You know what I like the best about Scott Millette’s 1968 Firebird 400? It’s not the 455 big block, the 750 cfm Holley, the TH400 or the 12-bolt. Not even the near perfect restoration Scott’s completed.
What I like best about Scott’s Firebird is that he drives it. A lot.
“I love driving it,” he told me. “Pretty much any day off I like to take it out and go explore places with it. I fully believe this car should be driven. I enjoy sharing it with people around me. People don’t see those cars anymore. So me being lucky enough to own one, I feel the need to share it.”
If you check out Scott’s Instagram account (@scott_millette) you’ll see lots of great pictures of the Firebird, taken by Scott while he’s out driving in some really spectacular California scenery.
The Firebird is in familiar surroundings on those drives, as it’s been a California car all its life. Scott’s got the original paperwork that shows it was first purchased in Yucca Valley. The original owner kept it about a year before he sold it. Eventually it was purchased by an Air Force mechanic in the 1970s, who then got deployed to Germany. And the Firebird sat in the desert, under a tarp, for about 25 years.
The good news about that is the ‘Bird has only 46,000 original miles on it. The bad news is sand got underneath the tarp and did a number on the paint. Scott has repainted the car in the original factory Verdoro Green.
Today, except for some slightly larger rear tires, the car looks exactly like it did when Pontiac built it. And if that looks familiar to you, it might because you’ve seen it before. Scott told me that a car just like his is what GM used to promote the Firebird that year.
“Verdoro green, black vinyl top, deluxe interior. Pretty much all the ads that year for the 400 is that exactly,” he said. “Whoever saw the ad bought the car exactly that way.”
It looks exactly the same, but it goes a whole lot better than it used to. Originally equipped with the 400 engine, the Firebird had a 1971 455 High Output (HO) engine in it when Scott purchased it. Unfortunately, the person who built that 455 forgot to check the oil journals, one of which was blocked. Unaware of this, Scott was, in his words, “pushing it”, and the one of the connecting rods basically exploded and cracked the engine block. You can see the result below.
Obviously a replacement engine was called for and Scott dropped in another 455, this one a 1969 version. The short block has all new components: crank, pistons, and rods. Stock heads have been ported and shaved, raising the compression ratio a bit, and have heavy duty valve springs. Scott’s replaced the quintessential 1960s multiple fan belts with a serpentine belt assembly.
The Holley 750 cfm double pumper sits on top of an Edelbrock mid-rise dual plane manifold. A set of Doug’s headers feed the exhaust into an X pipe, and then through a pair of Flowmaster Super 40 mufflers.
Scott’s using a pretty mild cam, and his big block is still putting out 425 horses and 550 ft-lbs of torque. Some of his buddies think there’s more power to be had out of the 455, but Scott likes the driveability of his combination. As he put it, “I don’t need a huge amount of horsepower.”
There’s a new Turbo-Hydramatic 400 3-speed automatic in the Firebird, driving the factory original 12-bolt Positraction rear end, with 3.36 gears. The rear suspension has leaf springs and Edelbrock shocks. Scott has upgraded the front suspension with coilovers, also with Edelbrock shocks.
The factory drum brakes are still on the rear. The front disks feature drilled and slotted rotors. The Firebird has 15’ PMD Rally II wheels on all four corners, wrapped with Cooper Cobra GTS radial tires, 245 in the back and 215 in the front. Power steering and power brakes make Scott’s cruising much easier.
Amazingly, the Firebird’s Deluxe Interior made it through the 25 years in the desert in excellent shape. Scott did have to replace the fuel, temperature, voltage and oil pressure gauges. But the original hood mounted tachometer (one of my all-time favorite Detroit performance options) is still monitoring engine RPM.
The seat cushions did not fare too well in the desert, and they will be replaced sometime soon. But the original seat covers, carpet, dash, are in great shape. A new, factory looking, radio now resides in the original spot in the dash.
Scott didn’t come upon his Pontiac by chance. He’d been looking for a first generation Firebird – and it all has to do with stories he heard from his mom and his uncle.
“Growing up I always had a passion for classic cars,” Scott told me. “I always appreciated them. One day I was talking to my Mom – I was probably like 8 years old – and she said ‘When I was going to college I had an old car you might like.’ She pulled out a photo and said ‘This was a 1967 Firebird 400.’
“She would drive it to and from school. My uncle would steal the car from her and I’d hear ‘what-the-car-could-actually-do’ stories from him. She had it until my uncle had a friend who needed a car. My mom sold him the car, and he abandoned it on the side of the road and they never saw it again.
“Over time I started looking into Firebirds. It always was a dream of mine to own one. I thought if I ever see that car, that’s the one I’m going to buy. Then I go on Craig’s List and just three hours away in the desert there’s the exact car I wanted.”
Big block, Holley, TH400, 12-bolt, factory perfect body and interior. And it’s a car with family history. And he loves driving it.
Turns out there’s a whole lot to like about Scott Millette’s 1968 Firebird 400.
All photos courtesy of Scott Millette.
Click here to see more photos of Scott’s Firebird.
Follow Scott on Instagram @scott_millette