Hunt for former car leads to Pontiac project

  • 1965 Pontiac LeMans

    1965 Pontiac LeMans Photos Courtesy of Matt Avery Media

  • In the recent rebuild, Lance went with new digital gauges and replaced the heating and air conditioning system.

    In the recent rebuild, Lance went with new digital gauges and replaced the heating and air conditioning system.

  • The factory 326-cubic-inch engine has been upgraded with a 454-cubic-inch V-8.

    The factory 326-cubic-inch engine has been upgraded with a 454-cubic-inch V-8.

  • Lance's 1965 convertible was sold new in rural Kansas and spent time with previous owners in Minnesota and Los Angeles.

    Lance's 1965 convertible was sold new in rural Kansas and spent time with previous owners in Minnesota and Los Angeles.

  • The factory 326-cubic-inch engine has been upgraded with a 454-cubic-inch V-8.

    The factory 326-cubic-inch engine has been upgraded with a 454-cubic-inch V-8.

 
 

When Lance Buhrman was in his early 20s, he possessed his dream car: a Jade Green 1968 Firebird Ram Air 400. He was living in Libertyville and life was good, as he cruised around regularly in his Pontiac pony car.

If there was a problem, it wasn't with the car, but with a place to store it -- or rather the lack thereof.

"I lived in an apartment with no garage," says Lance, who now lives in Mundelein. "I couldn't bear to let it sit outside anymore."

Buhrman let the Firebird go but never released the special memories made. When January 2016 rolled around, one of his New Year's resolutions was to begin a hunt with a very specific goal in mind. "I didn't want any Firebird, I wanted that same Firebird," Lance says.

Lance Buhrman of Mundelein, who has an affinity for Pontiacs, recently finished work repairing and modifying a 1965 LeMans.
Lance Buhrman of Mundelein, who has an affinity for Pontiacs, recently finished work repairing and modifying a 1965 LeMans. -

After being ultra-targeted, a fruitless search led him to expand his list of potential Pontiac replacements. He soon discovered the skyrocketing prices of GTOs, so he passed on those, finally landing on the LeMans in hopes one would turn up. Sure enough, one did.

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The big, beautiful 1965 droptop had been sold new in rural Kansas before heading off to an owner in Minnesota followed by a trip west, eventually finding a home in sunny L.A. While Lance knew the right car had been found, the right time hadn't been established. "It took me nearly a year to get the seller to agree to a reasonable price," he says. Still, he was patient and eventually became the car's proud new owner.

The vehicle had undergone a refresh sometime in 2007 and with it received a repaint in a dark Nightwatch Blue. The LeMans was still equipped with its factory 326-cubic-inch V-8 and two-speed transmission. Lance wanted to upgrade that outdated powertrain, and swapped it out himself for a massive 454-cubic-inch V-8.

Lance, shown here behind the wheel of his Jade Green 1968 Firebird, bought the car from a co-worker. He drove the Firebird while in his 20s and was its third owner.
Lance, shown here behind the wheel of his Jade Green 1968 Firebird, bought the car from a co-worker. He drove the Firebird while in his 20s and was its third owner. - Courtesy of Lance Buhrman

Other changes included dropping the suspension 2 inches and adding four-piston Baer slotted disc brakes. He also added Billet Specialties wheels, Dakato Digital gauges and new heating and air conditioning system. All those changes made a huge improvement.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"When I first got it, it felt like it would simply float off the road," Lance says. "Now it far exceeds how I thought it would perform."

Those surpassed expectations are just perfect for what Lance has in mind for future uses. "I want to drive all over the U.S.," he says.

Prior to Buhrman's ownership, the LeMans was repainted a dark Nightwatch Blue in 2007.
Prior to Buhrman's ownership, the LeMans was repainted a dark Nightwatch Blue in 2007. -

Before starting his grand adventures, he started small, driving it locally for the first time since its completion just a few weeks ago. Once things are properly shaken out, he'll be striking out for bigger and longer road trips.

He says sightseeing is the goal but I've got a feeling he'll be on the lookout for one special Firebird. No doubt one in green and one that cruised the Chicago suburbs. Here's hoping he finds it and here's hoping for great memories along the way.

• Share your car's story with Matt at auto@dailyherald.com or COPOthebook.com.

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