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February 2012 AllGenTransAms Member Feature
Year: 1976 Firebird
Owner: Ronald Ruzicka
AllGenTransAms Member: greenbird76

1. What Year and Model is your car? How many miles?
1976 Pontiac Firebird Esprit in factory Metalime green with white deluxe vinyl interior with black accents.

2. What was it that made you choose that model Pontiac?

I had been tinkering around with 2nd generation Firebirds since I was 20 years old and was attempting to restore a 1980 Firebird Formula that I had bought off my brother for $600. The car turned out to have way too much rust for my liking and needed everything- I felt like I was not making any progress with it and decided it was time to look for a more solid and complete starting point. I originally wanted a 79-81 TA or Formula. At first nothing interested me until I went to go look at a 1976 Firebird and instantly became a fan of that unique nose. That car was mechanically in good condition but needed body work and a complete interior so I passed on it and continued my searches which lead me to a green 1976 Firebird Esprit located in West Hartford, CT.
The car cost me 2800$ and was all there including the original Rally II (beauty rings and brushed aluminum center caps intact) and very well kept deluxe white with black accented interior. That is what sold me on the car. First, I never knew that Firebirds were offered with this interior option and second, when I first sat in my car, I felt like I stepped back in time to 1976. The headliner had no sagging or peeling. The dash had no cracks and everything worked including all power accessories. The funny thing- I actually hated the green color at first and didn’t fall in love with it until I started to work on the car.

3. How long have you owned your car?

I bought the car in early 2010 and did not get it on the road until June of 2011

4. Where and how did you find your car?

Craigslist. I found the car in West Hartford and it has been in the state all its life per the DMV. I was actually looking for a late 70’s Formula or TA.

5. Is your car stock, restored, modified, or in between? If restored, tell us about the restoration. If modified, what “mods” have been done?

My goal formy Greenbird is to have the factory look of an Esprit on the exterior and interior coupled with the handling and power of a TranAm or Forumla. I started my restoration at the rear of the car and worked my way forward. Everything is new or refurbished. I would call my car in between stock and modified

* Body –
1. The car had severe rot on the tail panel, inner tail valence, bumper support and mounting brackets, quarter panel extensions, trunk extensions and rear portions of trunk floor. All areas in question were stripped with a braided wire wheel brush; the rotted panels were removed and new or good donor panels were butt welded or rosette welded in place. I broke many a spot weld before and during this build. I also had to remove 20 inches of each frame rail due to severe rot around the rear leaf spring mount. I replaced them with solid donor pieces. In addition the floor was stripped top and bottom to reveal 3 areas that needed attention. The rotted pieces were cut out and patch panels from a donor car were welded into place. Everything was sprayed with self etching primer, Rustoleum Rusted Metal primer and flat Rustoleum black with a little bit of hardener added. This combination as proven to resist peeling and chipping; adhered to the metal very well and was quite cost effective.
2. Stripped all suspension and steering components from sub frame, replaced body mounts with a set of Energy Suspension poly mounts and hardware. Wire wheeled sub frame and applied black satin epoxy.
3. Repaired minor rot in left rear wheel well using patch panels. Stripped both rear inner wheel wells, resealed all seams with quality seam sealer, primed, painted and applied several coats of quality undercoating.
4. Removed wheel skirts- stripped and refinished them. Engine compartment was cleaned and refreshed. New windshield washer pump installed.
5. Replaced the rocker panel covers with new ones from OER. All factory chrome pieces will remain on car.
6. New Metro and OER weather stripping all the way around. New window felts were also installed.

