In this new tech series, we cover the steps we'll take to bring the world-famous 1968 Firebird Grand Marque VIII factory show car back to new condition. Here's the backstory.
The Firebird sustained damage on a trailer during a transport approximately 10 years ago. The accident's twisting action caused the front windshield to crack, and loused up the lower front fenders. The former show car was brought out of storage two years ago, and was the subject of tech stories in High Performance Pontiac, including installing a new convertible top and restoring the original console.
Thanks to our primary partner in this tech series, Classic Pontiac Rescue in Honea Path, South Carolina, the Firebird Grand Marque will be restored to its original condition, as it was in the fall of 1967 when it toured the new-car-show circuit. The first step is diagnosis.
"We will start by documenting and evaluating what damage occurred to the rare Firebird during the incident," says Classic Pontiac Rescue owner Joe Jackson. "Subframe cars like First- and Second-Gen Firebirds and Trans Ams are more susceptible to panel movement than a full-frame car like a GTO or a Bonneville, since they pivot structurally at the firewall."
It's not just trailer accidents that can cause obvious and hidden damage to your F-Bird. In fact, your Trans Am or Firebird may have subframe-based damage so subtle that you've never even noticed it, or so dramatic that—like our Firebird—it cracked the windshield.
Joe says, "Jacking the vehicle in the wrong area can cause them to flex. Driving too fast over severe road transitions like railroad tracks and speed humps can also cause flex. When an F-body takes a jolt to this area, it can and often will make the front end not square. Measuring the car in an X fashion from what should be two equal distance points can reveal if there has been movement, and if so, how much movement and in what direction it has moved. Then inspecting the body bushings can indicate the direction and distance of the movement.
Follow along as Classic Pontiac Rescue demonstrates how it measures and documents the subframe movement from the Firebird Grand Marque VIII's accident, and learn how you can easily inspect your F-body for subframe- related movement and damage.
Our initial diagnosis is that the frame has shifted under the body, pivoting on the rear passenger-side mount and shifting towards the driver's side of the vehicle. In our next installment, we'll remove the engine from the Firebird, disassemble it, and see what kind of shape its in. Wary of the heavy corrosion that ate away at the inlet of the radiator, we're going to keep our fingers crossed that the code-YT 400 engine is in good shape. Join us, and we'll show you what we found.
While any Firebird 400 convertible could be considered a very special car, the 1968 Grand Marque VIII Firebird is a particularly special vehicle, both from an historical perspective and for its non-production, one-off status. It was the last in a long line of Pontiac paint and trim show cars that were featured at the larger auto shows, like the North American International Auto Show in Detroit and the Chicago Auto Show. The Grand Marque VIII was the only Firebird in the line, the rest being full-sized convertibles or GTOs, making it a one-of-a-kind among one-of-a-kinds. I am very much looking forward to seeing this car returned to its former glory. —Pontiac historian Don Keefe