As customs go, it is hard to improve on the sleek 1961 Ford Thunderbird coupe known to the world as Firestar. Built in 1997 by Hall-of-Famer John DāAgostino, Firestar sports a 4-inch chopped top, custom hood scoop, modified tail lights, shaved doors and trunk and restyled rear fender peaks. Beautifully finished in Candy Red with Gold Scallops, the car is accented by a set of chrome wire wheels and wide whitewall tires, a DāAgostino trademark. Other touches include extensively de-chromed bodywork, European-style headlights set in custom mesh housings and a chrome grille insert with an intricate network of bullet-shaped projections. The interior, including the trunkāall of which was refreshed a month agoāis done in a white pearl vinyl. Following completion in 1997, Firestar was displayed in the 1997 Sacramento Autorama and received the award for Best Candy Paint. The prestigious award was presented by āCandy Appleā Joe Balion, the inventor of Candy Colors. It was then shipped to Sweden where it embarked on an extensive European show tour. Upon returning to the United States in 2002, Firestar joined the famous āKustoms with a Kā display at the world-renowned Petersen Automotive Museum.
In 2009, Firestar was purchased at the Petersen by its current owners whom, with input from DāAgostino, administered an extensive restoration. The bullet grille was redone in 304 stainless steel and the background was powdercoated. The custom mesh housing and all other applicable trim pieces on the car were re-chromed. The stock 390-cubic-inch engine was pulled and gone through and a new custom-fabricated exhaust system was installed. The engine was fitted with a polished serpentine belt system, a custom twin electric fan radiator, engraved valve covers that rear āFirestar,ā a new Holley carburetor and an electronic ignition system with new spark plug wires and covers. These additions made Firestar one of the very few DāAgostino-built cars with a finished engine compartment. The Air Ride system was completely replaced by āPonch the Bag Manā and now features a chrome pump, remote controls and new rear springs.
The custom Thunderbird was than shown by the new owners for about four years before they embarked on an additional, more extensive restoration completed in April of 2016. Aided once again with input from DāAgostino, the bumpers were de-nutted, gas cap and backup lights removed and then welded into one-piece units. A new hidden sound system with provisions for iPod connectivity was installed below the dash speaker grill and controlled by a remote. A Vintage Air unit was installed with the controls integrated into the gold-anodized waterfall center console. During the A/C installation, the dashboard was removed and all instrument lights were replaced with LED gauges. The remote opening doors and trunk were refurbished and include a hidden manual release for the trunk. Side-view mirrors and retractable seatbelts were added and new carpet was installed throughout the car including inside the trunk. A custom spare-tire cover was fabricated. The gold scallops were templated and the car was stripped and repainted in the famous custom color-scheme by one of the original painters from the 1997 build, thereby maintaining the same provenance.
After the 2 Ā½-year restoration, Firestar was entered in several major shows including Pageant of the Thunderbirds, where the car won first place. At the 2015 Cruising for a Cure, it was displayed in the Meguiarās tent and won the coveted Best Custom award, which was presented by none other than George Barris. Firestar has been featured in a variety of pin-up magazines including āCar Kulture Deluxe,ā calendars and books. Continual mechanical upgrades, faithful cosmetic touches and recent award provenance have breathed new life into Firestar, but luckily not at the expense of nostalgia and importance within the Kustom culture.