Gene Crossway's 1969 Pontiac Firebird
(from Volume 26, Issue 316)

story by Gene Crossway, photos by Michael B. Kelly


I have had a number of hot rods over the years where I purchased cars and trucks and made minor tweaks or changes, but have never had a full-on build until now. When I purchased this 1969 Pontiac Firebird, it was a running, functional car and was solid gray. The intent was for it to be a daily driver. However, it later turned into a project car when I noticed it had a paint blemish. My friend, Danny Smith with Danny’s Custom Creations, and I decided to take it down, strip it all the way down to bare metal, and start fresh. This is my first full custom build, so I opened up the checkbook to build what you see today.

I knew I didn’t want a chromed-out motor, but I liked the gray on the car. So, when we got the firewall smoothed out, we shot it silver and then mocked up the black motor in front of it to see how it would contrast. We liked what we saw, so I created a few sketches for paint designs. I liked the silver and dark gray contrasting colors but I wanted to break it up and give a more defined look. One day I walked into Danny’s shop and saw he had a wrecked red Ferrari that he was working on. That’s where the idea of red pinstriping came from, along with the other red accents throughout the engine bay, interior, and trunk.

The exterior body work was very time consuming due to the extensive fabrication performed. We started with the front nose piece, which is a one-piece custom fiberglass nose. The turn signals in the lower valence were deleted from the front end due to them now being located in the LED headlights. This gave us the opportunity to turn those openings into a cold-air intake by ducting it up to the air cleaner boxes, which provided true dual Ram-Air. Exterior locks were deleted since a keyless entry was installed. Ring Brothers door handles were also installed. Custom metal skirting gave it awesome ground effects and the rear underside of the car has a custom pan installed where the 3-inch dual exhausts dump through.

The power plant is an LS2 with Lunati Voodoo internals, punched out to a 428 cubic inch engine with Darton engine sleeves. It has an 11.9:1 compression ratio, a Holley mid-rise engine intake with 92 mm throttle body, custom dual cold air boxes, black powder coated billet serpentine, tuned ceramic headers, dual exhaust with electric dumps, and a Be Cool aluminum radiator. This all sits in a Fat Mans front end with tubular control arms and rack and pinion steering. The rear of the car is mini-tubbed with a Smileys rear 4-link tube chassis and a 9-inch rear end, tied together with a Chassis Works G-Link X-Brace and a Tremec 6-speed transmission. We installed 13-inch Wilwood 4-wheel drilled and slotted disc brakes to stop the car, and Nitto Invo tires (275/25zr/20s on the front and 345/25zr/20s on the rear). Also installed is a Ridetech air ride suspension. The SBC valve covers and hidden coil packs make people ponder what is actually under the hood when looking at the motor.

Other features of this ‘69 Firebird are LED headlights and taillights, as well as custom red interior lighting and trunk accent lighting. The interior build-out includes a custom console and door panels, Vintage USA gauges, Vintage Air, a custom sound system, back-up camera, and tinted glass.

It took us two and a half years to complete this project. My Firebird is a weekend driver/show car and rides really well. My wife liked it so much, I purchased another ‘69 Firebird convertible for her. We call it the Blackbird due to the paint color, and it is powered by an LS1 with a Magnuson Supercharger, Tremec 6-speed transmission, 4-linked 9-inch rear end, and air ride. One off billet wheels and a custom ostrich leather interior complete the look of this sleek black convertible. We enjoy going to the car shows together to display both cars and to show the different body modifications. We also have a third ‘69 Pontiac Firebird that is mainly stock, other than an LS3 motor, which I am contemplating on putting in a twin-turbo, but that build is for another day!