Life Size (2020–…): Season 1, Episode 4 - Bare Metal and Big Power: The Custom '67 Firebird - full transcript

On this episode of Life Size, professional driver Nicole Lyons gets to drive something different: A Custom '67 Firebird. It's one of the only cars in the Garage of Legends that was first ...

(energetic music)

(engine revving)

- Whoa!

(engine revving)

- We all imagined building
our own custom cars

when we were kids,

out-of-this-world designs
with crazy paint jobs

and crazier engines.

But for most of us,

we never got that car
to the asphalt track,

much less the orange track.



(Upbeat music)

(car accelerating)

There are over 20 cars in the
Hot Wheels Garage of Legends,

and most of them started as die-cast cars

before being built into
full-size drivable ones.

But on this episode of Life Size,

we've got a car that was
first built in the garage

and then in the toy studio.

So I traveled to Long Beach

to meet up with Brendon Vetuskey,

veteran Hot Wheels designer,

and the man behind the Custom Firebird.

- This is actually my personal car.

It's not a Mattel owned car,



but it's one that I bought back in 2009

and I tore it apart in 2010,

took about five and a half years

to recreate it into what you see here.

And then a couple years after that,

I was able to make it into
a 1:64 scale Hot Wheels car.

- Ooh, so you designed this car first,

and then came the Hot Wheels design?

- That is correct.

I was very lucky to be able to do that.

You know, a lot of things
that make this car unique,

I've got a lot of subtle
custom exterior design touches

hence, the name Custom '67 Firebird.

So whereas, a stock one,

like the bumpers sit
out far from the body.

They're almost floating on there.

I've tucked this in nice and tight.

The wheel openings I've
actually enlarged them

by trimming away the
inner lip of the fenders

and then mini-tubbing it front and rear

so that these are 275 tires in the front

but I can turn 'em lock to lock

and go through the suspension travel

without them rubbing on the body.

And then I have 335's in the back

and there's plenty of
room back there for more.

- So, I had a '67 Firebird
and mine was total drag car.

Obviously, what you're explaining to me

this is not intended to be a drag car.

You built it for speed
on a different track.

- Yes.

My goal was to make a
car that could handle,

like turn corners, open
track day, stuff like that.

So, I used things like Detroit Speed

and engineering suspension,

late model brakes,

transmission T-56,

12-bolt rear,

6-point cage,

everything's all tied in.

This car handles.

Just like a Hot Wheels car,
it'll zip around the track.

1:64 or a 1:1 scale.

- I'm noticing too like these vents.

- Yes, I did widen the car actually.

When I re-did the quarter panels,

I actually widened them in the back

just enough to fit the
'69 Trans Am spoiler

cause normally these cars are

a little bit narrower in the back,

but I just brought it out a little bit.

I actually frenched the tail panel

just for a custom subtle look to it.

- Not subtle.

You keep, subtle is not the word.

- Most people, they walk by,

they wouldn't realize it,

but you own a 67 Firebird yourself

so you can realize those differences.

- So is this the bare metal?

- It's clear paint over this

so yeah, basically it is the bare metal.

This was a result of me
being impatient, really.

I wanted to drive this car.

I was four years into the build

and I was just to the point like--

- [Nicole] Clever.
- I can drive this thing.

It's been in the garage way too long

so instead of putting it
in paint shop purgatory

I decided I'm just going to
put some clear paint on it

and then I'll deal with it later.

Well, it's like five years later

and it's kind of a thing.

Making the Hot Wheels car replica of it,

we made it in bare
metal, we call it Zamac,

just for the actual alloy metal

that the die-cast cars are made from.

- It reminds me almost like
of a fired bullet basically,

cause it's got grooves and ridges

and yet it still, has
that presence about it.

- You can really see the work.

You can see all the weld lines,

good, bad, or indifferent.

You can see where
everything was put together,

kind of like a Frankenstein, if you will,

but hopefully a little
nicer looking in the end.

I just happened to have
a Hot Wheels model car.

- [Nicole] Nice!

- So you can see it for comparison.

- Now I see a ton of similarities,

but I do see some differences.

I definitely don't see a hood on here.

- (laughs) Yes.

- I see one on here.

- [Brendon] Yes.

The first time I was driving this car,

I was getting the bugs out.

I just didn't have a hood on it.

So I was driving it around like that

for a good six months or so.

- So Hot Wheels saw it
without the hood first?

- Yes.

The management saw it

and they're like, "Wow,
that looks really unique

"and different."

Most people run a hood.

I was running around
without a hood for a while

and every now and again,

I'll take it back off just for fun,

but right now I happen
to have it on there.

- Can we see what's under the hood?

- Yes we can.

Let's take a look.

(car hood pops)

- This is my engine.

It's a '01 LS1 Engine.

