Buddies restore Pontiac Firebird as a surprise for recovering teenager

Obie Nef (third from left) and his friends pose with 1987 Pontiac Firebird that was secretly restored while Obie and his father Darwin Nef were in the hospital, Enoch, Utah, Jan. 10, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

ENOCH — Obie Nef, the teenager who was critically injured in a car accident nearly five months ago, received a surprise on Wednesday — his dad’s 30-year-old vintage red Pontiac Firebird almost fully restored to its former glory, with all of the labor being done voluntarily by friends and neighbors.

Obie Nef is all smiles after finding out his family’s 1987 Pontiac Firebird had been restored by his friends as a service project, Enoch, Utah, Jan. 10, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“When I first saw the car, I was like, ‘Whoa! Awesome!’” Nef recalled Wednesday night at an church meetinghouse in Enoch, where many of those involved in the project gathered to celebrate the presentation of the car to Nef and his parents.

On Aug. 22, Nef, then 15, was driving an older model BMW sedan that was struck by a semi-tractor trailer in Cedar City. Following the crash, both Obie Nef and his father, Darwin, who was a passenger, spent months in the hospital recovering from their injuries.

Read more: Son injured in Cedar City crash remains in critical condition; family asking for prayers

Dustin Langston, Obie Nef’s Boy Scout and church youth group leader, said the idea for the service project came from one of Obie’s fellow Scouts, Ian Meyers, who suggested they take Darwin Nef’s 1987 Pontiac Firebird out of of the family’s backyard and see if they could get it running again.

Adults and teenagers involved with the restoration project of the Nef family’s 1987 Pontiac Firebird pose with the car, Enoch, Utah, exact date not specified | Photo courtesy of Dustin Langston, St. George News / Cedar City News

The old vehicle hadn’t run for years, but Langston and Obie’s buddies liked the idea, so they set about getting permission from Nelda Nef, who is Obie’s mother and Darwin’s wife.

Nelda Nef said while Obie and Darwin were recuperating in the hospital, it wasn’t hard to keep the project a secret from them, even though many other people knew about it.

However, since they’ve been home in the past month or so, Nelda Nef said she has gone to great lengths to keep her husband and son from going out into the backyard, and even keeping the window blinds closed.

Darwin Nef said jokingly he was mad at his wife for being a “control freak” for not letting him go or look behind the house.

“Now I know why,” he admitted with a chuckle. “I’ve got some repenting to do.”

Youth work on 1987 Pontiac Firebird during restoration project, Enoch, Utah, exact date not specified, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Dustin Langston, St. George News / Cedar City News

The project ended up being extensive, with numerous body panels and other parts being pulled from a junk 1984 Pontiac Trans Am donated by Auto Moto, Langston said.

Over the past several months, the boys have been working on the car, along with several adults who have also volunteered their time, labor and expertise. Nearly a dozen local businesses chipped in with generous donations of parts and materials, including wheels, tires, windshield, paint job and exhaust system.

Langston said the car is about 90 percent completed, with mostly interior work still needing to be finished.

After getting input from just about everyone involved in the project, Langston said the decision was made to reveal the project to Obie and Darwin Nef at this late stage, so that Obie himself could help with the final phases of the project and see it to its completion.

After receiving design input from Obie Nef, Hal Larsen of Hal’s Pinstriping will be adding some final touches to the exterior paint. The doors already have decals that say “Obie’s Firebird” and the rear license plate frame reads “Miracles Happen.”

Nelda and Darwin Nef at church youth group gathering celebrating the car restoration project, Enoch, Utah, Jan. 10, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Later Wednesday evening, the youth and leaders of the Nef family’s church congregation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Homestead 1st Ward, gathered to commemorate the occasion. While folks munched on pizza, a video slideshow showed the step-by-step progress of the project.

Nelda Nef said the scope of the project far exceeded her expectations.

“I had no idea that it would come to this,” she said, expressing her gratitude to all those who contributed labor and materials for the project. “They did an amazing job and a lot more work than I ever expected.”

The car still isn’t licensed and legal to drive yet, but those involved with the project said they plan to take it to show it off Friday at Canyon View High School, where Obie Nef, now 16, has recently resumed his studies as a sophomore.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • DesertBill January 11, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    “That’s what friends are for…”

  • mesaman January 11, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    It’s most rewarding to read of good people doing good things for others for a change. Thank you, St George News, and thank you good people of Enoch and Cedar City.

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