Brian Walker is a Louisville police detective who drives a department-issued sedan on the job, but he also happens to be an avid vintage car nut. His interest in automobiles has been eclectic and varied, having owned everything from Mustangs to 'Cudas, and even a Porsche. But now, thanks to a little investigating, there is only one musclecar sitting in his driveway—this '69 Firebird—and he plans on it being there for a while.
Brian's passion for vintage vehicles emerged early on when his late father Ed exposed him to the hobby. Ed was an employee of the Ford Motor Company for 29½ years, so as you would expect, Brian was around Fords most of his life and grew up coveting his fair share of them. "I owe my love for classic cars to my father, and I often wish I had paid more attention and helped him out more on his restorations," Brian concedes. Nevertheless, the impact of his father's teachings was strong, and he was eventually able to shake the Blue Oval-only lifestyle, as his diverse taste began to break through.
He admits that the Firebird wasn't his first choice. "I was looking for a '69 Camaro when this Pontiac came up," says Brian. That didn't mean he didn't get what he wanted though, because he was extremely fond of Firebirds as well. It just so happened that this red beauty rolled into his crosshairs and got him contemplating.
The Pontiac 400 V-8 symphony...
The Pontiac 400 V-8 symphony under the hood has been augmented with mild induction, exhaust, and ignition mods.
Daryl Higdon—its owner at the time and a good friend of Brian—purchased the nearly complete drop-top Bird as an easy project. "He owned it for approximately six months," Brian explains. "But he was looking at buying a real '67 RS/SS Camaro, so this little baby had
Daryl offered it to Brian first since they were friends and he knew Brian had been on the prowl for a First-Gen F-Body. At the time, Brian was in the process of restoring a '75 Porsche 911, which he came to realize was a real pain to work on. The 911's stubbornness was what lit the fuse for his casual hunt for a '69 Camaro, but Daryl's enticing offer was too good to refuse, and Brian made the deal for the Bird in the spring of 2001.
Once it was sitting in his garage, Brian put out feelers to track down as much information as he could about his new Pontiac. "I discovered that the Firebird had been through several owners and previous restorations before it fell into my hands," he tells us. There were receipts that followed the car back to 1993, but everything prior to that was unknown. "In 1996, one of the previous owners spent over $20,000 on a body-off restoration! I don't know why the Bird ever left him, but I'm sure glad I have it now."
During that restoration, some mods had been made. The original Verdoro Green-colored exterior was sanded off, and the body was repaired and then sprayed with Viper Red. Somewhere along the way, the original 350 engine went missing, but a 400 now takes its place as a worthy successor to the old Pontiac mill. To correlate with the new powertrain, the original hood was replaced with a 400 hood sporting 400 callout badges.
With that restoration over six years old at the time, there were some things Brian thought could be improved upon. He viewed his Bird as a 7 or 8 out of 10.
"The engine had been rebuilt but it wasn't correctly painted or detailed, and the car needed a new convertible top," he says. The body also had some rough spots, particularly with the rear quarters and trunk compartment, so there was bodywork that had to be done. This was still a much better position than he was in with his Porsche, so selling it to purchase the Bird still seemed like a great idea.