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Dream Cars: 1968 Pontiac Vibe

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Pontiac Firebird
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Dream Cars: 1968 Pontiac Vibe

Bill Crittenden (The Crittenden Automotive Library)
May 12, 2011

So far the Dream Cars series has been about production cars I would have liked to have seen on the dealership lots.  This is a departure from that, as this is about one of my custom car ideas.

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were watching The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift.  It's one of my favorite car guy movies of all time.  When it came out I really wanted to build a model of the 1967 Ford Mustang fastback with the Nissan engine.  I really love mixing automotive themes, and bringing classic style to modern technology has been a favorite idea of mine for quite some time, ever since my girlfriend bought a Chrysler PT Cruiser.

My favorite scene with the car was when they were building it.  Hood missing, weathered old Ford with a shining piece of Japanese technology resting between the wheel wells.  It looked like Bullitt and sounded like Nürburgring.

It may not have had the power of a blown V8, but then I've come to believe that unless you can afford frequent trips to track days that most power is simply wasted.  Or, if used on the street, is going to get you arrested or killed.  But having enough power to spin the tires, without all the extra weight of an iron block 8-cylinder and some modern additions to the brakes, suspension, wheels, and tires...enough to get the car sideways and test yourself and your car at the limits of control in a space the size of a parking lot...can be just as fun in a much safer way.  I love taking my all-wheel drive 2003 Pontiac Vibe out on snowy days (the only days when it has enough power to spin its tires), sliding sideways and enjoying myself at speeds that rarely top the posted limit.  I've been wanting to take it out and do some off-road rallying with it, but I've been having problems finding a place to do it where I live.  I want a car that can get sideways in any old parking lot, something suburban Chicago does have in abundance.  I want a car that can drift.

Plus, since drifting is about style and control instead of pure speed and performance, you have some room to get creative with your car's design.  Such as stuffing a Japanese straight six into an old American pony car.

However, despite my love of the Nissan Skyline, I don't much like the Mustang (before I get hate mail, let me just say the reason is because it's such a great car that a lot of them were saved and rebuilt and I see them everywhere, so one in my garage would be just one too many to me), and the Nissan-in-a-Ford has been done before.  I don't want people to see it as a bad copy of the movie car, because any creative interpretation I make would be perceived as inaccuracy to the original design by someone who didn't understand what I was trying to do.  So I have to erase the board and do something completely different, and if I'm not copying anything directly and I'm not concerned with pure performance I would be free to pick something I enjoyed working on.

I grew up in Oldsmobiles.  I worked in a Toyota dealership for a while, during which time I fell in love with the Supra.  I married a Chevrolet driver.  General Motors and Toyota have a bit of a shared past with Geo and NUMMI, creating such cars as the Chevrolet Prism in the U.S. and the Toyota Voltz in Japan.  A Toyota engine in a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro would be a natural swap, but as with the Mustang, just a little too expected.  But I have a Pontiac with a Toyota engine in my own driveway...

The car I came up with is a 1968 Pontiac Firebird with a turbocharged engine from a Toyota Supra.  I'd prefer a stock appearing white car, with modern brakes, tires and wheels.  And a Vibe badge instead of the word Firebird on the fender.  It would look like an ordinary restomod, until the engine is started.  The classic style from the glory years of the arrowhead combined with 40 years of improvements on the chassis and suspension available via catalog order and since it's a 60's car I can play with the modern engine management system without worrying about the emissions shop failing me because of a bad OBD-II scan.

Of course, dark green is my favorite color, but I think the big chrome beak on the front stands out too much against dark colors.  I'd prefer a white car with green accents, perhaps in the form of a pinstripe, painted brake calipers, and lighting.  I would love to park it at a car show, hood closed, just waiting for someone to ask why it's got a Vibe badge or why I wrote "1968 Pontiac Vibe" on the registration card!

I found a picture from Popular Hot Rodding of a white Firebird from Cheyenne Pro Performance that looks a bit like the one I would build and set it as my computer background.  Just find a picture of that car, and play the soundtrack to Tokyo Drift, and you'll get an idea of what's going through my mind when I dream of the car I want to build someday.

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