If the goal was stealth, then we don’t know how well that was really achieved. Mike Ardito of Tri Power Automotive of Libertyville, Illinois, says a “stealth” look was what car owner Pete Krehbiel was shooting for when he originally commissioned Mike and his crew to build this Firebird. Well, the blown ’67 Pontiac showed up on PHR’s radar as big as a B52 bomber with an incredibly aggressive “get out of my way” rearview mirror factor and “see you later” rear end.
The project began simply enough three years ago when Pete acquired the Firebird after a late-night session involving eBay and a couple of cocktails (you know, you’ve all been there). He’d never been much of a muscle car guy, but the ’Bird sang to him and he wanted to build something a little different. He hooked up with the gang at Tri Power to begin a complete transformation from squeaky cruiser to agro bruiser. With a name like Tri Power, you have to figure those guys know a little about Ponchos, and they do. Mike and his partners met up through local Pontiac cruise-ins and car shows, and later expanded their love to the Tri-power Corvettes. When they decided to put their love of car building to a full-time career, there was no better name for the three guys than Tri Power. They’ve been building everything from resto Indy cars to Rolls-Royces to high-powered street rods, but this was their first foray into the Pro Touring genre. Not a bad first step.
The body is a mix of old meets new from top to bottom and front to back. Classic Coke-bottle ’60s styling is what makes the overall silhouette universally appealing. A dedicated effort to modernize and tighten up the fine lines is what really makes the car shine though. Starting at the front of the car, Pete mentioned that he loved the front valence and parking lights of the ’69 Camaro and wanted to somehow incorporate that look into the ’Bird. Mike took that Camaro valence, cut and trimmed it, and fitted it with HID parking lights to brighten up evening drives. The problem they immediately discovered was that the top of those lights then ended up being covered up by the signature Firebird front bumper. Of course, the next step then was to narrow the bottom of the bumper 2½ inches to clear the lights, which had the added effect of a more modern front end. Typical car build progression, “A leads to B leads to C leads to ...” That theme of localized updating continued up front as the old-school 5006 headlights were scooted out in favor of bright, white HID lights with an electric-blue accent surround light.
On the main body, they wanted to keep that signature look, but clean it up some. Mike described their mods: “We eliminated all the seams around the tailpanel, the upper quarter-to-deck panel, the fender-to-lower-front-corner valence pieces.” There were some other subtleties that, unless you were a Pontiac guy, you might not notice. “On the louvers on the sides, I never liked those little trim pieces that the Firebirds had. They look cheap to me. I was going to make some aluminum ones and polish them and have them inset to follow the same shape of the louvers that are there. Then I came up with this idea—I’ve got a ’65 Pontiac 2+2 that’s got these louvers on the fenders. I took one of those and flipped it around backward, and it actually fit the contour of the body and was the exact height as the louvers on the quarter so I put those on and eliminated the holes for the other louvers, and it gave it a look like a functional brake airscoop.”