Paul Gundberg’s custom-color, 1968 400 coupe is an outstanding example of building a high-powered Pontiac with modern handling and comfort. Paul has been one of the most active members of our club from very early in our beginnings.
He is always willing and ready to drive this beautiful show-bird to any and all of our events, never shying away from a little rain or distance to make the trip. He is also a frequent contributor whenever anyone has a technical question about Firebirds or building a restomod beast like his. What I quickly found out about Paul’s Firebird is that EVERYONE loves it, and it wins just about every show it enters! I asked Paul to give us some of the background on what went into his car and what it was like before he transformed it into the curve-hugging fireball it is today.
“Here’s some of my back-story not too many people know about. When I was 12, I was in my Dad’s car a ‘72 Cutlass Supreme when he raced a 1968 Firebird. After the race, I asked my Dad what kind of car that was that just spanked us? When he told me it was a ’68 Firebird, I knew I had to have one someday! My first car at the age of 18 was a 1988 formula with t-tops, and a 305. It wasn’t fast, but it handled like a Corvette. Although, I knew I still wanted to get a first-gen Firebird.”
“Now fast forward to 2003, I found my ’68 Firebird 400 in Wisconsin. I would say it started out as a 60-footer; it looked good from 60 feet away, but not so good up close. It was in such bad shape; I was barely able to get it home. However, it was a PHS documented 400 4-speed with a hood tach, and I saw a world of potential in that car.”
After learning so much about first gens, Paul determined that the car is actually a combination of a ‘67 that was rear ended, and a ‘68 that was damaged. The motor is a YS code ‘68 block, with ’68 multi-leaf springs, but ’67 factory traction bars. You will also notice it has ‘68 doors with the Firebird etched in the glass, but a ‘67 front lower valance. Keeping with a clean restomod look, he finished the car by removing the “Firebird” script from the front fenders.
Paul told us; “To start the project, I disassembled it completely in my one-car garage. The motor went to Book Racing to be bored .030 over and fitted with forged pistons, and the sub-frame went out for a thorough sandblasting and painting. It was a long term project, as I bought parts for many years, while it kind of sat. I even moved into a larger house and had to move the project in a million pieces.”
Continuing with the engine, he went with H beam connecting rods, a 4-bolt main, hydraulic roller cam .560/560, roller rockers, aluminum Kauffman racing heads, Edelbrock intake topped off with a Holley 670 cfm carb. fed by an electric fuel pump. You may notice the custom fabricated aluminum valve covers (polished) and a serpentine conversion kit, giving the engine a unique look. The rumble exits via Hookers headers and a 2.5 inch exhaust. Paul replaced the stock Muncie 4-speed with a Tremec 6-speed T56, which turns an aluminum driveshaft into a 4:11 posi rear end.
To keep all that Pontiac power under control, Paul installed sub-frame connectors and did a 4-wheel disc brake conversion. He upgraded the suspension with tubular A-arms, and QA-1 coil over shocks, and lowered it two inches in the front and one and a half in the back. The wheels are made by Centerline, 17 x 8 front and 17 x 10.5 in back, with Nito 555 tires bringing the horses to the pavement – sized 245/45/17 front and 275/40/17 in back.
The interior is also loaded with custom features and creature comforts starting with a metal flake painted dash, all new wiring and a complete set of custom Phantom gauges. The 6-speed shifter sits in a factory ’67 console between two very comfortable leather front seats by Procar. A nice custom touch on the rear seat is a cool custom embroidered first gen Firebird insignia.
“In 2013 I took it to Canal Auto Rebuilders in Lockport for the professional paint you see on it now, and I started driving to shows. The paint is House of Kolors, Sunset Pearl mixed w Tangelo. The silver ghost-flames are also House of Kolors Pearl Silver.”
Even with the considerable investment in time and money in this custom pavement pounder, we love how Paul gets out and drives it with his wife Kelly to so many of our shows and cruises!
(Story by Ken Pitcher and Paul Gundberg. Pictures by Ken Pitcher, Paul Gundberg, Larry Delay, Dave Sullivan, Tim Dye, Eric Weinberg & Mike Noun.)
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