Having a Firebird enthusiast on the Hot Wheels design staff has led to some great things. But Brendon Vetuskey is more than a devoted fan – he’s an owner. Let’s peek in his garage at his latest personal 1:1 project.

First, a little bit about Brendon himself. Born and raised in upstate New York, he worked at another toy company for a number of years prior to joining Mattel. “I was there for almost 8 years,” he recalls. “I worked on their die-cast line, so we had some 1:43 and 1:64 cars that I worked on as well as some other lines there, so I did have some experience to draw on.”

At Mattel, Brendon was hired for the Track and Playsets design team. “But I would go (to car design) and share anything that I could and express interest in helping out,” he says. “After a couple of years, I must have worn them down enough to allow me to work on a car. I was thrown a bone – I got to work on the ’67 Firebird. I also worked on the ’67 Chevelle that year.”

He currently manages all the track and playsets for licensed product: Monster Jam, Marvel, Star Wars, and more. He still likes to design castings when the opportunity comes up, and his designs have been big hits with collectors. “I strive to get as much detail as I can and be as accurate as I can. I’m sure I drive the guys overseas batty with all my revisions and changes.”

Real Cars

Brendon says he’s always been a Firebird fan and has owned quite a few. “At the moment, I own one. Total, I have owned three ’84 Trans Ams, one ’95, and I’ve had one ’67, a ’69 and three ’68 Firebirds.” He notes that he hasn’t actually had all of these cars as drivers, however. “A lot of them were parts cars or I had them for a short time, but that is technically the amount I’ve owned.”

He had one ’84 Trans Am for 19 years… and a few states. “I had that car in New York, and then I brought it down to New Jersey when I was living there,” he remembers. “Ironically, the car was originally sold in New Jersey. I ended up living like 5 or 10 miles from where it was originally sold. I basically brought it home.” He says he brought the car with him to when he later moved to California and eventually sold it to a guy in Seattle. That one has really gotten around!

Current Project

In Brendon’s garage at the moment is a ’67 Pontiac Firebird in progress. He acquired it in 2009 and started tearing it apart in January of 2010, and has been working on it for the last five years.

“I expect to drive it this year,” he estimates. “It only needs a handful of parts until it’s running and driving, It needs wheels and tires, it needs a driveshaft, it needs a battery… I need windshield glass… ”

We can’t wait to see the finished product! In the meantime, here are some shots of the project. (If you want to see more details, or follow more of Brendon’s Firebird or other projects, check out his website.)

Firebird as bought

“This is what the car looked like when I bought it. The pic is from summer of 2009. (Note the Belvedere in the background.) I drove it like this for half a year.”

Firebird Tear

“This pic is of me tearing the car apart during the beginning of the build, circa early 2010.”


“Cutting the rusty sheet metal away. In this case, from the rear panel and trunk floor. Note the bracing added to support the quarter panels to keep them in place.”

Rear Axle

“With a cherry picker, I’m installing the rear axle and brackets that I welded to the chassis. Working like this allowed me to check for alignment without crawling on my back.”


“Cutting out the floor to add a brace to tie together the two upper four-link mounts. Will also serve as a driveshaft safety loop mount.”


“Trimming away metal for my replacement quarter panels.”


“Welding up my driver side quarter panel. Note the additional width/gap from the tail panel. This is how much I widened the back of the car (it now fits a ’69 Trans Am spoiler). I also recessed the tail panel.”


“Completed rear.”


“Showing the fit of the front bumper. Note no gaps from the sheet metal (compare to a stock car — they use a thick rubber gasket to hide the gap from the bumper/sheet metal).”


“Creating my quarter panel vents. This will be to capture air for rear brake cooling.”


“Overall progress shot.”


“Engine as rebuilt by superior performance. I painted the block ‘Pontiac blue’ to give it a Pontiac feel.”

Firebird Tear

“Overall update pic 1. The rims aren’t sitting right yet. I had yet to have the axle trimmed for the wheels.”


“Overall update pic 2.”


Some of Brendon’s past rides.

Date posted: May 12, 2015 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Red Line Club RLC Hottest News

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