Getting hooked on drag racing isn’t hard to do when you already have a serious need for speed, it just takes a small dose of the track to make you want more. For Ben Wilkinson, being around horsepower his entire life was just part of the equation that brought him to drag racing and made it easier to become obsessed with it. His all-steel 1967 Pontiac Firebird is the product of his need for the adrenaline rush that racing provides, and he has some big plans for his boosted Poncho.
Wilkinson got his first taste of the drag strip during his youth when he helped a good friend with a blown Nova. After that stint at the track, Wilkinson got into boat racing until a dangerous near-miss incident caused a change of heart and he decided it was time to find a new way to get his speed fix. Soon, he had a 1968 Firebird with a 555 cubic-inch Shafiroff engine providing the power. But Wilkinson realized that wasn’t going to be enough power, and he wanted some true Pontiac power under the hood.
Some might wonder about Wilkinson’s choice to go all-Pontiac with this build, and the answer is simple: tradition.
“I’ve been a Pontiac man ever since my father introduced me to them when I was a kid. I helped him restore a 1968 Firebird convertible with a 400 and four-speed, or as much help as a seven-year-old can be anyways. Ever since then I have been a hooked on Pontiacs, especially the ‘birds, and wanted to build one of my very own,” Wilkinson says.
Wilkinson’s shop, Forty1Thirty Fabrications, set out to start building his dream Firebird exactly how he envisioned it, all-Pontiac and bad ass. The car is a 1967 Firebird that’s all steel, has a VIN plate and is still titled. The body of the car still has the stock front and rear bumpers, grille, headlights, and taillights along with the original steel doors from the factory. The double-frame rail chassis has a 25.2 certification and uses a 4-link in the rear to put the power down with a fabricated 9-inch doing the work that uses Strange Engineering parts. Dampening duties are handled by a set of Penske shocks at all four corners of the car.
To keep everything Pontiac under the hood Wilkinson turned to Butler Performance to build a stout 455 cubic-inch motor. The O-ringed aluminum block uses Darton custom sleeves and has a killer rotating assembly anchored by a Crower billet crank, GRP billet aluminum rods, and Ross turbo pistons. For the top end of the motor, a set of Edelbrock heads are matched with titanium valves, PAC springs, T&D rocker arms, and a custom Comp Cams camshaft. Feeding the boost into the motor is a BOP intake with an Accufab throttle body. Quillen Motorsports Engineering designed the turbo setup that uses a pair of 88 mm snails from Precision Turbo. The fuel system for the Firebird was also built by Quillen and uses a Waterman fuel pump along with 16 235-pound Billet Atomizer injectors to feed the motor its alcohol fuel.
For electronics in his car, Wilkinson decided to keep everything as simple as possible to prevent issues. An MSD Grid system provides the ignition while a F.A.S.T. XFI 2.0 controls the vital functions of the car and a Leash bump box assists with staging the car. To monitor and record everything Wilkinson added a Racepak SD300 with an IQ3 dash while a vehicle harness from Spaghetti Menders completes the wiring.
Wilkinson plans to run the Firebird in the Team Boddie series out West, along with the West Coast Hot Rod Association, and plans to make the trip to the Pontiac Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, where he has some big plans.
“Our goal is to be the quickest steel-bodied, traditionally-powered Pontiac doorslammer in the world. We would like to go to Norwalk and beat Butler’s Pontiac-powered world record this year of 6.27 at 228 mph. I would really like to get to the 5.99 mark, but we may need to drop some weight to do that,” Wilkinson says.
Ben Wilkinson’s love for anything Pontiac is very apparent when you look at his stunning 1967 Firebird. This car is a rolling work of art that could become the quickest and fastest all-Pontiac car if all goes to plan.