There are plenty of famous cars and builders floating around on social media. Some gain notoriety through zany antics or sheer stupidity. Others earn respect in the automotive community through hard work and dedication. Better still, is when that hard work is combined with some kind of a unique flare – something that really makes the build stand out. Well, the notorious car we have to show you is the culmination of plenty of hard work and just a little flare. We present, the Bondo Bird.
We should start by mentioning, the Bondo Bird is not only famous for its charmingly weathered appearance, but also for the unconventional way it makes power. Instead of a puffed-up Poncho powerplant, Josh Godinez’s 1967 Firebird sports a 5.0-liter Ford Coyote backed by a six-speed manual of the same pedigree. But, we’ll let him tell it…
Family Or Flock?
We had the opportunity to interview Josh and snap some photos of the bird that’s sure to ruffle a few feathers. We started by asking Josh about the punchy Pontiac’s backstory. Interestingly enough, the Firebird has been in Josh’s family since long before he was swapping engines and breaking hearts. Josh tells us, “My grandpa ran a wrecking yard and this car was junked back in the late ’70s and he knew my mom would like a first gen F-body as her first car. So, he repaired it using other parts from the wrecking yard and gave it to my mom. She drove it until she married my dad and then he took over and gave it to me when I was 14. I’ve been tinkering and learning how to work on it since.”
“When I got it, it had a 350ci Pontiac engine – a little smog motor. It was really slow. It also had a turbo 350 transmission and it had stock highway gears – a little peg leg. Did I mention it was really slow? Well, I put a nice bumpety cam in it to make it sound good at least and kind of went from there.”
Naturally, all that information still begs the question, how then, did the Bondo Bird get its name? Josh continues, “Well, it all started when some friends and I got together and were just looking at the car. Somewhere along the line, someone had installed some ugly trans am style fender flares, but they molded them on. When I removed them, about 20 pounds of Bondo came off with them. In fact, the welds were so bad, I ended up just cutting the fender flares off with a Sawzall and leaving them like that since I knew I’d be running some wide tires in the rear. It would eventually enable me to do that. Just like the 29-inch Hoosier slicks you see back there now. So, that’s where the name Bondo bird came from.”
We’d say it worked out…the Bondo bird now sports rakish good looks. Perhaps not in the conventional sense, but it certainly has a dastardly quality about it, and that’s exactly what gives it part of its charm. Fortunately for us, Josh has no plans on changing the paint job any time soon.
Birds Of A Feather?
By now, you’ve probably noticed what makes the Bondo Bird so interesting to enthusiasts, aside from the looks we mentioned, of course. That’s right, the Ford powerplant stuffed betwix the General’s F-body fenders. Josh tells us,”The main attraction is that we’ve got a Coyote in it.”
But, what would compel someone to do this? Josh says, “It’s my favorite of the modern V8’s and I wanted to update the car.”
We had to ask him, “do people hate this?” To which he replies, “Believe it or not, it gets a lot more love than hate. Even from Pontiac purists.”
We must admit, that is more than a bit surprising. Pontiac faithful are notoriously judgemental of those that would besmirtch the Arrowhead brand’s name by swapping in anything other than a Poncho motor, and that includes powerplants from its Bowtie brand cousin.
To make matters worse for his Pontiac owning brethren, Josh told us, the car started life as a relatively desireable Bird with plenty of options. “It was actually a deluxe interior car so it had really beautiful interior with a folding back seat and some really desireable parts. I kind of wish I’d kept it that way, but I had to build it more drag style.”
Blue Oval Enters The Chat…
Fast forward to the Coyote swap. How did it happen? Well, the way Josh tells it…”I grew up a die-hard Pontiac purist, this thing was going to have nothing but a Pointiac in it, and then after going to a few Pontiac shows and seeing how the LS had become acceptable to purists, I didn’t understand why. The best explanation they could give was, ‘Because fuel injection,” so I figure, hey, if it’s okay to bastardize a car, I’m going to put my favorite of the modern powerplants in it, and that’s the Coyote. I like high rpm and it’s a stick shift car. So, the low torque and high rpm of the Coyote kind of appealed to me this time around.”
As we interviewed Josh, we pointed out how his Ford engine makes pretty good power, but he hasn’t modified it very much , so we asked him to break down the performance modifications that he has made. “The engine, performance-wise, has a ported Boss intake manifold, a ram air scoop, Kooks two-inch headers, no cats, and it runs on E85. That’s pretty much it for performance mods. It does have oil pump gears and billet timing chain guides for safety, but that’s because I’ll go 8k rpm on the two-step. All told, it makes 474hp to the tire.”
The Bondo Bird’s cooling system and accessories all come from the modern Mustang donor vehicle.
Josh continued on with the build breakdown, “Sitting behind the 5.0 is a Ben Calimer-built Mustang six-speed manual MT82. It’s also got G-force parts in it and a close-ratio gear set. I’ve got a Black Magic slipper clutch, and an MGW short shifter topped with a Hurst shifter.”
For wheels and tires, the Bondo Bird sports Weld Magnum II drag wheels up front wrapped in Hoosier slicks and skinnies front and rear. The brakes consist of TBM drag brakes in the front and rear. The bird also wears TRZ control arms and rack and pinion steering.
It’s super light up front as one might imagine, and when we asked Josh if he lifts the front tires, he tells us, “Oh yeah! In fact, I have to slow down the shocks a lot to keep it from standing up.” The Viking shocks up front handle the rebound in the event that the bird takes flight.
In the rear, Josh installed some Calvert split mono leaf springs and some Smith Racecraft Assasin bars with Viking shocks to go with a TRZ anti-roll bar.
7k rpm clutch drops with a blower? I’d rather be safe than broken. – Josh Godinez
As for the rearend, it’s a Moser M9 fabricated rear housing. Josh tells us some of his future plans, “This thing is going to get a blower eventually, and I figured, hey, 7k rpm clutch drops with a blower? I’d rather be safe than broken.”
Luckily, the Sawzall rear fender hacking Josh and his buddies did freed up precious room so Josh could fit some monster 28 inch tall rear tires under the slender first-gen F-body. “I can drop this thing quite a bit if I want to and the rear wheel wells will tuck those tires nicely.”
It also helps that Josh had some sheet metal work done on the interior with a set of mini tubs and panels to cover the trunk by a company in Lodi, California called Fuller Fabrication.
The spartan interior is also bequeathed with a set of Kirkey aluminum racing seats. Josh is really kind though, he puts the one seat cover on the passenger side to keep his wife happy. The seats are strapped to an NHRA certified cage to accommodate the inevitable sub-9 second passes.
Josh’s bird also has an AEM Infinity system, so he installed the accompanying dash to complete the race car look inside. It can display the GPS speedometer, odometer, and all of the inputs he uses. It’s a great data logger too.
You might catch Josh at a local track day if you’re local to the central valley of California, perhaps Famoso, or even as far north as the Sacramento raceway. He’s still testing and tuning and breaking some things trying to hit an all-motor 9-second pass, but the high heat of the area has limited his best ET to 10.55 at 129. But that was in 4,400 density altitude and 98-degrees.
We heard it through the grapevine that while he’s busy chassis tuning and chasing that elusive number, he might have some forced induction goodness for us in the future, so definitely give him a follow on social media @bondobird, and keep an eye out for the wicked Pontiac he’s piloting.