Anniversaries of any kind are important to mark since they're milestones commemorating the passage of time. That's especially true when it comes to relationships, and there's one anniversary you should always remember, or else! We're all familiar with the typical anniversary presents of flowers, dinner, jewelry, and so on. We say think bigger. If it's a present, think about things that are less fleeting. If it's a place, make something that will be an adventure and generate good memories together. If you can combine both and find a present that creates the potential for ongoing adventure, now you're talking. Jenn Fitzsimmons, who at the time was still Jenn White, hit upon exactly the right way to observe her fifth anniversary with Mike Fitzsimmons in the form of a '67 Firebird convertible project. By the change of her last name, you can see for yourself how well that worked out!
Jenn's father is Barry White of Barry's Speed Shop in Corona, California, so she is up in the world of street rods and modified muscle cars. Mike was a gearhead as well, but his interest had always leaned toward off-road trucks and sandrails. Nevertheless, dating Jenn and spending time around Barry's shop on the weekends started to slowly pull him into the hot rodding world. The Wrecks To Richesshow that chronicled some of Barry's builds, particularly the Super Muscle Cars, as Barry dubbed his full Pro Touring cars, really caught Mike's attention. He began pondering building a car of his own once he wrapped up his current sandrail project.
Jenn was paying attention and saw the perfect opportunity to get Mike his first muscle car. While most of the cars acquired for Wrecks To Riches went through miraculous transformations into modernized muscle, a few didn't make the cut. Lingering in the back of Barry's shop was one such overlooked project: a '67 Firebird convertible. Jenn knew an F-body wasn't Mike's first choice, but it did have great potential for Pro Touring, and, of course, she could get the family discount. After talking to Barry, she secretly purchased the Firebird to be a fifth anniversary present.
Now, if you're not familiar with Wrecks To Riches, the title is pretty accurate. The cars aren't usually crash victims, but they are always pretty "wrecked" as far as condition. This Firebird was no exception. Mike says calling it rough would be pretty kind. The original owner had started to tear into it for a restoration, but gave up after mostly stripping it. It was a roller with no drivetrain, no front clip, missing both quarter-panels, rotted floors, doors removed, and no soft top left. On top of that, about half of what was still there had been mediablasted, but left unprotected and stored outdoors afterward, so there was a fuzz of surface rust everywhere. That definitely sounds like a wreck to us. But Jenn knew Mike was a gearhead, so rather than seeing scrap he saw all the potential the Firebird held. Still, that's a big project for your first muscle car build.
Fortunately, Mike's intent all along was to start with a pretty rough car since he wanted to build a complete performance car from the inside out. Since he didn't plan to reuse much stock stuff, starting with a nice car would have been a waste. Plus, since he had full access to Barry's shop, all the possible tools he could need were at his disposal. Whereas we would have been intimidated by the level of work required, Mike's background in building off-road racers had prepped him well for understanding how to build things from scratch that could handle the rigors of dirt racing. On top of that, Mike's day job is as a jet aircraft mechanic. Planes have an entirely different level of safety and workmanship quality required on all fronts, so when you combine those areas of expertise, building a Pro Touring car was going to be cake.