This is a bit off my normal posts about holsters and my shop, but this morning I saw a new episode of Roadkill and realized that the Firebird that I worked on, drove, and loved was actually the center piece of the new episode. So this is a bit of my memory and rambling about it.
The Car currently from the episode of Road Kill
So the history of the now famous Roadkill Finnegan 1969 Firebird or at least what I know of it. I’ll introduce myself I’m Lukas Adams, grew up in Channing MI and I’m the kid who drove the car to prom back in 1998. My dad David Adams bought that Firebird back in around 1990. He bought it from a local dealer in Iron Mountain MI, Hallman’s which is located on US2 outside of Iron Mountain. Hallman’s bought and sold muscle cars at the time and restored them. We purchased this one just as it stood, came from down south seems like Texas. It was blue at the time with a touch of metallic and a little rough but not bad at all. It was original across the board with very little done to it. We took it home and I somewhere have a VHS tape of my dad doing a burnout with it in front of his uncle’s property before we went through the car.
Front fender from pictures I took in 2014
We had a local guy who we knew do the bodywork, we went back and forth on color. But there was some roof damage, from what we could guess someone sat on the roof or sat a rim on there something of the sort. While it was repaired we knew that those dents are really hard to make invisible on a smooth contour like that, so we went with white paint. White for those not aware will not show nearly as much as say black when it comes to small imperfections like that. Nonetheless the guy who did the bodywork passed away quite a few years ago now. But he leaded the panels and did all the body repair the old way and it was done pretty well. There are some mismatched panel gaps here and there, but most of it likely came from the factory that way other than a few that I can explain later. Overall though the body turned out very nice all things considered, and at the time you couldn’t find unique parts for the 69’s like the front turn signal valances etc. We got the car back, still running the original motor and 2 barrel carb and drove it.
Later we put on a Holley Double pumper, and installed a 4 barrel intake because the 2 barrel
Empty engine bay after around 16 years waiting for the motor to be reinstalled.
was giving us trouble and we had the Holly sitting on the bench. From memory we actually ran it for a while with the linkage removed from the secondaries so that we could try to keep up gas mileage which of course was getting expensive around a dollar a gallon;) But the holly ran well on there and other than minor issues we ran into most everything was original and just worked. I actually was the one to clean the interior which all that work is long gone after it sat in my pole barn for nearly 20 years actually only 10 feet from where I’m typing this up. But I went through the entire car with a toothbrush inside, and literally spent days cleaning the inside and all of the mesh type of material they used to get all the dirt and debris out and clean and then wiped the whole thing down with armor all. We had a fresh headliner and carpet at the time but we had been waiting to install them until the motor went back in. But I’m getting ahead of myself;)
Picture of the body without the hook from 2014
So the car was pretty outside and functional, the interior was a work in progress but it was coming together. At this point we had actually put it in a few car shows locally and I believe one year we drove it up to the St Ignace car show and parked and walked the show. But generally we just enjoyed the car and drove it around here locally. Actually now that I’m thinking about it and the memories are flowing I know for sure that we took it to St Ignace. I drove, and I remember coming around a corner after a windstorm on the way and having to dodge a large tree that was laying most of the way across the road. Either way things we going well we were enjoying the car. Then my mom did the worst thing ever at the time. She washed the car;)
The interior after sitting for nearly 15 years in the pole barn.
So I was a young kid at the time, I would have been around 10ish years old, and I helped my mom wash the car. We were getting ready for a family vacation out west to Yellowstone a few days later and we wanted to wash the car and put it in the garage before my dad got back so that it would be clean and put away. We washed it up, and my mom who’s not very tall always had a problem seeing over the hood of older muscle cars. Also the incline of the entry to the garage meant the hood was up in the air as well. Nonetheless the freshly washed and dried and recently painted and nearly finished car was pulled gently into the garage. Unfortunately there was a small block Chevy motor sitting on the floor and she couldn’t see it until the crunch. I was in the car, she was in the car, both of our hearts sunk. Backed up and we got out to look and low and behold the front under the bumper along with the turn signal valance was banged up. My dad didn’t talk to her for most of our trip;)
But once we got back we got around to getting the damage repaired it really wasn’t major, we barely ran into the engine but it was enough from memory that we replaced that sheet metal under the bumper. The problem though was the valance we couldn’t get one anywhere at the time and we looked for years. The temporary solution was to put a piece of plexi glass in there cut to fit and paint a valance on there. I know it sounds terrible but from 10ft you really couldn’t tell and without a better answer at the time it worked that way until a few years later when we finally found one to replace it with properly.
Myself and my girlfriend at the time of her Graduation in 1998
The years passed pretty uneventfully for the Firebird, though I will say without a doubt we loved that car. We never had big bucks to do a full proper restoration but we basically did things as we could and made a nice original driver out of it. So as I got older I got into hot rods of course since I grew up wrenching on cars and trucks. Well I’ve always been a responsible driver, though I will say at the time I also had a bit of a wild streak compared to today. I drove the Firebird a fair amount after I got my license, used it for special occasions like when my girlfriend at the time graduated high school I drove the Firebird and picked her up afterwards and hit up graduation parties and things like that. I also drove it to prom and car shows but generally I put allot of miles on that car just enjoying it.
Prom night not sure the year but could be 97-99, could have been the year of the sending unit issue.
