When you think Firebird the first images that spring to mind are probably mullets, acid washed jeans, and the screamin’ chicken. While American iron has not always been the image of refinement and handling some have dedicated themselves to turning that image upside down and transforming their muscle cars into track-bred racers.
When we came across the “unorthodox Firebird” of Anders Jeppsson we had to dig a little deeper. The black sheep of his surroundings and peer group, this Swedish Pontiac enthusiast was the only one of his kind. “I bought the Firebird in 1999, it was my first car. I was 18 then and quite alone with an American car — alone at my high school, alone in my neighborhood, alone among my friends but at least not alone in the city.” explained Jeppsson.
With no far fewer muscle car gurus to consult than we have access to he in the ‘states Jeppsson had a challenge ahead of him. Undeterred, and with a wealth of computer aided drafting skill he set out to revamp the style, stance, and performance of this iconic ride.
This first phase of this ongoing build was tear-down. To facilitate better body work and mobility a custom rotisserie was fabricated and the body was mounted for free-spinning access. Jeppsson announced early on in the build that due to the importation taxes and shipping fees associated with lofting parts across the pond, many of his modifications would have to be made in house. We applaud his homespun approach to modification, a skill nearly lost to this generation.
The existing powerplant was a strong 400 cubic inch Pontiac V8 with Kauffman cylinder heads, fuel injection, dry sump oiling, and other go-fast modifications. While the engine would receive some attention in the build the primary focus was to bring the chassis and body into the modern era. Among the body and chassis construction was the fabrication of a custom windage tray to prevent oil starvation under high lateral G.
A set of old 4 into 1 headers were the donors for a set of modified primaries. after lopping off the collectors and rerouting the tubes a pair of tri-y headers were on hand to smooth out the power curve of the 400 Pontiac. “The engine is mated to a LT1 T56 transmission together with a lightened flywheel and a Centerforce Clutch,” explained Jeppsson.
Considerable sheetmetal work was needed to followthrough with the vision for this car, the underbody of the car became a patchwork quilt of sheetmetal repairs and improvements to accommodate the drivetrain, suspension, and exhaust. Additionally the fenders were flared in hand wrought sheet steel to provide coverage for the oversized rear meats.
The rear-end of this project needed to be something special, “I started this project thinking I wanted IRS, but since the car will be low there just isn’t room. Since I wanted something lighter than the stock axle I went for a de Dion instead.” decided Jeppsson. A de Dion is a rarely implemented suspension system involving a cross-tube and several links. Traditional-style IRS halfshafts are still used but no longer as independently articulating units.
After a considerable amount of digital drafting and fabrication the de Dion began to take shape. The system would be suspended by Penske coilovers front and rear. To match the comprehensive rear fabrication Jeppsson opted to design and create his own front control arms and pushrod actuated suspension design — keeping the weight inboard.
Moving back to the interior, a substantial and thoroughly triangulated roll cage was fitted. “Because I’m so vain, it had to be TIG-Welded. 32 hours of welding across two days — I was pretty tired a couple days afterward.” recalled Jeppsson.
The attention to detail extends to areas no one will ever see, the mark of a true craftsman who takes pride in his work. A boxed-tubular crossmember was fabricated and TIG welded together for a fine fit and finish. Accompanying the crossmember are motor mounts and transmission supports — all hand made.
Finally on the wheels and tires we are treated to a preview of the phenomenal posture the Firebird has adopted. We look forward to seeing the completion of this build and hearing how the car does out on the track. If nothing else this build is a lesson in can-do attitude — with some tools, know how and motivation we need not be dependent on parts suppliers.
“I’ll never sell this car. I hope to drive it as much as possible — there are no thoughts on phase 2 but I’ll probably spend some winters correcting design errors and improving the details,” concluded Jeppsson.