'67 Firebird - Getting It Done
Thanks To Friends And Family, The Completion Of This 605-Horse Pro-Street '67 Firebird Fulfilled Its Owner's Dream
From the April, 2008 issue of High Performance Pontiac
By Thomas A. DeMauro
Photography by Courtesy Of The Tavana Family, Thomas A. DeMauro
The 0.030-over 0-ringed 455...
The 0.030-over 0-ringed 455 was liberated from Paul's '69 Firebird and is now mounted in the '67 via custom aluminum motor plates made by Tony Pecorella. Its bottom-end features billet 4-bolt caps, a Pontiac 4.210-inch stroke crank, Eagle 6.800-inch forged rods, Ross 4.181-inch forged pistons wrapped in Total Seal rings and a Melling high-volume oil pump sipping from a Canton 7-quart pan. A 264/271-degree duration at 0.050 Ultradyne solid roller cam with 0.626/0.626 lift was also employed.
Shown during tear down, here...
Shown during tear down, here is what owner Paul Tavana started with-a very tired, but clean, 67 Firebird sans engine and trans.Formerly an Arizona car, it was purchased for $2,000.
Giant M/T 31x16.5x15 ET Streets...
Giant M/T 31x16.5x15 ET Streets mounted on 15x12 Convo Pro wheels fill the rear view.
Paul's brother, Alex, piloted...
Paul's brother, Alex, piloted the Firebird for our photo shoot. The front suspension retains stock manual steering and spindles, but has been upgraded with Global West tubular upper and lower control arms, Koni 90/10 shocks, Energy Suspension urethane bushings and 15x7.5 Centerline Convo Pro wheels shod with M/T 26x7.50x15 tires. Wilwood 11-inch discs at the four corners provide stopping power. Fabricator Dale Gregg raised the rear wheelwells 1-1/2 inches and stretched them 4-1/2 inches to fit the huge rear tires.
We all have obstacles in life we must overcome. There are financial woes, bad marriages, poor decisions, car trouble, and even bad hair days. Sometimes these hurdles seem insurmountable until, of course, you hear about someone who has it worse off than you do. Then you may even feel a bit foolish for fixating on your problems. Get ready for that feeling.
Take a look at the photo of Paul Tavana, on page 52. The Northeast, Pennsylvania, resident appears to be your typical Pontiac hobbyist posing in front of his latest pride and joy-a partially completed Firebird project. What you don't know is that Paul was diagnosed with two rare blood disorders 26 years ago, at age 19. At the time, his prognosis was just two years.
Paul has since made beating the odds his battle cry. Instead of succumbing to self-pity, he used his condition for motivation. He earned a dual degree in Business and Computer Science, gradu-ating at the top of his class, and became a financial planner. He married the love of his life, Dawn, and of course started building Pontiacs.
Fueled by cherished memories of his youth, driving his dad's '76 Firebird and his love of drag racing, Paul bought a '75 Formula to build up back in the mid '80s. His brother Alex tells HPP about his next project. "In 1993, Paul purchased a '69 Firebird convertible out of a junkyard in Virginia. Everyone told him he was crazy. Four years later, after a body-off resto, it was complete. He cruised and raced that Blue/Green Chameleon-colored Bird for six or seven years, posting a best e.t. of 10.82 at 130 mph with a 125-shot of nitrous, on street tires, and through the exhaust. The only problem was that the car kept blowing the top right off, literally."
Paul decided that a solid-roof Bird would be best to keep the lid on things at the top end, so he purchased the '67 in July, 2002. His plan was to build a Pro Streeter that would be just as comfortable on the strip as it was on the street. That meant a stout motor and a back-half with mile-wide meats tucked under the wheelwells. The same 605-horse 455 that powered the '69 ragtop would be used in the '67. A TCI 10-inch 4,000-rpm stall converter, a trick Turbo 400 and a 4.11-geared 9-inch rear would back it.
Friend Dale Gregg performed the chassis fabrication and body and paintwork over a two-year period. He tells HPP, "I did it in my spare time, on nights and weekends using the three-car garage attached to my house. I stopped counting the man hours at 800 and it didn't even have paint on it yet." Then Greg Felix lent his talent for six months, providing the artwork for the flanks of the Firebird. Finally, the '67 was brought back to Paul to finish the rest of the assembly over the following two years. The project was moving along, but Paul's health was deteriorating.
According to Alex, "The final assembly was trying for Paul. His health was declining to the point where he wasn't able to work in the garage for more than an hour or two at a time. Transfusions every other week turned into transfusions every week. One or two units were nothing for him, and yet my brother never complained, not once. Whenever I visited or picked him up from the hospital, it was always, 'What's next with the car?'"
What was next with the car was employing the combined talents of friends and family to attain Paul's ultimate goal-to get the car finished. Perhaps he would even show and race the Firebird at the '07 Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals.
After a final six-month thrash of long days and late nights, the Bird was completed in June 2007, and Paul and Dawn enjoyed it for the month of July. Plans were put in motion to attend the Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals and Paul bought a fire suit and helmet in preparation for the big event..