* Drive line --
1. Engine- The car came with a 350 SBC pushing approximately 300hp. The old owner had begun installing the motor, but did not finish the setup. Fuel, power steering lines and starter main power line had to be changed to accept the Chevy engine. I replaced all these parts- water pump, alternator, belts, hoses, Accel Billet distributor, Edlebrock Performer EPS intake manifold, 4 core copper and brass radiator, power steering pump pressure and return lines, high rise aluminum valve covers, fuel pump and Accel wires are all new. The engine was repainted black with blue/ grey metallic accents. Rebuilt Edlebrock 1406 600cfm carburetor.
2. New Spectra fuel tank was installed and fuel lines were either refurbished or replaced. All mounting hardware was refurbished or replaced. Original sending unit was in good operating condition and reinstalled. The unit was not working when I bought the car due to the heavily rusted inner tail valence panel.
3. Transmission- I did a 700r4 conversion using a 1986 700r4 with upgraded clutches, 2100 rpm lock up converter, Monster Transmission’s conversion kit including new T.V. cable, brackets, and lock up control switch. I also converted the factory shifter into a working 4 speed unit using a kit from Shift- Works. In addition, I moved the factory cross member back 3.1 inches and had drive shaft cut the same length and rebalanced to accommodate the new transmission. The linkage on the carburetor was modified to properly accept the T.V. cable. A new shifter cable was installed to top it all off.
4. I replaced the original limited slip rear end with a 4:10 posi- traction unit that I bought off a family friend. I replaced all the seals on the rear end; stripped its exterior and repainted it gloss black and blue gray metallic.
5. Sand blasted 5 Rally II wheels(4 original ones and one spare); repainted them using self etching primer and Ames Performances wheel paint kit; Installed 4 new MasterCraft Advenger GT tires with a front end alignment.

* Suspension, steering and brakes-
1. Rear- New Eaton 4 leaf 126 lb/sq inch springs, new OER mounting kit with new shackles, mounting hardware, mounting pads and rubber leaf spring bushings; Stripped and repainted front spring mounting cups; Refurbished a donor 5/8 inch rear sway bar with end links and installed with an Energy Suspension poly mounting kit; installed new Monroe shocks that I repainted and cleared to match the scheme underneath the car; All original snubbers and bumpers were reconditioned along with the appropriate brackets. Brakes were completely reconditioned with new Wearever drums, new shoes, new mounting hardware, new wheel cylinders, new parking brake cables, new stainless steel brake lines over rear axle and new rubber brake line from frame to axle.
2. Front- New TRW coil springs; replaced factory sway bar with a refurbished 1 3/16th inch donor sway bar using Energy Suspension poly bushings and end links; refurbished upper and lower control arms along with all mounting hardware; pressed in new rubber control arm bushings; reconditioned factory spindles; pressed in new upper and lower ball joints; installed new poly bumps and stops; installed new Moog inner and outer tie rod ends; installed new Duralast idler arm; installed new Monroe shocks; stripped and refurbished factory control arm with new seals; installed new inner and outer wheel bearings plus dust seal. For the brakes- new Wearever rotors, rebuilt calipers, new pads, new rubber brake lines and new mounting hardware.

* Interior-
1. Completely removed all interior pieces except for dash panel.
2. Cleaned all white vinyl with quality leather and vinyl cleaner;
3. Refurbished seat tracks
4. Replaced seat backs with freshly dyed donor pieces
5. Redyed rear arm rests and lower door panels;
6. Installed Sunpro white faced mechanical gauges in map pocket location using mounting bracket from FBodywarehouse;
7. Installed new REM package tray with 6 x 9 cut outs; installed new Kenwood KDC 395 radio with USB input; installed 2 Polk Dxi 690 6 x 9 speakers in the rear and installed 2 Pioneer 160 watt 4 inch speakers up front using custom made mounting bracket that fits in stock center speaker location.

6. Do you have any future plans for your car?

This winter I have several projects to do-
1. Finish the chassis restoration and repair the rusted radiator support, strip and refinish the front bumper mounts and all hardware, hood locking mechanism etc.
2. Install a pair of Pro Touring F- Body’s sub frame connectors to stiffen up the chassis.
3. Install a different cam in the motor because the stock grind is very mild.
4. Wanted to find a new set of heads, but the rear end is producing a vibration that was always there, but is getting worse so it will be rebuilt with 3:73 gears because the 4:10 ratio is just too much for the highway.
5. Repaint the car in the factory color sometimes in the future- probably not the near future.
6. Replace the cracked center console with a straight one from a 77TA. Need to clean and redye it black.
7. Too much more to list- this project will always be ongoing and my ideas will always change LOL.

7. Do you attend shows/events/races with your car? Are you a member of any clubs?

Yes. I belong to the Charter Oak Firebird Club and attended 4 shows this summer and will attend shows this year also. I have met some very cool fellow local enthusiasts through this club.

8. How many miles a year do you put on your car?

This year I drove about 2500 miles. I love taking small scenic rides around my town when I am not working. It is relaxing. Have you won anything with your car you’re especially proud of? I feel much honored that this site wants to feature my car.

9. What's your fondest memory in/with your car?

The countless hours I put into restoring her and the final outcome- my car looks good and handles the way I wanted. I look under that car and still cannot believe that I did all of it. I am very proud of this car.

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