There are many famous cars and builders floating around on social media. Some are known for crazy escapades or sheer stupidity. Others earn respect in the automotive industry through hard work and dedication. It’s even better when that hard work is combined with some kind of unique flair – something that really makes the build stand out. Well, the infamous car we have to show you is the culmination of a lot of hard work and just a little bit of a stir. Introducing the Bondo Bird.
First of all, the Bondo Bird is known not only for its adorable weathered appearance, but also for its unconventional way of generating power. Instead of a bloated poncho powerplant, Josh Godinez’s 1967 Firebird has a 5.0-liter Ford Coyote, aided by a six-speed manual transmission of the same pedigree. But let’s let him tell…
family or herd?
We got a chance to interview Josh and snap some photos of the bird, which is sure to ruffle some feathers. We started by asking Josh about the backstory of the hard-hitting Pontiac. Interestingly, the Firebird had been in Josh’s family long before he swapped engines and broke hearts. Josh tells us: “My grandpa ran a scrapyard and this car was scrapped in the late 70’s and he knew my mother wanted the first car to be a first generation F-body. So he repaired it with other parts from the junkyard and gave it to my mom. She drove it until she married my father and then he took it over and gave it to me when I was 14. Since then I’ve been tinkering with it and learning how to work on it.”
“When I got it, it had a 350cc Pontiac engine – a little smog engine. It was really slow. It also had a Turbo 350 transmission and a standard Autobahn shifter – a little wooden leg. Did I mention it was really slow? Well, I put in a nice bumpy camera to make it at least sound good, and it kind of went from there.”
Of course, all of this information still begs the question, then how did the Bondo bird get its name? Josh continues, “Well, it all started when some friends and I got together and just looked at the car. Somewhere along the line someone had installed some ugly Trans-Am style fender flares, but they molded them on. When I removed them, about 20 pounds of Bondo came out with them. In fact, the welds were so bad that I ended up just slicing off the fender flares with a Sawzall and leaving them as is, knowing I’d be running some wide tires in the back. It would eventually enable me to do that. Just like the 29 inch Hoosier slicks you see back there now. Hence the name Bondo bird.”
We’d say it worked… the Bondo bird is looking daringly good now. Maybe not in the traditional sense, but there’s definitely a sneaky quality to it, and that’s part of its charm. Luckily for us, Josh has no plans to change the livery anytime soon.
birds of a feather?
By now you’ve probably noticed what makes the Bondo Bird so interesting for enthusiasts, aside from the aforementioned looks of course. That’s right, the Ford powerplant stuffed between the General’s F-body fenders. Josh tells us, “The main attraction is that we have a coyote in it.”
But what would compel someone to do this? Josh says, “It’s my favorite modern V8 and I wanted to modernize the car.”
We had to ask him, ‘Do people get that?’ To which he replies, ‘Believe it or not, there’s a lot more love reaped than hate. Even by Pontiac purists.”
We have to admit, this is more than surprising. Pontiac’s supporters are notoriously judgmental of those who would besmirch the Arrowhead brand name by trading anything other than a Poncho engine, and that includes engines from its Bowtie brand cousin.
To make matters worse for his Pontiac-owning brothers, Josh told us, the car started out as a relatively desirable bird with many options. “It was actually a luxury interior car, so it had a really nice interior with a folding rear seat and some really desirable parts. I wish I had left it that way, but I had to build it more in a drag style.”
Blue Oval enters the chat…
Fast forward to the Coyote swap. How did it happen? Well, as Josh recounts it… “Growing up a die-hard Pontiac purist, this thing wasn’t supposed to contain anything but a Pointiac, and then after I went to a couple of Pontiac shows and saw the LS become acceptable Purists, I didn’t understand why. The best explanation they could give was, “Because of the fuel injection,” so I’m like, hey, if it’s okay to bastardize a car, I’m going to put my favorite modern powerplant in it, and that’s the Coyote . I like high revs and it’s a shift car. So, the low torque and high revs of the Coyote kind of appealed to me this time around.”
When we interviewed Josh, we pointed out that his Ford engine performs fairly well, but he hasn’t changed it much, so we asked him to break down the performance modifications he’s made. “The engine is performance wise ported Boss intake manifold, ram air scoop, Kooks two inch headers, no cats and runs on E85. That’s pretty much it for performance mods. It has oil pump gears and billet timing chain guides for safety, but that’s because I’ll be going 8,000 rpm in two-step. In total, it puts 474 hp on the tyres.”
The Bondo Bird’s cooling system and accessories are all derived from the modern Mustang donor vehicle.
Josh continued with the build breakdown: “Behind the 5.0 sits a Ben Calimer-built Mustang MT82 with a six-speed manual. It also has G-Force parts and a close-ratio gearbox. I have a Black Magic slipper clutch and an MGW short shifter with a Hurst shifter.”
As for wheels and tires, the Bondo Bird sports Weld Magnum II drag wheels are wrapped in Hoosier slicks and skinnies front and rear. The brakes consist of TBM drag brakes front and rear. The bird also sports TRZ wishbones and rack and pinion steering.
It’s super light in the front, as you can imagine, and when we asked Josh about jacking up the front tires, he told us, “Oh yeah! In fact, I have to slow down the shocks a lot so it doesn’t stand up.” The Viking shock absorbers up front handle the rebound should the bird take off.
Out back, Josh installed some Calvert split mono leaf springs and some Smith Racecraft Assassin bars with Viking shocks mated to a TRZ sway bar.
7,000 rpm clutch drops with a blower? I’d rather be safe than broken. – Josh Godinez
As for the rear end, it is a Moser M9-made rear case. Josh tells us some of his future plans: “This thing is going to get a blower at some point, and I was like, hey, the 7,000rpm clutch drops off with a blower? I’d rather be safe than broken.”
Luckily, the Sawzall rear fender that chopped Josh and his buddies freed up valuable space, allowing Josh to fit some 28-inch Monster rear tires under the sleek first-gen F-body. “I can drop this thing pretty far if I want to, and the rear wheel wells will stow those tires nicely.”
It also helps that Josh had some interior sheet metal work done with a set of mini tubs and trunk cover panels by a company in Lodi, California called Fuller Fabrication.
The spartan interior is also inherited with a set of Kirkey aluminum racing seats. Josh is really nice, he puts one seat cover on the passenger side to make his wife happy. The seats are strapped to an NHRA-certified cage to accommodate those inevitable sub-9-second passes.
Josh’s bird also has an AEM Infinity system, so he installed the matching dashboard to complete the look of the race car inside. It can display the GPS speedometer, odometer and any inputs it uses. It’s also a great data logger.
You could meet Josh at a local racetrack day if you’re in the Central Valley of California, maybe Famoso, or even as far north as Sacramento Raceway. He’s still testing and tweaking and breaking some things to make a 9 second pure motor pass, but the high heat of the area has limited his best ET to 10.55 at 129. But that was at 4,400 density altitude and 98 degrees.
We’ve heard through rumors that while he’s busy tuning the chassis and chasing that elusive number, he might have some forced induction goodness for us in the future, so be sure to follow him on social media @bondobird and keep an eye out for the evil Pontiac he pilots.