1971 Firebird Project

In 1982, I found this 1971 Firebird in the Trading Post for sale.  It was advertised as having a 400 cid engine (which turned out to really be a 389) and a turbo 400 automatic.  I went to look at it.  It was red and had hand-painted bird and stripes on it... so we nicknamed it the “Fireduck” because the bird on the hood looked like a duck.  We called up some friends to borrow a truck and a car trailer.  I drove my ‘78 Trans Am over to another friend's house and parked it on the carport.  We jacked up the rear axles of my Trans Am and my friend's 1973 Formula Firebird and removed the rear wheels so we would have four wheels to put on the ‘71 Firebird to get it on the trailer.  When we finally arrived to pick up the Firebird, it was pouring down rain and flash flooding.  We had to jack up the ‘71 Firebird to put the wheels on it since it was sitting on concrete blocks.  The water level was at the middle of the doors and the tires were floating away as we tried to install them!!  Once we got the wheels on the ‘71 Firebird, it started floating when they were pulling me out of the seller's backyard!  We finally got it on the car trailer and hauled it to my friend's house.  

Here's the Fireduck at my friend's house, next to their barn, sitting on blocks, so we could put the tires back on our cars. Here's a rear shot of the Fireduck.  It actually had a fairly rust-free body and was an excellent candidate for a Formula Firebird clone.
I pulled the engine out.....it was completely sludged up!!  I took it to a local machine shop to have the machine work done and order the engine parts.  That's when I found out it was a 389 and not a 400.  It wasn't a big disappointment... especially since the block was coded for taxi and police service so it had some very nice internals!!  This was my first engine rebuild and it was great fun!!   Once I reassembled the engine and reinstalled it into the Firebird, I fed gas to it through a hose hooked to a dish washing detergent bottle filled with gas!  It fired up and ran!!  Boy did it sound good!  We checked the Turbo 400 transmission and it worked just fine.  Now the the Fireduck was up and running, it was time to start on the interior and bodywork. 
I bought the rear spoiler, the Formula hood, Formula steering wheel, black dash pad, Trans Am gauges and wiring harness, Ralley II wheels, and a very nice Carmine red standard interior at a local salvage yard.  I stripped as many '70-'81 Trans Ams and Firebirds in this yard as I could afford!! 

I also stripped a lot of parts off of a 16,000 mile 1980 Trans Am that had been run up under a truck......it was owned by another friend.

This project was going very well until I had a bad idea... to build a drag car.

 I ALMOST had a complete running 1971 Formula clone, but was having a hard time finishing it and going to college too.  I tore it back apart with help from my friend who owned the 1980 Trans Am parts car.  He agreed to work on the car in his shop while I was away in college.  I worked on it during weekends and breaks.  We hauled the Firebird to my friend's shop where it was supposed to be transformed into an awesome street/strip car.  I bought better engine parts (bigger cam, new aluminum intake manifold, headers, mild head work, new valves, valve springs, forged pistons, etc.), better transmission parts (oil cooler, semi-manual valve body, stall converter, etc.), a Competition Engineering roll cage, 12 bolt Chevy positraction rear end, complete nitrous oxide system, electric fuel pumps, battery relocation to the trunk, Russell braided stainless lines for EVERYTHING, etc., etc., etc.  To make a long and painful story short, the car was disassembled and then never put it back together.  He left my engine sitting outside with the intake manifold off, it rained in the block, then FROZE, and the block was then busted!!  Some of my parts started disappearing too.  So we finally had to go to the shop and load up my ‘71 Firebird in pieces and haul it home.  I then put what parts I could on my 1978 Gold Special Edition Trans Am, sold what parts I could, and hauled the rest to the junkyard!!  Yes, the body shell ended up in the junkyard... sad to say, but you can make some bad decisions when you're 19 years old.  To make this story even worse, my 71 Firebird was hauled to the junkyard as my other friend was hauling the hull of his 1973 Formula Firebird to the junkyard too!!  So that's TWO decent 1970-73 Firebird hulls that were CRUSHED!!  I have the Muncie "Rock Crusher" 4-speed and factory shifter from the 1973 Formula Firebird in my basement today.