1967 Pontiac Firebird convertible – flashback

Only the best will do. That was the credo behind this Firebird convertible jaw-dropper

Photographers: Peter Bateman

TIM Horewood, who owns this bitchin’ ’67 Firebird convertible, recalled a recent outing with the kids. “As we pulled up at the lights, the car was getting lots of attention. The kids of course were very proud,” he said. A smile-inducing outing, quality time with the family and public acknowledgement of a cool ride, it doesn’t get much better than that.

This article was first published in the July 2012 issue of Street Machine

The basic outline for the trick exhaust outlets was cut from 10mm stainless-steel plate then welded to form baffles that blend back into the 2.5-inch pipe. The outer lip was then linished to the final, smooth, rounded shape

This heart-warming tale started 10 years ago with a mint, drop-top variant of Pontiac’s definitive pony car that he sent to an undisclosed shop to be transformed into this vision. After several non-productive years there, Tim dragged what ended up being a sad-looking carcass to shop number two, Southern Rod and Custom (SRC) in Deniliquin, NSW.

“It was a basket case,” said SRC’s Shane Rowe. “They’d butchered virtually all of it beyond repair.”

It would have been easier to lob it in the bin and start fresh, but Tim couldn’t part with his baby, so SRC set about resurrecting the body and chassis.

In short every exterior panel, the entire floor plus the firewall, boot, sills and beaver panels were replaced with fresh metal. Subtle mods include pumping the rear quarters and lipping the guards to clear the tyres, along with front driving lights, aero-style filler cap in the rear as well as a custom rear valance panel housing trick, hand-fabricated exhaust outlets.

Tim has had a very successful business career (he’s now semi-retired), so his standards are pretty high and he insisted the Firebird be well finished, visually striking and plenty fast.

What looks like one huge amp on the floor is actually two mono-block amplifiers (powering the two 12-inch Alpines), custom built into one heat sink

Satisfying the fast bit is a 6.2-litre LS3 topped by a TVS2300 Magnacharger. The combo makes an honest 500-plus horsepower and goes hard. Custom 17/8 headers dump into a fully HPC-coated 2.5-inch exhaust, which exits through the aforementioned custom rear outlets.

The rest of the engine bay is an exercise in restraint – neat, tidy, functional but impeccably finished. Highlights include smooth firewall, billet accessory drive system, Detroit Speed billet bonnet hinges and hidden coil packs mounted on the backs of the inner guards. And of course there’s the sanitary sheet metalwork (complete with Ringbrothers bonnet pins) that snaps the gap between the fabricated radiator support panel and the grill.

The sanitary panel work in front of the blown LS3 nicely sets off the engine bay. Cap on the right side of the PWR radiator is for the power steering reservoir, where you can also see the overflow bottle

Bolted to the back of the alloy Chev is a 4L65E four-speed auto, which works a treat. Controlling both the auto and LS3 are VE-Commodore-based factory computers that were reprogrammed and recalibrated by Castle Auto Electrics.

Tim is far from gun shy, with plans to rack up plenty of miles, so the drop top had to drive beautifully, handle brilliantly yet sit in the weeds, which required a completely re-engineered suspension and chassis.

Dash, console and door trims were shaped in aluminium sheet, before being swathed in sumptuous Italian leather

Up front is a SRC-built, twin A-arm front-end based around C5 Corvette forged alloy upper and lower control arms and uprights, directed by an ultra-responsive power rack ’n’ pinion steering. To clear the new cross member and steering rack, the LS3 is outfitted with a Corvette rear sump.

Under the bum is a V8 Supercar-style parallel four-bar set-up complete with Watts linkage, while QA-1 aluminium coil-overs support each corner.

As incredible as it seems, the Firebird actually started out as a pretty mint car – much of the work was to fix the damage from a previous build attempt

“There are plenty of suspension systems out there for the F-body,” said Shane, “but none of them are designed to let the car sit low, so we made our own.”

Hanging off that trick rear suspension is a nine-inch packed with 31-spline Moser axles and a Strange Tru-Trac mechanical LSD – all big dollar gear.

“Tim didn’t skimp on any part of this car,” said Shane. “He sees it as a bit of an investment.”

In keeping with premium specifications, there’s a full Wilwood brake system including Wilwood master cylinder with 355mm rotors all ’round clamped by six-spots up front and four-spots out back complete with integral handbrake assembly. Sweet!

