Lord Vader, your ride has arrived. Just make sure your sissy cyborg reflexes can keep it pointed straight, because this 1,000-plus horsepower beast is a Firebird like no other. While most second-gen ’Birds have been spared no dignity, shamelessly emblazoned with screaming chicken graphics much to the amusement of the drunken hillbillies that defiled them as Bandit clones, this one has thankfully been spared the same fate. Subtle yet aggressive in a sinister kind of way, it wears a cloak of black so dark that the gravity of its visual presence breaks down time and space in its wake. Instead of hearing the buzz of a big external fuel pump when juicing up the electrical system—as you’d expect in most mega horsepower forced-induction machines—the menacing cadence of Darth Vader’s respirator seems like a more appropriate soundtrack. If you don’t know the power of the Dark Side, the Firebird’s twin-turbo, all-aluminum Pontiac motor will make sure you do. Furthermore, with a four-link suspension, six-speed stick, humongo brakes, and more body augmentation than the entire 90210 zip code, it might just be the finest ’70 Firebird ever assembled.
In truth, many early second-gen Firebirds weren’t subjected to the screaming chicken treatment, but even so, the car’s increasingly garish evolution throughout the ’70s left it with a certain stigma that proves nearly impossible to rub off. Trying to transform a ’70 Firebird into something that’s tastefully aggressive, yet polished and refined, is something most people aren’t exactly volunteering for, but the duo of Thomas Cronkright and Brian Moat don’t know how to back down from a challenge. For Thomas, the project started out as a means of reliving the juvenile delinquent lifestyle once again. “My first car was a ’70 Firebird, and thanks to my heavy right foot, I didn’t have that car for very long. In no time flat, I couldn’t afford the tickets and insurance anymore,” he says. “I longed to have that feeling of speed from my youth once again, so I tracked down a ’70 Firebird several years ago to build. The car had no motor, trans, or front clip, so it was basically a lawn full of parts when I bought it. Impressed with the work he’d done on other cars before, I contacted Brian at All Speed Customs [www.AllSpeedPerformance.com] for some fresh ideas. The original plan was for a simple restoration, but Brian put his creative touch on the car and breathed new life into the project.”
Thanks to big cubes and big heads, the 455 Pontiac produces incredible horsepower output f
The plan was as daring as it was ambitious: build the most technically brilliant execution of a ’70 Firebird the world has ever seen while pushing the envelope of craftsmanship at every turn possible. “No one had ever put this kind of effort into a ’70 Firebird before. We didn’t sit around and say ‘let’s see what we can order out of a catalog,’ but instead wanted to build as many one-off parts as possible using local Michigan talent,” Thomas says. “That meant installing a modern engine and suspension wasn’t enough. We wanted to build a car with modern styling elements, like something Pontiac would design if they were still in business today.”
Thanks to the help of designer Kris Horton, Thomas and Chris were able to lay the framework for their collective vision. The end product is a car in which just about every body panel is tweaked. “The factory hoodscoop is one of those ‘love it or hate it’ kind of things, so we wanted to mute that effect. We started out with a stock fiberglass hood, and enlarged and elongated the scoop to make the nose look shorter,” Thomas says. “The custom heat extractors in the fenders are functional and help cool down the turbos. The fenders were also stretched out in order to fit 10-inch-wide wheels inside them. The front valance, chin spoiler, grille, side skirts, deck spoiler, and rear diffuser are all custom built out of metal as well. The roof has been modified with a ‘reverse Mohawk’ look, a theme that spills over into the rear spoiler.”