- The Washington Times - Friday, March 10, 2000

Now that Glenn Hubbell has hung up his spurs as a TWA pilot, he spends most of his time in Arlington and the remainder in Portland, Ore.

While summering in Portland in 1997, Mr. Hubbell and his wife, Lauren, were engaged in some minor remodeling and in search of supplies, they had to cross the Columbia River to the Home Depot in Vancouver, Wash.

While driving in uncharted territory Mr. Hubbell missed a turn and went down the wrong street. Acting quickly to rectify the error Mr. Hubbell turned his car around and, in so doing, noticed that one of the merchants along the street had parked a gray 1968 Pontiac Firebird near the curb bearing a "for sale" sign.

The trip to Home Depot was completed, and the Hubbells were returning home.

Mr. Hubbell, as difficult as it might appear, accidentally made the same wrong turn and went down the same wrong street.

The Firebird was still there and, after stopping for a closer look, Mr. Hubbell saw a note on the window directing him to ask for Jim inside a nearby business.

Following the directions led Mr. Hubbell to the owner, who was selling the car to settle an estate. Tossing the keys to Mr. Hubbell the seller said, "Take it for a drive."

No ID check, no deposit, no nothing. Mr. Hubbell complied and was impressed with the car. He didn't need a car but knew that 14-year-old son Andrew was at home and would soon be of driving age. Not wanting to foist a car upon his son that was unwanted, Mr. Hubbell told the seller he would return the next day with his son.

The next day came, and when Andy first saw the sleek Pontiac he proclaimed, "The shape of the car is perfect." The fact that a 350-cubic-inch, 320-horsepower V-8 was under the hood didn't hurt either. That's not a bad power-to-weight ratio for a 3,061-pound car.

Not much time was lost in securing the title, and the Hubbells in August took the car back across the river to Portland. The original owner had rolled up only 65,000 miles on the odometer.

Upon close inspection, the Firebird appeared to have led a sheltered life no rust, no dings, no dents.

1968 was the second year for the Pontiac Firebird. A total of 107,112 were manufactured, of which 90,152 were coupes and the base price for each was $2,781.

The Firebird languished in the Portland garage for a year while the Hubbells returned to Virginia. It wasn't an easy time for Andy knowing the Firebird was there and he was here.

Returning to Portland in the summer of 1998, details were tended to. The master brake cylinder was replaced, Mr. Hubbell says. Additionally, a radiator recovery tank was added, along with a new thermostat and a temperature gauge.

The not unpleasant task of driving the Pontiac cross-country fell to Mr. Hubbell.

He left Portland on a cool September day in 1998 with the idea of a six-day trip, stopping along the way to visit friends and relatives.

"Two hours into the trip a red light lit up the cockpit," Mr. Hubbell relates. Two hours east of Portland is next to nowhere.

On the side of the road an apprehensive Mr. Hubbell lifted the engine hood with his heart pounding. While checking all the basic things that could go wrong, he found a loose electrical connection on the back of the alternator. While making sure the connection was sung, the warning light went out. Mr. Hubbell thinks the connection must have been knocked loose when the nearby thermostat was replaced.

The first night was spent in Montana, with Mr. Hubbell getting as far as North Dakota the second. The third, fourth and fifth nights were spent in Minnesota, Missouri and Kentucky. Nowhere along the trip, Mr. Hubbell says, did the car burn a drop of oil, and he never used the second half of the 160-mph speedometer.

The sixth night Mr. Hubbell slept in his own bed in Arlington.

In the year since the Firebird has been in Virginia, the father-and-son team has replaced the dual exhaust system mufflers with Flomaster units to give the appropriate gurgling sound.

The first order of business was to build a carport off the side of the garage. Mrs. Hubbell is beginning to realize that the Firebird may take up residence in the garage with her newer car in the carport.

The gray paint was tired. After inspection it was determined the original color was blue. It wasn't a difficult decision to have the Firebird painted red, actually redder than red.

Highlighting the red paint are the six pseudo louvers on each flank outlined in chrome. Also, the wheel covers with 42 painted turbine vanes add a bit of sparkle to the Firebird. On both sides of the bulge in the engine hood are the chrome "350" identifying markers.

On the cowl are two sets of 15 slots each to draw fresh air into the cockpit, a nice feature to have since the car is not air-conditioned.

Inside is the standard three-spoke steering wheel and optional clock. Other extras include power steering, power brakes and windshield washers.

Both father and son agree they want the car authentic but not to the extent that it is an undriveable show car.

Andy drives it to Bishop O'Connell High School, where he is a junior. He's probably just a little more careful where he parks his Firebird with the recently applied clear-coat finish than his classmates.

"It only has 70,500 miles," Andy said, "so it has a long way to go."

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