Earl Blundell, Marion, AR
“Unreal!” “Very nice!” “Sick car!” Earl Blundell says it’s amazing to him to hear these things about his Firebird after working on it for so long. But now that it’s finished, he can stand in his garage and smile, knowing that he accomplished his original goal. “I took a junker, and with some time and dedication, created a monster, a beautiful monster,” Blundell told us. Back in 1969, Blundell’s uncle bought the Firebird. It was the car he and his new wife drove on their honeymoon. Many years later, it was also the first car Blundell ever drag raced. Seven years ago, Blundell bought the car with the intention to just build a driver, but with the help and motivation from his family, Javier’s paint and body, and Precision Race engines, the project turned into much more. Working on it once a week, Blundell dropped in a 575hp Weiand-blown 383ci small-block with an Eagle forged crank and H-beam rods, 9.2:1 Mahle forged pistons, CNC-ported Patriot Race Rite 225cc heads with 2.08/1.60 valves, MSD coil, plug wires, 6 BTM box, and a COMP Cams solid roller cam. A Strange Super 60 with a Detroit Locker, 4.10 gears, 35-spline axles, and Strange chrome-moly driveshaft gets the power to the ground. A Unisteer manual rack with ididit steering column and Hotchkis springs help him keep the power in check. Many more future upgrades are in the works for the interior and suspensions, but first things first: Blundell intends on enjoying what he has for a while.
Bob Morse, Pittsgrove, NJ
Cars from the ’80s are the perfect affordable option for hot rodding since they’re still easy to find in decent shape. Take this ’85 Monte Carlo for example; it only took $500 for Bob Morse to bring home a clean base for a build with his son. Luckily, the body was very straight and had very little rust, so they were able to dive right in and yank the entire drivetrain and kick it to the curb. For the new combo, the Morse boys opted for a new 350ci/330hp crate motor backed by a rebuilt Muncie four-speed and a custom driveshaft. Part of us thinks they should have gone for more gears, the other loves the retro-ness of it. In the rear, a 10-bolt 8.5 out of an ’87 Buick Grand National was swapped in. Yes, they know that’s a ’60s Ford color, but it just happened to match the vision they had for the color. Now that it’s back on the road, Bob reports that the Monte has exceeded their expectations. It runs and handles great, and is a blast to drive.
Bryon Lawrenz, Pueblo, CO
Bryon Lawrenz was in his sophomore year in high school in 2007 when he found this ’75 Nova parked on a side street with the “For Sale” sign asking $1,500. After talking price, he bought the car for $1,000 and drove it home. The following summer, Bryon and his grandpa Rick Lawrenz, painted the Nova in his airplane hangar and the vinyl top was added to complete the Cabriolet look. The Nova was used as Bryon’s daily driver all throughout high school, and is currently still his ride while in college. In the fall of 2011, the old 350 was starting to go through a quart of oil a week, so Bryon decided it was time to drop in a new engine. A family friend, Tony Martinet, built a new 350 and with the help of two uncles, his dad, both brothers, and his best friend, the team managed to pull the old engine and trans out of the car in less than a day. Bryon’s brother, Michael, then tore down the trans and rebuilt it within a few hours so that it could be reinstalled with the new engine the following day. The Nova was also treated with an MSD Street Fire distributor, Edelbrock valve covers, two-barrel Rochester carb, and Flowmaster exhaust. Down the road, Bryon plans on redoing the upholstery and the whole interior including new dash and gauges. In the next few months, he plans on fixing the surface rust on the panels and touching up the paint of the car. In the meantime, he’ll still be sliding behind the wheel daily.
Charles Michael Lewis, Nashville, TN
Charles Lewis picked up this amazingly clean ’78 Thunderbird from the original owner back in 1987. He was looking for something different from all the ’80s Mustangs and Camaros cruising the lot, plus at $1,500 it fit his high school budget. With a few tweaks of the timing and carb, Charles soon realized the potential of the car. The 400M engine made good torque and the T-bird’s control arm rear suspension made for a surprisingly well-handling ride for such a large car.
During the ’90s, more modifications came. The 400M was bored .30 over and rebuilt with a mild Melling cam, 9.5:1 pistons, Weiand intake, and an Edelbrock 600 carb. The machine work was done by a local shop, but Charles and a buddy did all the teardown and reassembly in his parent’s garage. A few years later the suspension and heavy-duty brakes were given a full rebuild and 17x8 and 18x10 wheels were added to put everything to good use. A C6 was slid in place of the original FMX, along with a set of Hooker Super Competition headers. The T-bird is a weekend toy rather than a daily driver now, which will give Charles more time for more mods, including a Gear Vendors overdrive, Edelbrock cylinder heads, bigger brakes, and suspension upgrades. In the aesthetics department, Charles is also pondering a custom cowl hood that follows the lines of the original.