I’m sitting in the shotgun seat of a Nissan Murano, and I have over $5,000 worth of twenty dollar bills in my hand. No, I didn’t just get off stage at the Golden Banana, I am accompanying a good friend to Los Angeles so he can buy a “new” car. I had to throw the quotes around new, because this particular vehicle was actually born back in 1969, and the brand isn’t even around anymore. The keys to a 1969 Pontiac Firebird are waiting down the road, but first I have to keep counting all these 20s.
My friend’s name is Tom. He’s recently followed the standard life path, and that’s led him to his wife, his house, his dogs and his kid. Luckily, he made the right choices along the path, because his wife just said “OK” to the purchase of the aforementioned Firebird. Tom’s voice was downright giddy when he rang me up; “Dude! Are you available tomorrow? I’m going to buy that Firebird I found on Craigslist!”
I was available, and I was happy to come along for the adventure. When he was a younger lad, fresh out of high school, Tom patrolled the streets of Chicago in his ’69 Chevelle, ’77 Camaro and ’72 Nova. He’s since moved out to California, where his garage is home to a Jeep Cherokee (4.0-liter FTW!) and a Nissan Murano that handles all the daily duties. The time was right to add a bit more displacement and style to his Huntington Beach home.
All the bills successfully counted, we arrived at the seller’s home to find the Firebird patiently waiting for us on the street. Upon first glance, the white hardtop looks subtly aggressive with its low set stance and appropriately styled steel wheels. Some bits of trim are still hanging on, while a few others have given up their life to aid in the greater quest for added lightness. Regardless, the outside looked to be in decent shape. The classic coupe will need a paint job down the road, but as she sits, she’s still a looker.
Inside was a different story, but in a very good way. The black interior had help up remarkably well, and little needs to be done to the passenger space. At first glance, anyway. Later inspection would find a bit of rot in the passenger side floorboard. The trunk and driver’s side, however, are both free of rust.
We still had to get to the most important bit.
Pulling the lever that sits in the most familiar spot, we opened up the hood. Sitting quietly beneath all that sheet metal sat the 350 cubic-inch beating heart of this Firebird. Keys in hand, I slid into the right front seat. The tumblers in the lock happy to be reunited, I twisted and hoped for the best.
Hope gave way to surprise because the Firebird burst immediately to life. The idle was deliciously lumpy, and it’s clear this beast was ready to move on to new owners. I took it for a quick spin around the block, and deemed it up to the task of traveling from Los Angeles back to Huntington Beach. The brakes, steering and engine all felt solid, which mean it was time to fork over the cash, sign some paperwork and head home.
Since Tom brought the car into his life, he’s already sent if off to the mechanic for a more professional look. The Firebird has received a tune-up, and will soon be getting a new exhaust system. After that, Tom plans to replace the crappy aftermarket stereo with a slightly better aftermarket stereo. Further down the road, it will be time to think about new paint.
It started with a desire to capture a bit of missing muscle. From there it progressed with the OK from a loving wife, and it’s now the 1969 Pontiac Firebird sitting in my friend’s driveway. I was glad I got to see this unfold from start to finish. Tom said he “felt 18 again” after that first drive home, and I could see it on his face.
As a true enthusiast journeys through life, he or she will occasionally wander away from the automotive path. It’s always nearby though, and a simple OK can put an extra shot of passion back into your life.