- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

Monday is Emily Boulin’s 15th birthday and although she can’t have it quite yet, her father, Lionel, already has her present.
  Knowing this day was coming, he began a search about four years ago for an appropriate muscle car for his daughter. Initially, he was searching in the Mopar aisle. “I Iooked at cars in a half dozen states,” Mr. Boulin said. “Then I found this Pontiac in Virginia.”
  It is one of only 7,708 Pontiac Formula 400 Firebirds manufactured that model year, a total of which 4,638 were built with automatic transmissions. He bought the 16-foot-long car in October 2000 and had it hauled on a trailer to a trusted mechanic’s shop near his Maryland home.
  While the sleek Firebird was undergoing a thorough physical examination Mr. Boulin delved into its past. He found that the car left the Van Nuys, Calif., factory Feb. 20, 1970, on its way to Kle-Tex Motors, Inc. in Kingsville, Texas. It wore a shiny coat of Goldenrod yellow paint, one of 15 colors offered in 1970s.
  As brilliant as was the exterior color, the interior was subdued. The seats, with individual headrests, are covered with black knit vinyl comfort weave. The black headliner is original, but the black carpeting has been replaced.
  The deluxe interior includes a grab handle on the passenger side of the dashboard.
  The build sheet from the factory indicates the following 13 extra-cost accessories were built into the car:
  Air conditioning……..$278.46.
  Turbo Hydramatic…….176.30.
  Power steering…………78.00.
  Rally 2 wheels…………62.40.
  Custom trim…………..58.50.
  Radio…………………45.24.
  Console………………43.68.
  Power brakes………….31.20.
  Sun Ray glass………….24.18.
  F70x14 white letter tires..21.06.
  Windshield washers……14.04.
  Rear seat speaker………11.07.
  Custom seat belts……….9.36.
  With shipping costs added the total paid for the car by the first owner was $4,656.25.
  The “400” in the name of the car indicates the 400-cubic-inch V-8 engine. It develops 330 horsepower and delivers that power to the rear wheels through a 12-bolt factory rear end.
  The original four-barrel carburetor was rebuilt to factory specifications, which necessitates a diet exclusively of premium gasoline. Even so, Mr. Boulin finds that an occasional can of octane booster is a welcome addition to standard pump gasoline. The carburetor also draws in air to feed the engine through a dual-snorkle air cleaner.
  All this mechanical wizardry occurs beneath the “Ram Air” scoops on the sculpted engine hood. “There were a bunch of little surprises,” Mr. Boulin said. None of them, however, was severe enough to warrant ending the restoration project.
  Common today are body-colored plastic bumpers but three plus decades ago chrome-plated bumpers still ruled the automotive scene. Pontiac was first to introduce the body-colored “Endura” nose piece, which incorporates the bumper, grille and headlight surrounds.
  One of the reasons the performance-oriented Pontiac handles exceptionally well is the 5/8-inch rear stabilizer bar.
  Many competitors, light in the rear, could dramatically smoke their tires but couldn’t handle as well as the Pontiac.
  After the car successfully passed all the mechanical tests it was taken to two body shops for cosmetic work. The second shop, located in Pennsylvania, would have been sufficient if it had been selected first. Unfortunately, the first shop wasn’t up to the task. All that was consumed was time, money and patience.
  The second shop applied a coat of Goldenrod yellow to match the original one of 33 years ago. Afterward, all the shiny new, restored or replaced trim pieces were installed. The rear bumper was replated with chrome.
  Each of the five argent spoke wheels with a charcoal-colored background is fitted with a stainless steel trim ring to give the illusion of a more expensive alloy wheel. The Pontiac wheel designers succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They look great.
  In February 2002 the restoration of the Pontiac Formula 400 Firebird was complete enough for Mr. Boulin to be happy with his daughter Emily behind the three-spoke steering wheel.
  She shouldn’t have much difficulty maneuvering the nimble car on its 108-inch wheelbase. Besides, the Pontiac is only an inch wider than 6 feet, which even in today’s downsized world is about normal.
  Mr. Boulin has replaced the original bias ply tires with 14-inch radials, which provide a greater degree of safety. The 14-inch tires are designed to support the 3,470-pound Firebird at speeds up to 160 mph. Mr. Boulin encourages restraint so that Emily won’t be tempted to test the limits of the Firebird.
  “I hope this is a Goldenrod yellow carrot to inspire Emily,” Mr. Boulin said.
  

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