To accommodate the requisite low ride height and provide adequate ground clearance, everything had to be lifted up. This included a larger trans tunnel to clear the portly auto, along with a taller tailshaft tunnel, which is also wider to allow the exhaust to tuck up out of harm’s way.

Sure the bodywork and driveline is stellar, however it’s the interior that really elevates this Firebird beyond your typical elite-style build. The intention was to give it that nice, hand-made look (like a current generation Aston Martin), while retaining a period-style muscle car feel. So every facet of the interior is custom.

The doors feature a proper handle, arm rest and useful-sized pocket along the bottom. The console includes a Commodore shifter and two matching sets of Vintage Air control knobs – one set is for the a/c system (which breathes through funky Billet Specialties outlets), the other modified set operates the lights, wipers and driving lights. The Auto Meter Sport Comp gauges have been set off with stylish dress rings from Twisted Machine.

Other highlights include power windows all ’round, five sets of retractable seat belts (check out the unique top mount for the fronts) and tilt-adjustable Flaming River steering column.

After extensive shaping and padding, Gavin Hill swathed everything in sumptuous, hand-stitched Italian leather, which, although it looks black, is actually dark charcoal. Uber classy.

The Firebird employs a high-tech, ISIS multiplex wiring system. Rather than traditional, mechanically-operated switches, all the electricals are controlled by a centralised module mounted in the boot. Every function is fully programmable – interior light delay, variable intermittent wipers, dusk activated headlights, sequenced brake lights and much more is all possible at a key-stroke.

The Firebird’s audio system is just as kick-arse. In the kick-panels are high-end Dynaudio three-way splits (seven-inch woofer, three-inch mid and 1.1-inch tweeter) – powered by a six-channel Tru Technology Billet Series amplifier. Pumping up the bass is a pair Alpine 12-inch, slimline subwoofers – each powered by its own Billet Series 500wrms mono-block. Signals originate from an iPod-compatible Pioneer CD/tuner.

The really clever bit is the Pioneer DEQ-P90, which is a digital signal processor packed full of features, including 31-band, independent equalisation to smooth out acoustic anomalies and an intricate cross-over to divvy up the full range signal into sub bass, bass, midrange and high-end. The sophisticated system was designed by Phatt Audio Concepts and installed by SRC.

After such a disastrous start, the Horewood family are ecstatic with the finished result.

“All the credit goes to Shane, Wendy and their fantastic staff,” said Tim. “The concept was all Shane, he turned the idea into a car that is giving great joy to all the family.”

In fact, they’re enjoying the Firebird so much, they’ve already commissioned SRC to build another car – a ’67 GT Mustang. Tim has dubbed it the date car, as it will be finished in time for his daughters to take out on their first date.

It features full TCP suspension and a 500hp Windsor backed by an auto. Tim certainly believes the family that street machines together stays together.


Colour: PPG SRC Red

Engine: 6.2-litre LS2
Blower: Magnacharger TVS2300
Intake: Magnacharger
Throttle Body: 90mm
Sump: Corvette
ECU: VE Commodore
Cooling: PWR radiator, twin thermos
Headers: Custom 1 7/8 by SRC HPC coated
Exhaust: 2.5-inch system
Pref Fuel: PULP
Power: 500-plus

Gearbox: 4L65E
Diff: 31-spline 9-inch, Trac-Loc
Tailshaft: 4-inch

Suspension Front: C5-based twin A-arm
Suspension Rear: Parallel four-bar, watts-link
Springs/Shocks Front: QA-1
Brakes Front: 355mm rotors, 6-piston Wilwood calipers
Brakes Rear: 355mm rotors, 4-piston Wilwood calipers

Trim: Dark charcoal leather
Seats Front: BA XR8
Seats Rear: Modified Firebird bench
Door trims: Custom
Carpet: Black Mercedes
Wheel: Flaming River Waterfall
Seat Belts: Retractable
Shifter: VX Commodore
Gauges: Auto Meter
Head Unit: Pioneer CD/tuner
Speakers: Dynaudio, Alpine subwoofers

Rims: KWC001 forged; 19×8 & 19×10
Rubber: Khumo 235/35ZR19 & 275/35ZR19
Build Time: 3½ years

Cast and crew SRC, Gavin Hill Trim, Laurie at Classic Chev Sydney, Gerto’s Chrome, Steve’s Metal Polishing