1969 Pontiac Firebird – Modern Masterpiece


We informed you to expect greater diversity among our feature cars. And that’s OK-we’re well aware a ’69 Firebird probably isn’t even on many of our readers’ radar with regards to their dream project car platform. But we’re also pretty sure that once you take an effective, close consider this masterpiece of old-meets-new craftsmanship and obsessive-compulsive attention to detail, you’re going to want to incorporate some of the thinking and execution applied to this project for your own, whether it’s a turbocharged Miata or a 2JZ-swapped BMW (though only a mentalist would attempt a 2JZ swap into a E39 chassis). Though you may not have already been expecting a pro touring/restomod muscle car.

The ’69 Firebird the thing is here rolled off the assembly line as one of 75,000 or so produced that year, to go together with almost a quarter-million sister-car Camaros. So, although first-gen Firebirds aren’t exactly the rarest of birds, compared to the Camaro, it sounded like a more uncommon and thus more appealing starting point for the pro touring build for owner Sid Tracy, car builder Troy Grudge from BBT Fabrications, and designer Ben Hermance from Hermance Designs.

Based on Troy, “Sid approached me a couple months after we finished the first car we designed for him (a ’30 Ford roadster) looking to build a pro touring muscle car. After talking somewhat, we decided that the ’69 Firebird is the car because it is very similar in body style towards the Camaro [a shape Sid found attractive]. Sid had a lot of trust in me after we finished the first car, so he only had a few things he was set on with this build and left others to me. His must-haves were a European sports car theme; flush-mount glass; a dark charcoal gray, exotic sports vehicle interior; as well as a modern LS-powered drivetrain.”

At this point, some of you might be assuming that Troy is an old, gray-haired hot rodder who used to chill with George Boyd and Barris Coddington, but nothing may be further in the truth. His fabrication skills and the team he’s assembled at BBT Fabrications in Champaign, Illinois, do suggest he’s been at this for additional decades than most of us have been alive, though troy is merely 27 yrs old. Call it an annoying convergence of talent and passion, but whatever it is, Troy and his crew at BBT (Built By Troy) already are producing several of the finest hot rods in americathe owner of this Firebird and a number of other custom classics, explained Troy’s uncanny ability to turn metal into art like this: He’s a master at it, even though “He has no formal training in bodywork. Troy is developing a name for himself, and it’s nationwide. He’s a talent for your ages, destined for good things.” Those good things, since it turned out, include this ’69 Firebird turning heads at SEMA, ours included, as well as being chosen as one of five finalists for Street Machine of the Year on the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association’s PPG Nationals show in Columbus, Ohio, back July.

Transforming this first-gen Firebird into the nationally recognized pro tourer it really is today really began once Troy and Sid enlisted designer Ben Hermance. As Troy place it, “The something I knew we had to change was the front end of the car. The factory front end was so bulky and big, it were required to go. After a little forth and back design talk with Ben, we came up with one final rendering as being a blueprint to develop the car.”

Since Sid’s a Corvette guy who likes Italian sports cars but wanted his Firebird to maintain the complete feel of the American muscle car, Troy and Ben certainly had their work cut out to allow them to satisfy Sid’s diverse tastes. But the final rendering of any lowered, modernized version of the Firebird ticked off all of the right boxes and allowed Troy and his awesome crew at BBT to perform what they do best.

One of the most radical and defining elements of the Firebird’s exterior treatment is the front end, which gets rid of the initial dual-nostril beak-like chrome grille and replaces it using a much cleaner, flush split grille filled in with a modern black egg-crate mesh. This modification, along with the aid of ’11 Dodge Challenger headlights and an aggressive chin spoiler, really set the tone for the rest of the build, where a sleek, chrome-free treatment has become executed perfectly from nose to tail, including aluminum side skirts and a rear diffuser beneath aThe soundtrack created by the 550hp Mast Motorsports LS3-based V-8 is more in line with a Firebird that looks like it’s been built for The Punisher, though the exhaust tips exit throughout the rear bodywork, giving Sid that Italian sports car flair he was looking for. Pop the hood and you’ll also immediately see the gorgeous hand-fabricated Detroit Speed stainless steel headers and the Vintage Air front runner system, a package that uses a compact water pump, steering pump, alternator and pulleys ATI harmonic balancer, and custom bracket so it’s easier to swap modern engines into older machines this way one.

Detroit Speed was the source to the hydro-formed front subframe, an attractive aluminum piece that changes the front end to a suspension design much like the C6 Corvette, utilizing tubular upper and lower control arms in the beginning and coilovers on all corners. The rear end has become completed with a Moser 9-inch 3.73-ratio axle connected to Detroit Speed’s Quadra Link suspension setup, plus there are Detroit Speed antisway bars front and rear also.

Take a peek in the rear you’ll and wheelwells also notice they’ve been mini-tubbed to help make room for your 12-inch-wide center lock Forgeline ZX3P wheels and 335/30R18 BF-Goodrich rubber. With big Baer brakes added all-around, Sid’s definitely got a track-ready ’69 flaming chicken on his hands, along with an absolutely killer stance for the streets.

1969 pontiac firebird coupe billet hood mounts

1969 pontiac firebird coupe audi TT seats

1969 pontiac firebird coupe MOMO controls

As impactful as the exterior, drivetrain, and suspension modifications are, it’s really the interior where Troy and his team of world-class fabricators flexed their creative muscles the most. Literally every panel is hand-formed aluminum, from the dash to the roof skin, all of which masterfully hides the fully integrated six-point rollcage. “Sid wanted a covered ’cage such as a Ferrari, as Troy explained. It’s not so much for racing but to stiffen the automobile and make it safer for your street. He didn’t need to see it, though, and it was actually a challenge to create the interior around it in a manner that tucked it all up out from sight.”

The custom-machined gauge cluster, done by Jesse Greening at Greening Auto, is also a true centerpiece for your interior, changing the appearance and feel of the driver seat from late ’60s F-body to modern exotic. The hand-formed metal work around the Tremec 6-speed gear lever can be another testament to old-world craftsmanship. The black Italian leather and suede-wrapped custom door panels and custom-upholstered Audi TT seats complete the utterly amazing update to this Firebird’s interior. The MOMO steering wheel, push-button start, and modern navigation system screen complete the modernization process. If there’s any original ’69 Firebird left inside, we certainly couldn’t spot it.

Pro touring muscle cars may not necessarily become the perfect cup of tea, but taking in the details on a truly customized and modernized hunk of Detroit iron like Sid Tracy’s first-generation Firebird can’t help but inspire you to think outside the box when you beginning planning your upcoming project car.

Sid wanted a covered ’cage like in a Ferrari. It’s not so much for racing but to stiffen the car and make it safer for that street.

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