It's a 383 Stroker.

So it's got ported 243 heads.

They were from the LS6 Corvette

and this engine actually
came out of an '01 Trans Am.

So it is a Pontiac engine
still in a Pontiac.

I painted it Pontiac blue

like it would've been in the 60s

just to kind of--

- All the blocks were painted that color.

Mine was too originally.

- Yup, yup.

553 at the crank,

442 at the wheels.

What's funny,

I mean a lot of people do LS swaps.

I know it's a popular thing

to the point of people are
bored of it and sick of it.

They're like, "Ugh, another LS swap",

but it's funny cause
even with the Hot Wheels,

like having this exposed
LS engine in here,

people buy this casting
just to cut that out

and put it in their own Hot Wheels car

to make a custom LS swap.

I've seen it,

like they'll put 'em in the JDM cars,

they'll put 'em in anything, everything.

- So you've created a monster.

- (laughs) Yeah!

- With people taking the engine out

and seriously putting it in their own--

- [Brendon] It's a sacrificial Firebird

just for that little
piece of plastic in there.

- So what came first,

the designer in you or the builder in you?

- That's like the chicken or the egg,

but I honestly think it's both.

I mean I was drawing cars when
I was four or five years old

at a very young age playing with Legos,

building model kits,

taking apart my toys,

taking apart my bikes,

so I was doing both, really.

I think they just both
kind of helped each other.

I was always very mechanical

with designs that I would work on

trying to make sure that
they could be realistic

or like, work

or what mechanism does it take

and stuff like that.

I would always think about those details.

- So you had an engineering
mind, basically.

- Yeah.

Even with my Hot Wheels cars as a kid,

I would get out the Sharpie markers,

the testers paints.

Like when I was five or six years old,

I can honestly remember
my parents' touch-up paint

for their '71 Ford Pinto.

It was this blue color and
it came with a little brush

on the end of it

and I would paint.

It was like a Dixie Challenger car

and I just made the whole thing blue

or stuff like that.

the silver model paint
on the Poison Pintos.

Sometimes I would get more destructive.

I'd hacksaw the roof off of a car.

So I was always tinkering with things

and modifying them.

- You weren't afraid to modify

and kind of create your
vision even at that young age.

- Not at all.

- Very cool.

So this car is so unique.

What's the best compliment
you've ever received?

- There's a father and son

who are building a Dodge Challenger,

a early 70s one,

and they made their car like this.

They sanded it in bare metal

and put clear paint over it.

It's one thing to say,
"Hey, that looks cool",

but when you actually see
someone else build their own car

in a similar fashion just
because of something you did,

I think that's the best compliment

that I've received so far.

- That's definitely one
heck of a compliment.

But looking good is not
what this car is built for.

It's time to get it to the track.

(upbeat guitar music)

(car engine revs)

(car revving)

- Oh, okay!

(tires screeching)

I'm feelin' it, I'm feelin' it!

(tires screeching)

(car revs loudly)

Yes!

This car likes to do this!

- I don't think GM ever intended this

when they built these cars.

- I don't think so.

(car engine revs loudly)

(tires screeching)

- Woo!

Whoa! (laughs)

Yes!

(car revving loudly)

(tires screeching)

(car revs)

- Little spin out never hurt nobody.

- No!

(car revving)

And that's the beauty of this paint job.

I don't have to worry
about the stone chips.

- [Nicole] No!

(car engine revving)

(upbeat rock music)

(tires screeching)

(laughs)

(car revs)

- Woo!

All right Brendon.

You just totally scared me,

but it was so much fun.

- In a good way, I hope.

- In a good way.

That was awesome, but it's
time to show Brendon how I race

and I figured,

why not make things a
little more interesting.

(suspenseful music)

- [radio] On the way to you.

Okay, the armidor guy is actually ill.

(wheels spinning)

(suspenseful music)

(car engine revs)

(car revving)

(car revving)

(car revving)

(car revving)

(car revving)

(car revving)

(victorious electronic music)

- All right!

Classic Firebird!

We got us a 90-second car, baby!

I don't think that model car can keep up

with this life-sized version right here.

The model version of the Custom Firebird

might not be as fast as
it's life-sized counterpart,

but that doesn't mean it's any less fun.

So take a moment,

the next time you're doodling a cool car

or renting away on a project,

because who knows,

some day,

you might be racing against it.

(victorious electronic music)

- On this episode of Life Size,

we're going back home.

If you're home had a Custom '67--

Ooh!

Try it again.

I got it.

****

Let's do it.

****

(finger snapping)

****

(finger snaps)

Got to shake it out.

(finger snaps)

****

(laughs)

- Are they talking with us?

- I don't know.

I can't hear them (laughs).

- Okay, I just hear something.

_ I hear something, but
I don't know what it is.

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