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Project Phoenix: Tom learns a lesson edition

Jeff Glucker April 10, 2012 All Things Hoon, Project Cars 49 Comments

Project Phoenix, for those of you not in the know, is the ongoing story of my friend Tom and his 1969 Pontiac Firebird. The car was purchased for a solid price, considering it’s in good shape for a daily driven car approaching its 44th birthday. Tom and I have replaced the carpet, he’s had the engine tuned up, and a few bits and pieces have been swapped out for newer units. Paint work is to come down the line, but Tom and I both agreed that a nice set of black wheels would look good against the current scheme slathered on the sheet metal.

Tom sent me a text to inform me that the Firebird would be rolling on “new” wheels very soon thanks to a sweetheart Craigslist find. I was in New York for the auto show when I got the text, but I was excited to see what the wheels look like in person. Once I was home, Tom called me up to say he was on his way… and then he sent me a text to tell me he was outside, which is where I found him with the hood up and a troubled look on his face.

While driving to my place, Tom heard a buzz then saw a grey puff of smoke emanate from underneath the dashboard. The wires behind the aftermarket temp gauges had fried. Popping the hood, he was treated to a more worrying site. The battery, which was not secured with a tie down, had slide towards the fender. In the process, the positive cable was ripped from the terminal, and said terminal was resting against the metal skin of the car.

I grabbed my rubber mallet, and handed it to Tom… and backed up. After a few snaps, pops, and a jump from Tom, the battery was away from the metal, and the positive cable was pulled back away from the battery.

I did get to see the new wheels, but I was hoping to slide into the driver’s seat and go for a spin. Oh well, Tom’s not done with the wheels anyway, as he is planning on swapping out the Camaro center caps for PMD-emblazoned units. On top of that, the wheels will get a silver trim around the outside edge. I’m on the face as to that last bit, bit silver and black tend to work quite well. Regardless, the black wheels look great tucked underneath the white paint.

Now… on to that wiring.

  • mnm4ever

    I vote NO to the silver rings… those black wheels look perfect as is!

    • I agree right now… I have to see it in person though, because silver trim on black wheels CAN look good. However, I do like how it looks right now.

      • Let the record reflect that 10 years ago, I was the first to say: You know what, black wheels look good on everything.

        • I think that record may be held by BlackSteelies.

  • dukeisduke

    Chevy wheels on a Pontiac? Sacrilege!

    Why not just go for a set of Rally IIs?

    And yeah, you always want to have a battery hold-down, since playing Junior Arc Welder is never a good thing.

    • He's ditching the Camaro caps for PMD ones.

      • dukeisduke

        Ah, but they're still Z28 wheels (and yeah, I remember those).

        • RegalRegalia

          I'm sure he's rushing back with his receipt dude.

  • dukeisduke

    This company sells 14×6 Rally II repros, and 15×7 and 15×8 as well:

    Wheel Vintiques also sells some.

    • plecostomus

      so does classic industries and a grip of other restorers like yearone and original parts group.

      Rally II repros are common and easy to find and nowadays can even be had in 17" versions.

      To hell with Rally II's, these Z28 wheels are way better looking- and always have been. Trust me, I spent a lot of time looking at those particular wheels in a previous career and the Z28 wheels really are the sexier choice– notice I didn't use a / in Z28 because those are 70+ wheels.

  • I had a similar battery mishap with my old K-5 Blazer in college. One day I thought it would be fun to hit some speed bumps at full throttle with a few passengers in back. A few day later the Blazer wouldn't start. I open the hood to find the battery had tipped over and welded a hole thought the inner fender. A jump start and a trip to the parts store to recharge the battery and get a battery hold-down and I was back in business.

  • Also, to update this story… Tom came back over and we fixed the terminal, then took the car for a spin.

    • OA5599

      Hopefully he bought or fabricated a battery hold down, too.

      • dukeisduke

        I hate it when previous owners take stuff like that off, and don't put it back on. I just want to slap 'em.

      • Classic Industries happens to be five minutes away, and you can walk in and buy directly from their warehouse. New Battery box and tie down.

        • Classic Industries??? Five minutes away!?!? Jealous!!!

        • dukeisduke

          That's cool. I can remember when you had to scour the junkyards or Hemmings for parts like that, and the occasional NOS hoarders. At one time there was a guy (Kurt Kelsey) in Iowa that bought up old parts inventory from Pontiac dealers, and stored them in a couple of 18-wheel trailers. I had to buy a taillight, Bonneville emblem, and a rear quarter extension and trim piece from him after my '68 Bonneville was rear-ended at a light.

  • I've had that type of thing happen to me before. When I had a '69 Cutlass, the positive cable welded itself to the exhaust manifold, and when I went to start the car, the battery blew up. I mean exploded, BOOM. Never seen anything like it. I was parked in front of a convenience store, next to a cop, and he looked like he was about to spit his coffee all over his dashboard. I popped the hood, and we both looked inside. Sure enough, steaming hot electrolyte all over the engine compartment, and the top of the battery had disappeared. Oh, and the cable welded to the manifold. I was a lot more careful about routing the cable after that.

    • dukeisduke

      A lot of cars routed the cable through a metal tube (with a bracket) when it went near the manifold. One of my Pontiacs had one of those.

