1969 Carousel Red Firebird Convertible – Mike Kessler


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Mike Kessler is not only one of the original charter members of our club, he is our Treasurer, voice of reason and compliance, father of our club Mascot, Suzy, and most importantly, he has attended almost every event we have done with his 1969 Carousel Red Firebird convertible.

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Seeing Mike’s Firebird on the square in downtown Pontiac Illinois is a regular occurence.

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Make sure to say hello to Suzy, our official club mascot. She’s full of energy, and loves cruising with Mike in his Firebird.

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September 13, 2013 – This is the day our club was formed at the Rolling Meadows Car Show. Pictured are four of our Executive Team leaders: Mike (with Suzy), Mark Boratto, Ken Pitcher and Mike Ludy.

I can’t think of a better car to feature as our Member car of the Month for October than Mike’s very original California-dreamin’ Firebird!  When I asked him to tell us the story behind his car here is what Mike had to say:

My cousin Shelly Brown restored a red 1969 Firebird convertible in the late 1980’s.  It was love at first sight!  I quickly decided that one day I was going to buy a red one like his.  In February 1993, I walked into a 7-Eleven and found my car on the cover of Deals on Wheels.  My first thought was “I’m not spending ten thousand dollars on a Firebird”.  A week later I flew one way to Elk River Minnesota and drove it home.  The only surprise was it looked much better than I had expected.

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Mkie showing the “Deals on Wheels” car ad book, where he originally found his Firebird. For you youngsters, this is how cars were advertised before the word wide web existed!

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A night time shot from the Rolling Meadows car show in 2013. You can see Ian’s Burgundy ’67 convertible and Mike Mac’s Plum Mist ’68 coupe behind Mike’s ‘bird. Check out everyone talking about the excitement of this new club!

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The rain did not dampen our spirits for a fun Firebird picnic. In October of 2013 I had our growing club over for a barbque. A few of our members drove their ‘birds dispite the rain. (Noice my red convertible, nice and dry in the garage, while Mike’s is out and not affraid of a little moisture!)

I was ecstatic about finding a red Firebird (although in a light shade).  It was brought to my attention a few days later that the car was actually orange. Dumbfounded, I stood there and said “oh”.  Today, I couldn’t be happier with the color.


Nothing fancy here, just a nice, stock Pontiac power plant.

What you see today is what I saw when I drove it home.  It is an unrestored California car with its original sheet metal and deluxe interior.  The car is actually a 350/2 bl. engine, but the previous owner installed a 400 hood, which looks great, even though it’s not original.  I have a faded fax copy of the title with the previous California owner’s name and a set of CA plates that were once registered to the car.  It was manufactured in Van Nuys, CA.


The Parchment interior with comfort-weave seats really makes the Carousel Red pop.


Note the original wheel and two delete panels on the dash just to the right.


Mike even has the original inflatable spare tire and canister in the trunk.


Suzy, loves putting her head out ther window and feeling the breeze too!

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One of our most popular events is our Fall Colors Cruise to Lake Geneva Wisconsin. Here we are gathering our ‘birds together for our flight up north on our first one in October of 2013.

It turned 80k mikes last year.  From what I have read, the deluxe upholstery is original as it retains its perforated material.  I can’t speak to the carpet, dash pad or door panels.  My guess is that the carpet was replaced before I owned it.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the door panels are original.  Headrest and vertical interior panels in back were once resprayed probably in lacquer.  I installed rear seatbelts from another 1969 firebird.  Dash and console are probably unmolested.  It retains its AM FM radio with the rotating dial.

Carousel Red is one of 15 factory options.  It has only been repaired as needed and it drives like a 1969 Firebird that’s one or two years old.  What I like about the car is its cool lines and curb appeal.  It looks likes it’s going 100 MPH when it’s sitting still.  Driving the car takes you back to the old days.  I love looking over the twin scooped hood, the sound of the exhaust, the wind in my hair and the feeling like you’re driving an almost new 1969 Firebird.  The thumbs up are great and thanks to the club I actually drive it more than once a year.

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On the road in Wisconsin.

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Seven Firebirds at the Geneva Inn, Lake Geneva.

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Kevin, on the far left, joined us from Milwaukee, and Matt Avery, behind him is the one to thank for designing our great logo, website and Facebook site. Matt was crucial to the beginning development of our club.

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You should have seen the reaction when we pulled into this old fashioned Dog N Suds drive in! It was a fantastic photo op. By the way, Scott’s ’69 Trans Am will be auctioned at Mecum Chicago next weekend. We’ll be sad to see it go.

The club has added to the enjoyment as I have learned more about my car and I have made many new friends who share the same passion for old cars.  Many engines later, Shelly still has his and mine is a keeper too!

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A popular stop on Route 66 through Illinois is this vintage Texaco station in Dwight. We rocked the house in May of 2014 with 10 first gen Firebirds making the cruise.

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This aerial shot is one of our favorites. Here, you can see the owner with each car.

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Occasionally, the old California License plates get put on the car for a show, like here at the Indian Uprising in 2014.

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Blue sky and red, orange & yellow foliage in Wisconsin on our Fall Colors Cruise – 2014.

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Gathering for the second annual Fall colors cruise in 2014. It’s just a coincidence, but notice all the cars are red, purple or orange.

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At the famous Route 66 Mural in May this year.

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Early on a Saturday morning in June this year, some of our ‘birds were selected for a photo shoot with noted Pontiac author, Rocky Rotella. Rocky is writing a new book about Firebirds which should be out late this year.

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The old and the really old – at the Tri Power Open House the first weekend in May 2015.

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Firebirds lined up at the picturesque Pontiac court house.

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It’s nice to have a power top! Mike’s ’69 Firebird with two of our ’68s in the background.

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Pizza night during the Indian Uprising is becoming an annual event. Mike with Mark Evans from Michigan, Mark Boratto, myself, and Tim and Penny Die from the Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum. Tim is also the editor of the POCI Smoke Signals Magazine.

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The indoor arena at the Indian Uprising show this year – 2015.

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Heading off looking for the next adventure.

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The proud owner of a very nice Firebird!

(Story by Mike Kessler and Ken Pitcher.  Pictures by Dave Sullivan, Ken Pitcher, Larry Delay, and Mike Kessler.)

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