! Good luck, Tom!

  • pj134

    Does the Redusernab get to pick your project car?

    Don't let anyone with a friction drive help choose!

    • The first item I removed from my parts KV and installed into my concours-quality KV was its carpeting (i.e. a grey chunk of felt). The entire R&R took less than two minutes, including a pause to shake out some of the dirt. Done.

  • themagicboltbox

    Pffft! Let's see you nancy-boy Californians come to Ohio, where a quick carpet job turns into a month-long sheetmetal repair!

    Seriously, I'm jealous of you bastards. Looks much better.

  • Buickboy92

    Is that steering wheel cracked?

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