Would you call this Firebird...
Would you call this Firebird a resto-modification? It features original bodylines,a crisp custom interior, and a 462, nee 428, Pontiac powerplant. It's painted in a true GM color, Adriatic Blue, available on '02 models.
A '68 Firebird. A Wide-Track legend barely alive. "Gentlemen, we can rebuild [it]. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic [Firebird]." Doug Baril's Firebird will be that automobile. "Better than it was before. Better, stronger, faster." So said Oscar Goldman (sort of) in the opening credits of the '70s hit show, The Six Million Dollar Man.
And so the story begins when Doug Baril of Gainesville, Florida, found a completely rusted '68 Firebird in 1998. "I was driving through a bad neighborhood in Gainesville and I saw the car up on blocks under an old oak tree," he remembered. "Actually it was a big mistake. I never should have bought it because it was a complete basket case. I was young, inexperienced and overeager, but thankfully I was motivated. Practically rusted to the ground, the Bird had been sitting for about 15 years."
The Body And Paint
Baril soon found the body panels on his Bird had all decayed to the point where he had two choices: walk away from the project entirely or replace every body panel. He decided he would work the Firebird back to life, no matter what the obstacles-and there were many. This was his first restomod buildup, so he had to learn along the way, and he depended upon the help of many friends to get him through the five and a half years of the project. "It was tough," he told HPP. "There were many times I wanted to abandon it, but I kept going because I wanted to turn it into the best Firebird I could create. My dad worked for a company called Grumman, where he helped build F-14s, lunar modules in the sixties, and the space shuttles in the seventies and eighties. So I figured, 'How much harder could reviving a destroyed Firebird be?'"
Amazingly, Doug Baril did...
Amazingly, Doug Baril did the metal work mostly on his own, having little-to-no welding experience prior to this build up. Does this look like a starter project to you?
Custom-installed Autometer gauges are located where the original two-pod dash used to be. Levin Horton of Aerotech designed the custom interior and installed all of the billet handles, the Bird emblems, the gauges, and the shifter console.
Not giving up on his project, Baril replaced the sheetmetal primarily on his own with help on the larger panels from friend Keith Hendry. "I decided to do the metal work in my garage, so I went out and bought a small Lincoln welder and then proceeded to replace my firewall, dash, both floorpans, center console hump, both rear wheelhouses, all five pieces of my trunk floor, both quarter panels, the taillight panel, the rear deck filler, the trunk gutter, both door skins, the rear window channel, and a large portion of my hood," he said.
Was there anything not rusted on the Firebird? "Not really," Baril told HPP. "I also bought new fenders and fenderwells for the front, a donor car for its subframe and all of the other minor things that were needed. The only body panel that is original is the roof." Replacing the rust with new metal was a one-year sub-project, and the weekend welder did the work entirely in his own home garage.
For finishing bodywork and paint, Baril delivered his Firebird to Huegenics of Trenton, Florida, where Chris Dobbs sandblasted the subframe and the body, smoothed the panels and prepared the automobile for paint. Dobbs told HPP, "After we had a completely bare body shell, we coated the sheetmetal with PPG DP90 epoxy sealer, and then we did all of the necessary bodywork. We recoated the body with DP90 again to float the body filler in what we call a body filler sandwich. Then we blocksanded and reapplied K36 three times until the body was completely straight. Next, we wet-sanded with 600 grit to prepare for paint. We resealed the body again with DP90 and then applied three base coats of Adriatic Blue and three coats of PPG 2021 Concept Clear. Color sanding beginning with 1,000 grit working our way up to 1,500 grit. All together, we put 500 hours into body and paint. It looks awesome and has to be the best looking '68 Firebird I've ever seen."