Maria Carpenter, of Shelby Township, holds a photo of herself driving out of the  dealership showroom with her new Pontiac Firebird in 1969. She still owns the car today.

Maria Carpenter, of Shelby Township, holds a photo of herself driving out of the dealership showroom with her new Pontiac Firebird in 1969. She still owns the car today.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Behind the Wheel: Shelby Township woman celebrates 50 years of owning Firebird

By: Jennifer Sigouin | C&G Newspapers | Published July 9, 2019

 A car salesman at the former  Higgins Pontiac dealership in Ferndale  presents Carpenter with roses to celebrate  the purchase of her new car in June 1969.

A car salesman at the former Higgins Pontiac dealership in Ferndale presents Carpenter with roses to celebrate the purchase of her new car in June 1969.

Photo provided by Maria Carpenter

 After a few decades in storage, the car underwent some restoration work and is now in “perfect-looking condition.”  Carpenter has  since won close  to 50 trophies  for the Firebird  at car shows.

After a few decades in storage, the car underwent some restoration work and is now in “perfect-looking condition.” Carpenter has since won close to 50 trophies for the Firebird at car shows.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Maria Carpenter, of Shelby Township, recently celebrated a milestone anniversary with her 1969 Pontiac Firebird convertible, and she has the pictures to prove it. 

June 9 marked 50 years since Carpenter purchased her Firebird from the former Higgins Pontiac dealership in Ferndale — a memory that’s documented in a black-and-white photo taken as she drove the brand-new car out of the showroom that day. 

Her salesperson was a retired police chief for the city of Ferndale, who also happened to be a friend of her father-in-law. 

“That was the first car he sold,” she said, noting that he gave her a great deal at below sticker price. “He even gave me a dozen roses.”

Carpenter added that she has a photo of herself being presented with the bouquet of roses too.

“Actually, when I was looking for a car, I was looking at the Firebird, the Camaro and the Mustang,” she said, explaining that the Firebird’s eye-catching shade of yellow — a new color that had to be specially ordered — was what sold her. 

When she purchased the Firebird 50 years ago, it became her everyday car, providing daily transportation for her and her three kids. When it came time to replace the Firebird, though, Carpenter opted to put it in storage rather than sell it. She explained that Pontiac had stopped making Firebird convertibles for a few years, and she predicted that hers could be worth something in the future. 

Twenty-five years after putting the Firebird in storage, Carpenter decided it was time to restore the car. 

“When you don’t drive a car after 25 years, it causes more damage than good,” she said, adding that the company that handled the restoration work did an “amazing” job. “It is in perfect-looking condition. Not a mark. Not a scratch.”

Now that the car is restored, Carpenter only drives it to nearby car shows — where she’s garnered close to 50 trophies over the years — and she never takes it out in the rain. And as it turns out, Carpenter’s intuition about the Firebird’s value was spot on. Since its restoration, she’s been offered as much as $60,000 for the car. 

“I paid $3,882,” she said, adding that she still has the window sticker that lists the car’s original price. “You couldn’t even get a clunker right now (for that price).”


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Do you own a vehicle that has an interesting history? Contact Staff Writer Jennifer Sigouin at jsigouin@candgnews.com, and you could be featured in an upcoming edition of Behind the Wheel.