When you're blessed with a fertile imagination, ideas flow through your mind effortlessly. Once you discern the good from the bad, you're left with some excellent stuff. Forty-one-year-old Rick Bohler has made a career out of transforming pipe dreams into reality. As the owner of a company that themes restaurants and amusement parks-Disney, Universal Studios, Sea World, IKEA, and Royal Carribean Cruises to name a few-the entrepreneur decided to put his mind to dreaming up a one-of-a-kind custom car.
In an attempt to reconnect with his hot-rod youth, Rick set out to find a project car. "As a teenager, I had fast cars that I brought back to life with time and a little bit of money," says Rick. Now he has a little more money in his pocket but less time, thanks to his growing company.
He originally entertained the idea of building a Camaro, but as he puts it, "Everyone had one," not to mention the prices were out of this world. He ultimately chose a Pontiac-a '67 Firebird he'd found in great shape, for a quarter of the price of a comparable Camaro. It's a decision that he's happy he made.
With a blank canvas before him, the creative juices began to flow. Rick mocked up a ground-scraping Bird, dressed in custom flames over a two-tone paint scheme. Now all that was left to do was prepare his canvas to receive his vision.
Under The Knife
The interior was kept simple,...
The interior was kept simple, clean, and custom with the same colors inside to keep things neat and tidy. The dash is dressed with Auto Meter gauges, a Flaming River column, and a Isotta Katiena steering wheel. SPW power windows were installed, and a Vintage Air A/C unit keeps the hot Pontiac cool.
Rick's Bird had nearly 70-percent new metal already on it, but most of it had been installed incorrectly. It drove but it wasn't going to win any car shows. "I intended from the start to have a truly custom car, so I just saw it as a good starting point," he says.
Knowing that the current condition of the bodywork wasn't going to work for him, he delivered the Pontiac to Clarence and Tad Glover, the father-and-son duo at Old Iron Customs in Jacksonville, Florida. There, each body panel was reshaped and tweaked to create better-than-factory gaps, and the Bird was mini-tubbed. The list of new panels is enough to make anyone's heart skip a beat: floors, rockers, fenders, quarters, doors, and the trunk are all new. "Every panel was fitted specifically for this car, so I couldn't just go out and buy another Firebird fender because it wouldn't fit,"Rick says.
Once all of the panels were smoothed, Clarence and Tad blasted the F-body with two coats of epoxy primer and then block-sanded. Since Rick designed the paint scheme himself, he made up stencils with his company's plotter and helped mask off the car for paint.
BASF Glasurit sealer was applied, and then five coats of Glasurit urethane paint. The lower portion was painted dark silver with a high-gloss black on the top. With the stencils in place, the tribal flames on the lower portion of the car were sprayed gloss black over dark silver, and the top half was sprayed in dark silver over gloss black. Racing stripes added to the fiberglass '69 Trans Am replica hood have tribal flamelicks extending off of them.
The Pontiac was wet-sanded with 400-grit between coats, and after the clear was applied, a final wet-sanding process was performed using 800- to 1,500-grit. Some of the bright trim was painted black during the process-something that Rick gets mixed reviews on-and the bumpers and much of the trim were replaced.
In The Cabin
Inside, the custom theme is carried throughout. Rick purchased a set of Lamborghini style seats from Arizen Racing Sports and had them embroidered with Firebird logos. A rollbar was installed for safety and racing style, while Marquez Design made custom fiberglass door panels around the rollbars.