To anyone who grew up in a tight-knit neighborhood, shooting the breeze over the backyard fence with a neighbor on a warm sunny day is a familiar pastime. Sipping a cool drink while solving world problems, or debating the merits and shortcomings of the local baseball team, could easily become a summer-long vocation.

For Pontiac guys, however, the conversation would normally stick closer to the matter at hand-how great they are and how much greater they could be with some further tweaks. But in order for those conversations to ensue, the neighbors first have to realize that they share an affinity for Pontiacs.

As far as Andy Asaro was concerned, James "Jimmy" Pavlides was simply the nice older neighbor, an electrical engineer who built motorized model airplanes as a hobby and used to speak to Andy's grandparents over the fence that separated their Brooklyn backyards. Jimmy had lived there with his sister, Amelia, since before Andy was born. As a teenager, Andy took a job at a local hobby shop where Jimmy used to buy fuel for his airplanes, so they began to speak more often.

In 1984, at age 16, Andy bought a '70 GTO, and mentioned it to Jimmy when talking over the fence one day. "I have a machine, too" Jimmy replied. "It's a '67 Firebird that I bought new." Intrigued, Andy had to see the Pontiac and Jimmy obliged. There, tucked away in his garage, was a '67 326 H.O. Firebird in Verdoro Green with a three-speed manual trans, a 3.55 Safe-T-Track rear, a set of Rally IIs with redlines, the Ride and Handling package, Custom interior, Rally gauges, a hood tach, and a console-mounted clock, among other options. What it did not have was power steering or brakes-none of Jimmy's cars did.

He cared for his Pontiac as a doting father would his only child. It had less than 26,000 miles on it and was nearly as fresh as the day he had purchased it 17 years before.

By the '80s, Jimmy was driving the Bird very sparingly and only around the neighborhood. The last time it had been out on the open road was in the late '70s, when he took it to Jones Beach, New York, and ended up street racing against a '69 GTO. He told Andy that the Bird would hold its own until the top of Second gear and then the Goat would come on strong.

Jimmy would never let anyone ride with him in the Pontiac, and he boasted that no one had ever sat in the backseat. He wouldn't even let anyone into the garage to see the car for fear of it being damaged or stolen. Andy says he's the only one who ever made it to the door of the garage to look in and see it, and each visit was prefaced with Jimmy asking, "Are your shoes clean?" If the answer was an affirmative, Jimmy would say, "You may proceed."

Despite the age difference of 38 years, having Pontiacs and a backyard fence in common was more than enough for the two to become friends. When Andy would work on his GTO, Jimmy would hang out and watch, and also bestow some of his engineering knowledge on him. "He was very impressed with the results of the body-off restoration I did on my '70 GTO," Andy recalls. "I would joke with him, saying it took me four years to get my car into the same condition his Firebird was already in."

The pair of Brooklynites grew close over the years, and it was a shock to Andy when Jimmy suddenly passed away in August 2005.

Having never married, Amelia was Jimmy's closest relative. What Andy did not know is that years before, Jimmy had given his sibling detailed instructions as to what would become of the Firebird upon his passing. Having been spooked by overly persistent racers and hobbyists who wanted to buy the H.O. in past years, some even following him home on occasion to badger him further about selling it, Jimmy told his sister that Andy should have his Firebird. As you may imagine, Andy was floored when Amelia handed him the title and said, "Take the Firebird. It's yours-Jimmy said only you could take care of his car like he did."

"I feel very honored and humble that Jimmy thought that much of me to trust me with his prized possession," Andy says. "I am determined to keep it in the condition he did. If anything were to happen to this Pontiac, I would feel like I let him down. All I can say is 'Jimmy, if you're watching, don't worry-your Firebird is safe with me.'" Andy has meticulously maintained the Pontiac since he took possession of it, driving it sparingly only in the best weather. In fact, it took two years for the conditions to be right and our schedules to coincide for HPP to photograph the Bird for this story.

Though Jimmy took some chiding from his racer friends over the years for not ordering his Firebird with a 400 or at least a four-speed, today the 326 H.O./three-speed combo is a much rarer find on any show field than its higher-horse and extra-geared big brother.

James Pavlides did an outstanding job of preserving a rare and often overlooked portion of Pontiac history-the budget performance car. Thanks to him and Andy's efforts to carry out his friend's wishes, it can now be shared with HPP readers. Though Andy can no longer talk with Jimmy over the fence, through this '67 Firebird their friendship endures.

Andy Remembers Jimmy
Jimmy had many interests, including cars. Back in the '60s and early '70s, he could be found hanging out at Mitchell's burger hop, a well known gathering spot for street racers.

On the weekends, he would go to New York National Speedway with his friend George to help him run a Ram Air IV Firebird. Jimmy only raced his own Firebird on a few occasions. He preferred to assist those who ran faster cars. Because of his engineering background, he liked to help others set up their ignition systems for peak performance. He would also take home tachometers and recalibrate them for friends.

Although easily found in books today, back in the '60s, he came up with his own formulas for rearend ratios versus rpm versus mph versus tire diameter. Jimmy made calculations for his friends so they would know what rpm to shift at and what their rpm drop would be to get the best e.t. possible.

Those who knew Jimmy will say that he was extremely meticulous with everything, especially his Firebird. From day one, it was always his second car, always garaged, and never driven in the rain or snow. The Firebird was kept clean and in perfect working order.

We spent many hours speaking across the fence of our adjoining backyards. He would talk about the '60s and street racing, Ram Air IVs, and even Ram Air Vs. He claimed that a friend of his, the parts man at Roger's Pontiac, offered him a complete Ram Air V for his Firebird. He said that the asking price was too high and he turned it down, a decision he always regretted (for obvious reasons).

Jimmy was very popular among the car guys, and to this day his name will come up when people talk about the good old days at Mitchell's. He was also a very good friend to me. - Andy Asaro

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