David and Vicki Brown found their relatively rare 1969 Pontiac Firebird convertible in a basement garage in Louisville, Ky., where it had been stored, disassembled, for 17 years. With it completely apart, it was rather simple to check all the numbers on the significant parts lying around, and David found it to be a numbers-matching car. At first, he passed on purchasing the car, as he wanted to “build” a driver for Vicki and didn’t quite realize exactly what he was looking at – or how rare it was.
After further research, and realizing what he had stumbled upon, he decided he’d better get back to the seller the next day and buy it. David and a friend who went with him jacked it up and got underneath to look it over, top to bottom, front to back, and then quickly decided to take it home. It was a wonderfully preserved original car that had not been messed up. What they were looking at was a 100 percent numbers-matching convertible with a 350 V-8 under the hood, one of only 2,300 convertibles made that year with a 350 engine. But the rarity of the vehicle went further than that, as it was the much rarer 325-horse H.O. version with 10.5:1 compression ratio, four-barrel Rochester carburetor and 380 lb. ft. of torque. Just 112 convertibles were built with this engine, so it quickly became apparent that this car would not be a daily driver.
The cylinder heads on the V-8 were cast with the numbers “48,” signifying it was a true Ram Air III engine, which was standard on all 350 H.O. cars. Other options ordered were an AM/FM radio with rear speakers (not normal on convertibles), Rally II wheels and redline tires, power steering, power front disc brakes, TH400 transmission and 3.55 rear axle ratio. The Verdoro Green convertible Firebird also has a power black top, console, custom black interior, ride and handling package, and hood-mounted tachometer.
In January 2003, David finally began the frame-off restoration process with a couple friends at Carey’s Classics in Harrodsburg, Ky., working evenings and Saturdays. Careful research helped create a pristine and accurate restoration. Every nut and bolt on the car was taken off, cleaned, re-plated or painted back to the original finish, color and texture. Every detail was painstakingly restored to like it was when new, with as many original parts used as possible.
When they first began building cars 12 years ago, the Browns were dead-set against having a car they could not drive. In fact, according to David, “We swore we’d never have a car like that.” But today, they officially have a trailer queen, traveling to many shows each year. You’d think that a restoration of this type would take at least a couple of years, but David wanted to share his prize find as soon as possible with other Pontiac lovers. Just eight months after starting the project, they took it to the Firebird Nationals in Dayton, Ohio, and won First Place. In addition, the car won Best of Show at the 2004 Capitol City Classic Car Show in Frankfort, Ky.; Best of Show at the 2004 Pontiacs in Pigeon Forge show at Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; First Junior at the 2004 AACA National in Metropolis, Ill.; and then garnered 395 out of 400 possible points at the 2004 Pontiac Oakland Club International Convention for the Gold Award.
Most recently, their Firebird won the 2005 AACA Postwar Car Award at the club’s Annual Meeting in Philadelphia in February 2006. The Browns look forward to traveling to many other shows with their Firebird royalty in tow.
West Peterson is editor of Antique Automobile, the official publication of the Antique Automobile Club of America.