John Woods, Technology Consultant and part time Rock Musician, built this ’70 Firebird Esprit from the ground up with a serious game plan for high speed action. Having built the ’70 Trans Am in the photo on the right to race in the Optima Ultimate Street Car series, John realized he was coming up on speeds that questioned the safety and integrity of the mostly original car. Rather than cut up this rolling piece of Pontiac history, John set out to find another ’70 Firebird that he could modify to his tastes without disturbing the Pontiac peace.
While surfing through Craig’s list John amazingly came across a sweet deal on a ’70 Firebird Esprit that was camped out at a body shop only 45 minutes from his home in northern GA. Even better was that most of the body work had already been done. He picked up the car the same day and the soon to be street/ race car plan got under way. The first step was locating original GM front body parts to mimic the Trans Am look bringing parts in from Washington, New York and Georgia. While shopping for all the right parts the under car goodies were also coming together. Keeping with traditional 1970 SCCA Trans Am series racing history, John opted for a small block Chevy, 414 cubes of Dart block power to be exact. Built by NASCAR fame Bill Elliot’s engine builder Johnny Thomas, the big little block pumps out 627 hp @7200 rpms through an old school proven combo of parts and techniques. That power runs through a Legend LGT-700 transmission and ends with a full floater 9″ Ford rear axle.
Stick to the road performance comes from a well balanced and tuned set of parts bolted to the Firebird’s factory subframe, incorporating the Speedtech Track Time suspension. Up front this includes our geometry correcting tubular control arms, tubular high rate sway bar, coilover conversion brackets, Ridetech triple adjustable shocks and a Sweet 12:1 quick ratio steering box. Out back John installed our Torque Arm to smoothly navigate the curves, with Ridetech triples keeping things in check. On all four corners a custom designed set of manually operated Wilwood Aero6 6-piston brakes bring things to a halt. Rolling on Forgeline wheels and 275 mm Bridgestone RE71s, while still in primer it did awesome at it’s maiden Optima event, well enough to get invited to the end of the season Optima Challenge in Las Vegas!
Now wearing a 2012 Corvette Jet Stream blue paint job and a little tuning to the suspension John was in the top 5 at his last 2 events nipping at the heals of some very seasoned drivers and high budget builds. John and his Firebird are proof again that with a well engineered and thought out system even the budget boys can play with the big leaguers and be very competitive.
Photos Courtesy John and Optima Batteries