A Livonia man's dream of restoring a classic 1970 Firebird was realized today--even though he is no longer here to see it.
Gilbert Bunch's widow and son donated the battered Pontiac body to the WCSX "Stone Soup" project. It takes donated parts or hard to find parts from listeners and supporters nationwide to restore a classic car for charity.
Today Valerie Bunch turned the key on the newly restored car and listened as her late husband's dream roared to life again.
"I know he can hear it. I know he's here. It's so good," said Valerie Bunch.
Family members say this was part restoration, part resurrection for the Trans Am and Gilbert Bunch.
Gilbert had the bones of the car in his garage for years. This summer he finally had time to commit to the labor of love, when his heart failed. His family did not want the dream to die with him.
"It sounds just like he wanted, looks like he wanted, and drives the way he wanted," said son Jim O'Brien as he beamed at the sparkling classic. Both were fans of the project and bought tickets many years.
The Ice Nine Group, known as masters of customization, coordinated the restoration. They were aided by dozens of people who donated hard to find parts, and state of the art components, similar to the characters in the "Stone Soup" children's book.
WCSX Morning Personality Jim O'Brien (no relation) calls it the most personal of all the Stone Soup cars the station has championed. "Hundreds and hundreds of hours and after they heard the story people from across the country wanted to help."
Ice Nine wizard Keith Strong, who has created legendary concept cars and classics for the Big Three and major enthusiasts, felt the added pressure of re-creating a departed man's legacy.
"We once did a car for (automotive legend) Carroll Shelby, and this car ranks above it" Strong said.
The car will be raffled off for charity: Holy Cross Children's Services.
Gilbert's children were all here for the unveiling. Some came from as far away as Texas. They believe as long as the Firebird roars, a little piece of Gilbert is still here.
"And it's running high and wide open," said Valerie over the revving of the engine. "And it will run for a long time."
Valerie took it for a spin with Keith at the wheel--and Gilbert's spirit riding shotgun. Raffle tickets will be available at http://www.wcsx.com/stonesoup/ until the September 4th drawing, but you may have competition. Most of Gilbert's family have purchased tickets too.