’68 Pontiac Firebird, A Belgium-Born Beauty
Growing up in an era just before the tech boom got traction, Chris Hall dreamt of mechanical things, owning a ’68 Pontiac Firebird in particular. Why a Firebird? Well, when you grow up surrounded by cool Pontiacs, it’s kind of embedded in your DNA. Should be easy enough to find a late ‘60s Pontiac Firebird you’d think right? Well, Chris isn’t from the states. In fact, he grew up in Enfield, England. Not exactly a hotbed for muscle cars, the Pontiac Firebird in particular.
Being 18 at the time, he wasn’t actively looking for a project car but his friends knew he liked Pontiac Firebirds and while out messing around one day back in 1995 they came across a 1968 Pontiac Firebird roller sitting under a tree. What are the odds? Turns out, it was a perfect fit for Chris’s limited budget. The car had some rust issues due to typical British weather, but Chris was mechanically inclined and knew he would have plenty of help from friends and family to get his dream car running and driving. For a mere 425 pounds (about $600 American dollars back then) the Firebird was his.
As luck would have it, the car had somewhat of a famous following as a drag/street car in England before Chris ever got his hands on it. It was notoriously called “FireBrewed” and had been featured in “Street Machine” magazine (America’s version of Hot Rod) in 1980. Digging into the car’s history, Chris discovered it was actually built by GM in Antwerp, Belgium. Belgium – we had no idea that factory ever existed! According to our research 1968 was the last year General Motors built cars in that particular satellite factory; of which only 1300 combined Buicks, Chevrolets, and Pontiacs were built.
After a move from Enfield to Matching Tye (a real city), Chris began restoring the car at his friend’s farm. Digging in deep, everything was blown apart and the restoration process began. England isn’t very well-known for its abundance of parts for American muscle cars. Aside from getting what he could locally, Chris and his family would travel to the states as often as they could to order parts and eat that great American fatty food. The internet wasn’t yet a haven for mouse-clicking, mail order performance. While stateside, Chris secured all new body panels from Classic Industries in Huntington Beach, California then boxed ‘em and shipped ‘em to Jolly Old England.
Even back in ‘95 right about the time Mark Stielow coined the term “Pro-Touring” Chris had it in his head that he wanted a car that had plenty of power but also one that handled well. Sure, the weather is largely damp and dreary across the pond but they have plenty of tight twisty roads that would have a heavy influence on Chris’s build.
It took Chris seven years to complete the build including the Jaguar gunmetal grey sprayed at a local Mercedes dealership. Now to the meat of the build, which was done with careful attention to detail and plenty of scraped knuckles.
For power the 400c.i. Poncho V8 got Eagle rods, Probe pistons, a Comp Cams solid roller, ported Edelbrock Performer RPM heads and intake topped with Holley 780CFM carburetor prepped by Pro Systems. A Tremec TKO 5-speed gets the power to the 18X12” rear Apex EC-7 wheels shod with Falken Azenis RT-615k’s.
The suspension is 95% RideTech with their level 2 coilover system, Tru Turn steering kit, and single adjustable shocks. Detroit Speed subframe connectors and solid body bushings aid the handling while Ridetech Musclebar sways fore and aft offer rigidity.
Once road worthy, Chris and his wife Mandy were able to hit up a few big car shows in England, terrorizing the country roads on their way. In 2003, the Hall’s relocated to America – land of the muscle car.
The ‘Bird has been on the road ever since, Chris staying plenty active in the car scene. His grey road warrior still has the goods but plans for systematic (meaning as time and money allow) improvements are being thought out so he can enjoy the latest fruits and offerings of the Pro-Touring mega market. In the meantime, Chris and his family will continue to enjoy the sunny streets of the Grand Canyon State.