Do you know why it is that you like the cars you like? For most of us blessed (or cursed) with the gearhead hot rodder gene, it goes back to flashes in our youth when our opinions were still forming about what constituted “cool.” When it comes to cars, there’s always something that the “right one” says to you that the others don’t. Maybe it’s the shape, the flow of the body lines, the sound, or the power—or maybe there was just one particular car that stuck in your mind as the embodiment of awesome.

For John Barrow, he distinctly recalls the moment when he was 14 years old. There was a ’67 Firebird for sale in his hometown and he remembers thinking, “Man, that’s one good looking car.” But the effect was more profound than that. John didn’t know much about cars at the time, but from that point on, his eyes were opened and he suddenly began to take notice of cars in general—years, models, stats about engines, and so on. In other words, he had a hot rodder awakening. He discovered plenty of muscle cars to appreciate, but there was just something special about the shape, style, and proportions of that Firebird. He then decided, “One day ... I’ll own a car like that.” And, for the next 20 years or so, those first-gen F-bodies held a special place in his heart.

Though he never laid hands on one of his own during that time, anytime he saw an early Firebird, be it on the street or even on TV or in movies, he’d take special note of color, stance, and parts used to formulate a mental image of what his car would look like. Maybe he’d know it when he saw it. He never figured that he’d see his actual car on the big screen.

When the Matrix Reloaded (the second Matrix movie) came out in 2003, a ’67 Firebird made a standout appearance among the many late-model Caddys used in the film. For those who have seen the movie, yes, it’s the car driven by Jada Pinkett Smith’s character, Niobe, that serves as a moving crash pad for Laurence Fishburne’s character Morpheus when he falls off an 18-wheeler. It’s then rear-ended by said semi a few moments later. We never said it was a glorious appearance.

Maybe it was the excitement of the chase scene, or perhaps how great Jada looked driving it, but for some reason that particular Firebird stuck in John’s mind. In mid 2009, he decided to find out what happened to the Matrix Firebird. After some in-depth Internet searching, John discovered that, as you might imagine, there were several cars used during filming, most of which were destroyed in stunt work. Nevertheless, the director, Andy Wachowski, had kept the hero car for himself. Apparently it had been sitting in storage for several years, but serendipitously around that time frame (early June) Wachowski had decided to donate the car for a charity auction on eBay.

The auction was starting in about a week from the time John first began his search for the car, and he assumed that it would go for a high price, thanks to a big promotion of the auction and the connection to the movie. Once the auction started, John watched it and checked in every few days. As the auction progressed, he decided it couldn’t hurt for him to throw his hat in the ring, so he put in a low bid just for the fun of it. It was a ’67 Firebird, and in the Matrix, it had to go for way more than his max bid, right? But, as the eBay auction drew to a close, John remained the high bidder and ended up winning the car.