Take it to the Drags

You know that feeling you get when you ask for something you’re almost afraid to get? Like being young and egging your brother on to chase you. When he finally comes after you, you’ve got this giddy fear thing going on and you run wild-eyed, laughing like a crazy person.  I understand this is a very specific emotion, but it’s pretty much spot on how I felt after reaching out to my dad with the big ask.  Although a little scary in a good way, I knew in my gut rebuilding an old car was what I wanted to do and this was the time to do it.  The only person I needed to egg on was myself.  Pop responded that same day.


The idea of working with you on an old car rebuild makes my heart sing. Mom and I would love you out here more for any reason. 1970 era Chevys and Pontiacs are great looking and premium vehicles. Big money to start with and hard to find in general. Although I’m sure we could find them on e-bay. Of course I would have to finish or at least put the Firebird back into running shape. You’re correct that I seem to have some sort of block in getting back into it. I’ve forgotten so much that I will have to relearn and some new things like painting I want to teach myself. Tell me what you think of this. I think the old girl is still a great looking muscle car and the engine and transmission are practically new. I’ll give it to you, you can finance the rest of the project and we can learn what we need to know. There are also plenty of old gear heads, junk yards and cheaper parts I know around here.

Love, Dad

Wow, wow, wow…makes his “heart sing.”  I about broke down there.  Then he lands the final blow to the heartstrings with:

P.S. This could also just be our first car.

1990 76 Firebird

1976 Pontiac Firebird “The Bird” in 1989 when Pop first got it.

So this is amazing. Pop’s on board, I’m incredibly grateful, except…I’m not quite sure I want the Bird.  I mean, it’s always been HIS car, the 1976 body shape doesn’t blow my skirt up and besides, the thing’s a beast!  I don’t know that I can handle that much car.  Here’s the deets according to Pop:

My Firebird has the original Pontiac, this makes it more valuable as some had Oldsmobile engines, 350 cubic inch V-8 with a 350 turbo automatic transmission. The transmission was rebuilt about 5K miles ago and the engine has an Edelbrock performer cam, roller rockers, Accell ignition, Hooker headers and a 600 CFM Holly 4 barrel carburetor. It was a 15 second 91 MPH car when Ron Silverman and I took it to the drags. I have the original wheels and most of the original trim. It would be my suggestion to return it to as original a look as possible but not change the performance features of the engine. It would truly be even more of a sleeper than your Mustang. Whatever you decide to do, I am excited, bye.

Honestly, does this not sound like a man who is in love with his car?  As Freddie Mercury would say, he’s “got a feel for his automobile.”  Pop obviously needs to see this thing back on the road and I really don’t need something  I can  ‘take to the drags’, which totally cracks me up.  In the 90’s he and his buddy Ron from up the street would take the Bird and Ron’s 318 V8 Dodge Dart to Byron Dragway (the ‘Playground of Power’) to drag them legally and get certified times for the 1/4 mile.  Legally, as opposed to the old days when Pop and his friends would go to Richard’s Drive-In on Greenbay Road in Wilmette looking for a race.  In 1960 he was 17 and traded his 1955 Chevy Belair with an inline 6 and ‘three on the tree’ (the car he had when he dated Momma) for a 1951 Ford with a Cadillac engine.  The story at the time was that the square 4 Cadillac V8 came out of one of Granatelli’s dragsters. Andy Granatelli and his brothers grew up in Chicago and were big into racing in the 40’s and 50′.  Andy went on to become the president of STP as well as one of he greatest promoters and innovative designers in the racing world.


The Bird’s results from Bryon.  A scant win by car 27 but a win none the less!

Bryon Results



Momma and Pop and a ’55 Belair like the one they dated in.

Not taking the Bird has ended up being the right decision.  I called the other day and Momma told me he was out in the garage working on it.  The fire was back.  She’s just about as excited as he is as she’s been looking at that yellow monster in pieces for about 25 years now.  As he progresses, Pop’s been keeping me up to date. Unbeknownst to me, I had already entered Automotive 101.





The hunt…good question.  If I wasn’t taking the Bird, its was time to figure out what I did want.  I knew what I liked when I saw it, but I had a lot to learn about the world of vintage muscle cars.


PS: Here’s Pop giving us the real Bird.

8 thoughts on “Take it to the Drags

  1. Amazing—you think you know someone, then one day they show up like this. I will be laughing for weeks. I have no idea what you have said, but the language of cars has never been my thing. Keep the blog coming Janet–it will be good for my soul to have that much laughter in my life. Have a blast and tell you dad what a stud he is to take you on. xoxo


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