When Robert Zwiebel was a young boy of 10, he spotted a car zipping down Hickman Road in Des Moines. It was a Pontiac Firebird Formula — his dream car. He knew at that moment that he would someday have one of his own.
Zwiebel has spent his whole life working on any engine he could find. His first motor repair was on a riding lawn mower just so he could drive it around. His dad owned a 1968 Firebird Formula 400, and his uncle owned a 1969 Barracuda. Working on cars and admiring cars was, and still is, a way of life in the Zwiebel family.
A couple of years ago, he started searching for his dream car and located one in Virginia.
“I was going to settle for silver even though I was set on black,” Zwiebel says. “I was just about to purchase the plane ticket when I located a black one in Greenfield.”
His 1999 Pontiac Firebird Formula was just 25 miles away.
He didn’t want an automatic. This car had a six speed manual transmission, T-top roof and was the black he really desired. The first time he turned the key, it started.
But then he blew the engine. He took the body off the engine in the driveway. And with his dad’s guidance, he spent a couple hundred hours rebuilding the engine from top to bottom. Every part in the engine has been replaced with new and used after-market race car parts.
“It has a 5.7L 350 cubic inch all aluminum block LS1, ported heads and intake, long tube headers with full three-inch dual exhaust and a really big cam,” he says.
It has an after-market hood and no catalytic convertors for better air flow. He accomplished his goal to have his car running by his birthday this spring.
Zwiebel keeps all of his cars in excellent condition and enjoys spending his Saturdays detailing them. His Firebird has never seen snow.
“It is a dream come true. I never wanted any other car. I will keep it forever and hopefully let one of my future kids drive it to prom someday,” he says.
For now he enjoys driving it on weekends and is looking forward to car shows.
Contact Darren Tromblay at 953-4822 ext. 304 or firstname.lastname@example.org to recommend someone for an upcoming issue of “What’s In Your Garage?”