Written by Eric Becker
Before the “Screaming Chicken” adorned the hood, and long before a certain Bandit absconded “Eastbound and Down” with Sally Field, a 38-year-old John DeLorean, then the chief engineer and general manager of Pontiac, wasn’t interested in creating a pony car. Not at first, anyway.
No, DeLorean had recently championed the world’s the first true muscle car, the Pontiac GTO. The maverick DeLorean was keenly interested in pursuing a pet project of his, believing a tried and true two-seat sports car would best follow the GTO. Internally known as the XP-833 Banshee – the name given to all Pontiac’s sports cars at the time – GM’s upper management quashed the project, deeming it a possible threat to the Corvette’s sales. Much to the chagrin of DeLorean, the Banshee was out. GM took Pontiac to task, instructing them to build a sister car to the Camaro. From the ashes of the wailing Gaelic spirit rose the Firebird, Pontiac’s statement in the pony car war. And, like the keening banshee’s foretelling of death, the iconic graphic of Phoenix rising decorated its hood and announced its presence.
GM execs had planned a simultaneous release of the Camaro and Firebird. But DeLorean needed more time ‒ and the talents of Chief Design Engineer Jack Humbert ‒ to put a distinctive touch to the bodywork. And while sharing the same F-body chassis, no one confused the Firebird with any other car.
Beyond differentiating design language, Pontiac struggled for a name that spoke to the car’s origins. DeLorean’s choice, Banshee, was all but set before someone consulted Gaelic myth and found that the banshee’s screams foretold a familial death, clearly not the best moniker for an aggressive automobile. Thus, the Firebird was born and stands today as the unique entry to the pony car wars crowded by legions of Mustangs and Camaros.
Fast-forward “Back to the Future” – or the present – and this example of DeLorean’s pony car, a 1968 Pontiac Custom Coupe that will be selling with No Reserve at the 2020 Barrett-Jackson Fall Auction, has been reborn as a fire-breathing Resto-Mod. The project took three years and over 4,500 hours to complete. The heart of this ’Bird is a fire-belching LS3 churning out well over 550hp. The 6.2-liter V8 engine received a host of upgrades, including all-new pistons, connecting rods and an aggressive camshaft. The power is routed through a GM 6L90 6-speed automatic with 3.73:1 gears and backed by a 12-bolt rear end. The LS3 features a pair of ceramic-coated Sanderson headers, and channels its might through a custom exhaust that screams louder than any banshee could ever hope.
Give the go-pedal a stomp and you can coach the ’Bird to misbehave, quickly turning the brand-new Nitto Invo tires into an aerosol. While no nagging electronic nannies will come to your rescue, the modernized Detroit Speed coilover suspension will communicate all the happenings the open road has to offer. The rear is kitted with a QUADRALink setup and, at the front, a fully revised tubular front suspension is fitted along with subframe connectors. Get to close to takeoff velocity, and the way it gathers speed is equally matched to its stopping power. Baer brakes sit at all four corners, with 14-inch rotors at the front and 13-inch in the back. Hiding The ’Bird’s talons are a custom set of polished 18×10-inch and 19×12-inch Rushforth Concept five-spoke wheels.
No expense was spared during this project, and that can clearly be seen on the exterior. The team at Richardson’s Custom Auto Body went to work, redesigning the entire front fascia. The front end is more pronounced and aggressive, thanks to an all-new bumper that covers the leading edges of the fenders. Shrouded behind a custom mesh grille, the inner headlights were removed in a bid to help feed cold air into the LS3. The door handles and drip rails were shaved, and a custom front splitter and rear decklid spoiler were seamlessly molded into the metal.
Inside, a fully bespoke interior takes shape. Bucket seats from a 2006 Pontiac GTO are wrapped in Douglass European leather and embroidered with the classic Firebird logo. Vintage Air heating and cooling keeps occupants comfortable as they’re enveloped in modern convenience with an old-school aesthetic.
Outside, however, is where the ’Bird’s crimson hue truly begins to shine. The F-body is cloaked in a stunning PPG metallic finish called Viva La Red. The award-winning SEMA formula is exclusive to Richardson Custom Auto Body. You must see it to understand, which you will be able to do when it heads to the block at the 2020 Barrett-Jackson Fall Auction at WestWorld of Scottsdale, where this example of the DeLorean pony car will be offered with No Reserve.
To become a bidder at the 2020 Barrett-Jackson Fall Auction, click HERE.