Firebird Restoration Cost (From Someone Who’s Done It)


Restoring an early Firebird is an extremely rewarding experience. It’s a beautiful machine that deserves to be kept up and shown off for the world to see. Pontiac got it right when they made these. If you’re considering restoring a Firebird, you may be left with a few questions including how much it costs, the time it’ll take, etc.

How much does a Firebird restoration cost? It will cost about $25,000 – $40,000 to restore an early Pontiac Firebird. A lot of the cost depends on the shape of the Firebird that you’re starting with as well as how pristine you want it to be. This range will cover a Firebird that is in poor to medium condition.

When I married my now wife, my father-in-law had a 1968 Firebird in his garage he was fixing to restore. Since I came into the picture, me, my wife, and my father-in-law have restored this Firebird. Since I’ve restored a Firebird, I’ve been about to learn a lot about the process as well as be able to answer some other follow-up questions related to the cost of restoring one.

Break Down Of Costs

There’s a lot more to restoring a Firebird than just knowing how much it will cost. If you’re going to start a project like this, it’s important you budget accordingly and know how much you’re going to need to spend on each component of the car. Be sure to communicate with other household members and let them know what your plans are and make sure they’re okay with. If you have a spouse or partner, communicate with them as well, especially about the budget. The last thing you want is this restoration to cause fights and contention.

Right now, I will cover the basic and most expensive costs you’ll have during your Firebird restoration. The first would be the transmission and engine. The cost for the transmission we are using in our Firebird, including repairs, was about $1,500. For the engine, we spent about $6,000. It’s a Pontiac 400 that came out of a 1969 GTO, so it was a bit pricey but that’s what we wanted.

Body work will be your most expensive component to your restoration. Expect to spend about $3,000 – $8,000 on body work alone, not including the paint job. You can calibrate this estimation by assessing the Firebird’s body condition. Is there a lot of rust? Are there big dents? Are fenders or other parts missing? You can actually save a lot on the cost if you can do some of the body work yourself such as welding, fixing dents, and even priming.

Plan on a new paint job for your Firebird to be another $4,000 – $8,000. Paint jobs are just plain expensive. But it makes sense when you think about all the prep, materials, and labor needed to get the job done.

Interior will be another expensive fix. Plan on spending about $3,000 – $5,000 for a mostly new interior. This will include carpet, seats, ceiling, etc. I highly recommend not cutting corners on your interior because that can really make or break a classic car.

Unless your tires are brand new, I recommend getting new ones. Old tires are very unsafe and will not give you much protection when you’re driving at higher speeds. Plan on getting new tires and wheels for around $1,500. While you’re at it, consider what needs to be done to the suspension. Usually older cars require attention to the suspension or need to be completely replaced. The cost for a new suspension system or repairs will range from $1,000 – $3,000.

Luckily exhaust isn’t too expensive. I only spent a few hundred dollars on mine. Budget about $500 for a new exhaust system, even if the ones you already have looks good. Rust is no friend to age and with the constant heat those pipes went through, you can guarantee there are some holes that are begging to form.

Older cars came with drum brakes. While they do serve their purpose in braking the vehicle, I always like to replace them with disc brakes because disc brakes are much safer and way more reliable. If you are thinking about converting to disc brakes on your Firebird, converting the front brakes will be about $1,000 while all four brakes will be about $4,000.

It’s always a good rule of thumb to add extra to your budget for miscellaneous and/or surprise fixes because they always come up. Add about $2,000 for additional miscellaneous fixes not mentioned in the list above.

The Best Places To Get Parts For Your Firebird

When looking for parts to use for your Firebird restoration, it’s important you get good, quality parts, preferably from Pontaic stores. While aftermarket items can save a few bucks, they can also cause major problems if they don’t fit right and you have to send the pieces back (if the company will even let you).

There were three major places we got our parts for our Firebird restoration. The first place was our local auto store, O’Reilly. You can go to any local auto store to get the smaller generic stuff such as engine parts, wiring, caps, or pretty much anything that goes under the hood (except the engine of course). For large parts such as panels, carpet kids, etc., we often used online stores such as Firebird Central or Classic Industries.

Some may be skeptical about ordering parts online, especially if they’re large parts. I had the same skepticism but it all actually turned out awesome. We really didn’t have any problems with broken or dented pieces because these companies do a good job at packing their items well.

As you’re looking for parts for your Firebird restoration, be warned that people will tell you that Camaro parts and Firebird parts are the same. While this may hold true for some parts, not all parts are interchangeable between the two cars. So It is best to just make sure the item description says its for a Firebird and nothing else. This will ensure you part will fit correctly.

What You Should and Shouldn’t Do Yourself On Your Restoration

I’ve had a lot of people give me a list of things I should and should not do myself on car restorations. I’ve been able to get a good idea of what beginners are and are not capable of doing. If you want everything to be in pristine shape, then plan on using a little help from a professional to get the look you want.

Also, I do not recommend doing your own paint job unless you have experience with painting cars. There’s certainly an art to it and requires training and practice. I attempted to paint my own 1968 Chevy Pickup by renting a friend’s paint booth and it didn’t really turn out quite like I hoped. Just spend the money to get the paint job done right.

Other than that, it is entirely possible to do the rest of your Firebird restoration yourself. In fact, I highly recommend you do. I had zero experience with my first car restoration and was able to complete it doing most of the work myself. With the power of the internet, you can learn how to do just about anything especially when it comes to a Firebird restoration.

How Long It Takes To Restore A Firebird

Usually the next biggest question someone has after understanding how much it will cost to restore a Firebird is how long it will take to complete the project. This is a valid question and is absolutely something you should consider when deciding whether or not this is something you want to do.

It takes about 1,000 – 1,500 hours to restore a Firebird. All of this depends on your experience and what kind of condition your Firebird is in. To give you more of a time frame, plan on a Firebird restoration to take about two years to complete if you are consistently working on it about every other weekend and spending occasional evenings on it.

Again, time is something you should discuss with your spouse or partner, especially if you have a family that also requires time. You don’t want this project to cause any contention because your partner feels like you’re not spending enough time with them.

Related Questions

When was the first Firebird made? The first Pontiac Firebird was released in 1967. It was originally made to compete with the Ford Mustang. There were several concept cars made in the 1950’s called the “Firebird” which may have lead to the creation of the Pontiac Firebird.

How much are restored early Firebirds worth? Depending on the originality of the vehicle and it’s condition, the worth of a Firebird can range from $30,000 – $75,000. If you sell one that still needs a lot of work, you can still get about $10,000 out of it.

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