Prom night actually from memory it was the following day but it’s been almost 20 years ago so my memory had faded a touch since then. Nonetheless I was driving and I’ll admit I was hot rodding a little bit, I was running down a nice twisty paved back road near Iron Mountain. I was meticulous checking gauges while driving that car, mostly because I had spent allot of time on it as well as it wasn’t mine. But I knew if it broke I’d be helping to fix it, or fixing it. Well while driving at a fairly high rate of speed I went through a set of corners, and when I came out of them oh I don’t know maybe a minute later I looked down and saw zero oil pressure. I shut down the motor immediately and pulled off the road and parked. Walked to a house a made a call to have my dad bring the car hauler down to load it up. This of course predated common cell phones;)
We loaded it and brought it home and took a look what happened. What we found was the line or the sending unit to the mechanical oil pressure gauge had blown off or broken. Don’t remember which now but either way it had pumped out a good amount of oil before I had seen the gauge and shut it down. My guess today would be that the line broke since they are known to do that, but I’d further guess it was cracked or had cracked that night and leaked some out before it went all the way. It was down several quarts of oil, we topped it off and started the motor. Everything sounded good no issues what so ever. We dodged a bullet so to speak. So back up and running without any issues we breathed a sigh of relief that we wouldn’t have to rebuild the motor. I should mention this was the original motor that you wondered what was the status of.
A few weeks later I was driving the car again, and I don’t remember where I was going at the time. May have just been driving to fill up the tank since we live nearly 15 miles from the nearest gas station out here in the woods. But I pulled out on the road and I got on it, not hard mind you just a medium speed up to 60mph kind of get on it. I didn’t push the RPM’s or anything crazy, but as I got up in 2nd gear I heard something through my open window. I’m not 100% sure what it was, but either it was a light rod knock, lifter noise either way something new that shouldn’t have been there. I let off the throttle and drove it gently back home.
Still waiting for that motor sitting on the engine stand next to it around 2014
Then we checked it over a bit decided the motor would have to come out and we pulled it. Then life happened, I was getting close to graduating high school at the time. Of course I was chasing girls and thinking about jobs or college. My dad’s health has been so so over the years, and we just had allot of things come up in a short period of time. So the car sat, for a while down in his garage. Then eventually got moved back to the pole barn. It was rolled around, not sure who stabbed the brakes on it but they we free when it was here two years ago;) Granted I’m sure rusty so who ever hit that pedal locked them up. But it was rolled around here to move it around other projects. And eventually my wife and I moved back to the area and I took over the pole barn for my business. The Firebird sat here 10 feet from where I sit now calling to me, but with two small kids a business that keeps me very busy time wasn’t available nor was the money to get it up and running again.
So a few years ago my father in law decided to buy the Firebird from my dad as a restoration
The day it finally saw the light of day again to head off to my Father in law’s garage in 2014
project, but honestly it’s a big project and life happened;) So that brings us to mostly current. The other day I saw a promo video for the new episode of Roadkill on YouTube which I’ve been watching for several years almost from the very start. And I saw a white 1969 Firebird and I thought “Hey that’s strange you don’t see many of those”. At the time I didn’t know the car had been sold, so I didn’t know I was looking at my Firebird;) I saw another promo this morning and I got a twinge that it wasn’t just another Firebird I was fairly sure it was indeed my Firebird. But it was an image after it was cleaned up and had stickers etc on it, new rims etc. But my wife finally gave up word that the car was sold, they didn’t know where it was heading. Well at that point I knew. But I went ahead and signed up for Motortrend on Demand because I couldn’t wait for a month to see the car and be sure it was the same car. Well I watched the first few minutes and got a few looks at the car before they started working on it. I recognized everything I knew without a fraction of a doubt what car it was. The body gaps, the Sunpro gauges, the exhaust tips, everything down to the tires. I knew this car from one end to the other there isn’t probably a square inch of that car that I hadn’t had my hands on at one time or another. Hell I can tell ya what kind of paint is in the trunk and where we bought it. I can tell ya don’t run it through an automatic car wash unless you’ve got a towel handy to block the window seals;) Granted that’s common from that era of car and the design of the door/window seals. Nonetheless I knew without any doubt that it was my Firebird.
Also from 2014 just another side shot.
And at the end of the day I couldn’t do it, I didn’t have the time or money to restore it back to where I’d like it to have been. My dad while he loved the car as well is in the same position, neither of us could have done it. Maybe in 20 years I’ll have the time to take on something like that, until then I’ll stick with my vintage motorcycles since they are far smaller projects. My father in law really wanted to make it happen but we all ended up in the same position. At the end of the day I’d like to say I’m completely happy to see it being done. But I can’t, there will always be a part of me in that car and it will always have a place in my heart. I know it’s stupid, it’s steel and rubber, but I loved that car and I spent allot of time working on it, and enjoying it. So it’s a mixed feeling, on one hand I’m extremely happy to see that it’s not sadly sitting in my shop not being used and enjoyed. But I’m also jealous and sad that I wasn’t the one who was able to make it run and drive once again. But the happiness that someone was able to make it into what they wanted really does take the sting out of it more for me. And I will say I’ve owned a lot of vehicles over the years, and technically I didn’t own this one, but more so than any other vehicle I’ve owned this one is special at least to me.
So Mike if you’re reading this I really truly hope you enjoy the Firebird it really was a part of our family and I guess if it goes to anyone I’m happy to see it go to you. But if you’re ever in the area with the car I’d love to see it again and maybe get a ride in it. Also if you ever want to know more about the history of the car or anything along those lines you’re more than welcome to contact me.