RENO, NV — The paint on Michelle Cheeseman’s 1968 Pontiac Firebird is a real head-turner.

“It’s Aqua Marine—no, Ultra Marine blue,” Michelle said with a laugh. “I really need to get “Electric” in there somewhere.”

‘It’s custom blend that doesn’t really have a name, but so many people ask about it, we just come up with a different name everyday,” Michelle’s husband, Mike, added.

No matter what the Redding, CA couple call the paint color, the Firebird was getting plenty of second looks at the Hot August Nights Downtown Show-n-Shine.


Not bad for a project that wasn’t even supposed to be a show vehicle.

“It turned out a lot better than I even thought,” Mike said. “We were just looking for a classic car that she could drive, and it sort of morphed into a show car. I think as you’re going through the process you realize how valuable these cars are, especially this one because it’s all original steel.”

Mike and Michelle were already “General Motors people,” but were inspired to own a Firebird by longtime friends who owned their own 1968 Firebird. The Cheeseman’s found their Firebird in Oregon about six years ago, but it turned out the car had ties to their hometown of Redding.


“We kind of went on a hunt for one and stumbled across this one in Oregon,” Mike said. “It was owned by a retired fireman and it was sitting in a field next to his garage. It’s all original and was in really, really good shape. The kid that owned this car (before) lived right outside of Redding and he owed this guy money, and he couldn’t pay. So instead of paying money, he gave the guy this car.”

Once the Cheeseman’s brought the car back home, they went to work.

The car came with a 350, but the previous owner did so much damage to it that it wasn’t rebuildable. Mike had a short block sitting in a bag in the back of his shop, so he bored it .030 over and added a mild Comp cam and Fitech fuel injection, and Summit Racing exhaust system, among other mechanical upgrades. The engine is attached to a 700R4 transmission and 12-bolt rear-end.

“Ninety percent of the mechanicals in this car came from Summit,” Mike said. “We’re big Summit Racing supporters. They support so much stuff in the hobby. Plus, I can order a set of heads and they’ll show up the next day!”


Other features of the Cheesman’s Firebird include a lowered factory suspension up front, drilled and slotted front disc brakes, air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, power windows, and Foose Legend wheels.

“It’s definitely a Pro Touring-style car now,” Mike said.

“I love how he dressed up the engine,” Michelle added. “Castle Works Motorsports did the air cleaner for us. I think the engine’s beautiful, I love the color—there’s so much to love on it.”

For the Hot August Nights Show (in 2023), Mike surprised Michelle with something new. He added underbody lights to complement that beautiful blue paint job…whatever they’re calling it these days!


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Author: David Fuller

David Fuller is OnAllCylinders' managing editor. During his 20-year career in the auto industry, he has covered a variety of races, shows, and industry events and has authored articles for multiple magazines. He has also partnered with mainstream and trade publications on a wide range of editorial projects. In 2012, he helped establish OnAllCylinders, where he enjoys covering all facets of hot rodding and racing.