  • JayP2112

    Good for Tom that he is using Goodyear tires. I didn't know they still marketed Aquatreds.
    Not that I'm a perv for tires but seeing everything from '32s to vintage muscle wearing tires from Korea makes me cringe a little.

    • those tires are going away… to be replaced with Goodyear Eagles

      edit: haha, i never realized the car was wearing aquatreds.

    • dukeisduke

      Or Chinese. WTH is a "Prime Well" tire, anyway? I've also seen a Unicorn brand (on a Dodge Ram HD dually).

      • From the same maker of Sorny and Panafonic TVs.

      • FuzzyPlushroom

        The Elco in this 'It's 1987' weekend post had white-letter Primewells in some of the photos. I suggested that the idea was comparable to pasting enormous 'DAEWOO' lettering across the windshield of your Nubira.

    • salguod

      My experience with Goodyears have been less than positive.

      I bought a set of Comfortreads for my Odyssey and they wore much faster than the warranty which meant I had to buy one more set before trade than I had planned.

      The Eagle RS-As that came on my Mazda3 were absolute crap. I managed to stretch them to just past 40K I think, but they were bad in the snow to start and white knuckle for the last season. I've now had 2 sets of Dunlop Sport Signatures that are just phenomenal in all seasons.

      My Outlook came with Forterras which are universally hated by Lambda owners. I didn't mind them, but at nearly $300 each for a tire that went 50K miles it was way too pricey. Bought Continental CrossContact LX 20s for under $950 out the door with a 70K warranty.

      • I'm not convinced that a positive experience is possible with Goodyears. But, I'm judging based on my Dakota's OEM Wrangler RS/A's (replaced with Firestone Destination A/T's, twice), my Challenger's OEM Eagle RS/A's (replaced with Yokohama Parada Spec-X's), and the tires that were on the Mark VIII wheels I put on my Thunderbird (Eagle GT-II's, replaced with Firestone FT70C's, then Bridgestone Insignias, and then a series of Firestones on the original 15" wheels.)

    • TurboBrick

      Well… my Eagle GT's are made in Chile, FWIW.

  • Hell, it wouldn't e a Phoenix without some smoke and stuff.

  • RichardKopf

    Am I the only one who thinks they would look better silver?

    Probably :/ Still though, they look good!

  • salguod

    Personally, all black wheels don't do it for me in most cases. Wheel and tire blend together and fade into the recess of the wheelhouse.

    These don't work in all black for me. To much going on in that wheel with the spokes, slots, lug recesses and the groove at the perimeter because of the design. A nice, thin bright metal trim ring will define the wheel and set the black off nicely.

    • OA5599

      Raised white letter or redline tires would help break up the monotony and would be period correct.

      <img src="; width=500>

      • RichardKopf

        True, but those are your bog standard steel wheels. Steel alloys to me just have always looked better silver, whereas the aforementioned steel wheels always look best all black.

        Regardless, it's a really nice Firebird. I hope my comments don't come off as being nit-picky.

        • salguod

          I agree. I almost added in my original comment that plain Jane steelies look pretty good all black but any styled wheel generally doesn't in my view.

          Redlines would be a nice addition to this Firebird. White letters might, but I don't think they'd be period correct. I think white letters were a 70s-80s thing, not a 60s.

          If it were me, I'd get the trim rings and be done.

      • JayP2112

        I've noticed redlines are making a comeback but the redlines are on the wheels…

        <img src="; width="450">

        • I had the displeasure of curbing one of those wheels.

      • buzzboy7

        By god I love black steelies on '60s cars. They just look mean…

  • MadKaw

    Count me in as another that's had a similar experience. The battery in the '64 El Camino that I drove back in high school was held down ghetto-style with a bungee cord. It never welded itself to the sheetmetal, but it would move just enough that the positive terminal would the fender under hard left-hand cornering (assuming I'm correctly remembering which side of the car the battery was on…). Of course, being a dumbass teenager at the time, I left the ghetto-bungee in there for quite a while and would occasionally amuse my friends with my little parlor trick of taking a hard left and watching the sparks shoot out from under the front corner of the hood. Not the smartest decision I ever made, but fortunately it never resulted in any damage!

  • Devin

    Speaking of adventures in batteries: In my dad's grain truck, the battery fell off its battery position once, and I couldn't get it started, in the middle of the night. Luckily I was walking distance from home. The next morning, we found that the battery had somehow hit something that bored a hole in the side of it, which naturally allowed all of that battery goo to get out, because the hole was freaking massive. I don't remember the specific location, possibly had to do with the steering.

  • Although I spent the first 20 years of my life riding around in a '68 Camaro convertible, I always liked the Firebirds better. And that's true for any year, but the late '60s ones are on the lottery list.

    I only put a battery hold down in my Scout (2WD, not an off roader by any means) after the battery got stolen, just to lock it down. I hate being that guy with the chain and padlock drooling out from under the hood and bashing up the grille. (The grille was the only part that wasn't dented, after all.)

  • beefmalone

    I've never been able to get behind this black wheel concept. Looks too much like your hubcaps fell off or what broke guys did with a can of spraypaint when they were too lazy to mask off and respray their scuffed rims properly. Maybe it's fine for a newer car but on an old classic like this it's hard to be some Rally IIs with the '70+ red lugnuts/centercaps or maybe some Cragar Street Stars if you prefer a little more flash.

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