As fate would have it, his condition worsened a few weeks prior and he was hospitalized and had to undergo surgery. Paul Tavana passed away on August 14, 2007, at the age of 45, but his memory and his Firebird are treasured by the family and friends who cared for them both.
Friends Erik Esper, Dave Lossie and Ray Gloss made the trip to the Ames event, found me, and shared Paul's story. Plans were made and Alex, Erik, Dawn and the rest of the group then delivered Paul's Bird to a location for this feature shoot.
"This Pontiac reflects everything my brother was," Alex says. "Attention-to-detail was how my brother lived." Chassis fabricator and body specialist Dale Gregg says, "This car was Paul's passion and his dream, and he was very proud of what he built."
"I'll never forget the first ride we took after finishing the car," Alex remembers. "After about a mile down the road he turned around to head home and he looked at me and said, 'hold on.' The smile on his face said it all. My brother touched a lot of people in a short time. That's why he was able to enjoy this car. His friends and family made it happen for him because he was a great guy; a great human being." After all the happiness and hassles that life can bring, when all is said and done, there are no kinder words than those to be spoken on your behalf.
The Tavana family would like to thank everyone who helped out on this project.
The menacing fiberglass raised-scoop...
The menacing fiberglass raised-scoop hood was purchased from Spotts Performance. Dale then added a custom ram-air pan with integrated air cleaner beneath it.
Dale explains, "All the body...
Dale explains, "All the body seams and gaps were welded or ground to be as equal as possible. Countless hours were spent working and blocking the body to get it mirror-smooth before it was ready for paint. The Firebird was then shot with a PPG DP-48 epoxy primer sealer. The colors, by XOTIC, are a pigmented candy so they really explode in the sunlight. Multiple coats of Rasberee Pearlin' were applied to the upper body and the interior, while Bright White Silver Pearlin' was applied to the lower body. Three coats of clear followed, and wet-sanding with 800-grit was done before the car was sent to Greg Felix for the artwork."
Owner Paul Tavana poses with...
Owner Paul Tavana poses with his Bird circa 2005. photo courtesy of the Tavana family
The top end of the 455 contains...
The top end of the 455 contains Holley's 1050 Dominator with No. 82/82 jets, which mixes air with fuel delivered by an Aeromotive pump and regulator and sends it to a port-matched Victor intake. A set of 310-cfm KRE-ported E-heads with 2.11/1.77 Ferrea valves, Comp springs and 1.6:1 Scorpion roller rockers are also featured. The 72cc chambers aid in producing an 11:1 compression ratio. A complete MSD ignition system provides the spark at 36 degress total all in by 2,000 rpm. Powerhouse Automotive, of Girard, Pennsylvania, installed the exhaust system featuring a set of Dawson headers, a 3-inch x-type pipe and twin mufflers to dispense with the combustion remains. If that doesn't make enough power, there's always the NOS Pro Fogger Nitrous system.
The only thing that can drown...
The only thing that can drown out the symphony of mechanical machinations under the hood is the Pioneer tuner, bolstered by an Alpine amp and these 6x9 Sony speakers.
Paul made the custom gauge...
Paul made the custom gauge panel that houses AutoMeter Phantom dials. A B&M Pro Stick shifter commands the Turbo 400, built by Mike Marczynksi of Dunkirk, New York, which features a full manual reverse pattern valvebody and a transbrake.
The center of the dash is...
The center of the dash is the brain-center for other onboard systems.
Corbeau seats with Simpson...
Corbeau seats with Simpson 5-point harnesses keep the driver and passenger secure. Fabrication of the 12-point rollcage from 1-5/8-inch, 0.134-in wall DOM tubing, the tubs and the interior tinwork was done by Dale. Spray-on Lizard Skin ceramic sound deadener keeps the cockpit cozy and quiet.
The big blue bottle is mounted...
The big blue bottle is mounted where the rear seat used to be.
Here are a few of Paul's closest...
Here are a few of Paul's closest friends and family members who helped get his '67 Firebird project completed. From left to right: Jeff Wood, Dave Lossie, Dale Gregg, Phil Langowski, Erik Esper, Jim Franz, Alex Tavana, Greg Felix, Ray Gloss, and Paul's wife, Dawn Tavana. photo courtesy of the tavana family
Here's artist Greg Felix's...
Here's artist Greg Felix's handiwork. According to Alex, "The skull is actually anatomically correct and the headdress medallion contains Pontiac emblems throughout."
Custom door panels feature...
Custom door panels feature carbon fiber inserts. Note how the armrest is angled down to follow the direction of the rollcage sidebars. Jim Franz, Phil Langowski, Eric Smith, and Jim Wolfram, of Specialty Auto Trim in Erie, Pennsylvania, undertook the extensive interior upholstery work.
Dale back-halved the Bird...
Dale back-halved the Bird using 2x3 mild steel tubing. He then hung the narrowed Moser 9-inch Ford rear, stuffed with a Detroit Locker, 4.11:1 gears and 35-spline axles, using a lower-link-adjustable ladder bar suspension featuring a wishbone link, 1350 pinion back brace and QAL coilovers to control axle movements. The front subframe was reinstalled with solid 1-inch lowering bushings and the unit was tied to the new rear frame.