Smokin' hot looks aside, Ken approached the build with functionality as a top priority, so he didn't monkey around when selecting the Firebird's mechanicals. Suspending the F-body is an Art Morrison front clip that includes beefier framerails, and C6 Corvette aluminum control arms and spindles. In the rear, there's an Art Morrison three-link suspension featuring a Watt's link for enhanced lateral control of the Ford 9-inch rearend assembly. Strange coilovers situated at each corner provide a wide range of adjustability, and since no high-end Pro Touring build would be complete without a set of fat rear tires, JCG tubbed the 'Bird as well. Not surprisingly, the braking hardware is all Wilwood, including the pedals, master cylinders, and Aerolite 14-inch rotors and calipers. To turn all that potential grip into real grip, the cutting-edge chassis rolls on Nitto rubber wrapped around 18-inch front and 19-inch rear Forgeline RB3 wheels.
With the amount of effort that went into building the Firebird's ultramodern chassis, an old-school carbureted motor simply wouldn't cut it. Seeking power, reliability, low mass, and fuel economy, opting for LS power was a no-brainer for Ken. He pulled a low-mileage LS2 engine and Tremec T56 transmission out of a wrecked 2006 GTO, and transplanted it into the Firebird. To pull off the swap, Ken carved out a custom crossmember and motor mounts from billet, then fabricated a set of custom headers. Except for a mild COMP 222/224-at-.050 hydraulic roller camshaft, the engine is all stock, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Thanks to the airflow potential of the factory LS2/LS6 cylinder heads, combos this simple routinely put out 450-475 hp.
Granted that Ken brought in the big guns to handle the body and paint, as well as the interior, there are literally hundreds of custom machined parts he designed and built himself. The condensed version of the list includes custom chassis braces, engine accessory pulleys, radiator core support shrouding, crossmembers, valve covers, a shifter handle, a cold air induction system, switch panels, trim rings, cupholders, a center console, and exhaust hangers. "Sometimes you have to go with what you know best, and I've been a machinist since I was 18 years old. If you added up all the hours spent on designing and machining all the custom billet parts, they're probably worth more than the car," Ken quips. "I enjoy designing something as a 3-D model, then transforming it into a real part. I did a lot of the design work at night, after hours, and I also have a machine shop at home. I had a lot of fun building this car and designing all the custom parts that went into it."
In the process of fabricating a bunch of custom one-off billet components and bolting them to a nipped and tucked body, Ken also built a truly stunning, fully modernized Pro Touring Firebird. While it's oh-so common to find 1969 Camaros done up in such a fashion, it's very refreshing to see such craftsmanship and determination materialize in the form of its oft-neglected F-body sibling. Who needs marble and travertine when you can have billet blocks and CNC machines?
By The Numbers
1968 Pontiac Firebird
Ken Ramey, 59
Thousand Oaks, CA
Type: GM LS2 small-block
Block: factory Gen IV aluminum
Rotating assembly: factory cast crank, rods, and 10.9:1 pistons
Cylinder heads: stock cathedral-port aluminum castings
Camshaft: COMP Cams 222/224-at-.050 hydraulic roller; .566/.568-inch lift; 112-degree LSA
Induction: stock LS2 intake manifold and throttle-body
Ignition: factory GM coil packs and plug wires
Exhaust: custom stainless steel headers, X-pipe, and dual 3-inch Borla mufflers
Many billet addicts dig it for its bling, but not Ken. He sprayed all the custom billet pa
Transmission: Tremec T56 Magnum six-speed trans, stock clutch, custom shifter
Rear axle: Ford 9-inch rearend with 3.92:1 gears and limited-slip differential
Front suspension: Art Morrison front clip, upper/lower control arms, spindles, and sway bar; Strange coilovers
Rear suspension: Art Morrison three-link, sway bar, and Watt's link; Strange coilovers
Brakes: Wilwood Aerolite 14-inch discs with six-piston calipers, front; Wilwood 14-inch discs with four-piston calipers, rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Forgeline RB3 18x8, front; 19x12, rear
Tires: Nitto NT05 255/45R18, front; 315/35R19, rear