'68 FirebirdR&D Guy's RideBuilder Cris Gonzalez of Oxnard, California, has a lot of experience in the automotive industry. He worked in the research and development department of Wilwood Engineering as their project coordinator. Wilwood has an excellent reputation for producing high-quality parts, and are always creating new products. Cris left Wilwood to build cars for a living full time under the name JCG Restoration and Customs. He has been known to turn out some great Camaros over the years. Cris worked alongside Firebird owner, Ken Ramey, at Wilwood, giving them over 35 years of machining and product development experience between the two of them.
Ken bought this '68 Firebird from a friend who had anticipated building it for the last 13 years, but could never get it going. Once it became Ken's, he knew exactly where to turn to do the build. Though known for his work on Camaros, it was no far stretch for him to build the Firebird. The car came to Cris as an original paint project in progress. Most of the disassembly had been done by the previous owner, but Cris got it on a proper body dolly and began the fabrication work.
Ken always dreamed of having a Pro-Touring style car, especially since Wilwood caters to that market. Having Cris in charge of the build, Ken knew he could come by and help with the machining and one-off part fabricating. Like most Pro-Touring rides, this Firebird had to be powered by a late-model fuel-injected motor. To keep it in the family, Cris transplanted an LS2 from an '06 GTO. That way he's got LS power with the Pontiac name. The engine is stock for now, but is awaiting a new camshaft and some other performance goodies.
The suspension is already screaming fast, as the three-link Art Morrison rear suspension is going in with a custom Watt's link setup. The front gets Art's complete front kit that uses C5 Corvette spindles that accept a set of Wilwood 13-inch rotors and six-piston calipers.
What better team than a couple of R&D guys for a muscle car build? This car will be ready for SEMA 2009, and can be spotted in the Wilwood booth to showcase Cris and Ken's work, as well as Wilwood's product.
By The Numbers