The '95 Pontiac Formula was a fantastic car. It carried over the slippery shape of the less-seasoned V-6-equipped Firebird, while rectifying its power deficiency with a 275-horse, 350ci LT1. But, like anything else, it can always be improved upon. Since SLP (Street Legal Performance) had already worked its "Tuner" magic on the last of the Third-Gens, it was contracted to build Firehawks on the Fourth-Gen platform as well.
SLP further enhanced the Formula's handling by upgrading to 17x9-inch Speedline wheels (on hardtops) that wore 275/40ZR17 Firestone Firehawk tires, and added a stylish ram air hood and airbox to boost engine output to 300 hp.
A 607hp 396ci LT1 was built...
A 607hp 396ci LT1 was built by Golen Engine Service with an LT4 intake, at the owner's request, to maintain a near-stock appearance.
An optional Sport Suspension Package included Bilstein shocks and struts and progressive-rate Eibach lowering springs. Additionally, an optional Performance Exhaust System, which employed a free-flowing SLP after-cat featuring both outlets on the left, resulted in 315 hp.
Together, the handling and the straight-line performance of the already capable Bird was increased significantly. Auto writers boasted about the Hawk's capabilities in magazine tests where it out-accelerated and out-braked the competition, including the C4 Corvette.
In 2001, teenager Shane Quam was in the market for a performance car. Believe it or not, he wanted to find one that also had pretty good fuel economy. Normally, that wouldn't be something people consider, but being a 17-year-old on a high schooler's budget meant he had to be realistic when it came to his choice.
An Edelbrock wet-nitrous system...
An Edelbrock wet-nitrous system provides an additional 300 hp at the flip of a switch.
The only two cars he was considering to fill this role were a Mustang Cobra or a Ram Air Trans Am. He searched for a few months and came across a Cobra that he was almost sold on. "My dad told me that I should ask around before I settle on the Cobra because I might find something else I would like," Shane says. Lo and behold, one of the local Shottenkirk dealers in Fort Madison, Iowa, had just received a Ram Air Firebird, and that was all he was told. He went to look at it and found out it was this '95 Formula Firehawk with both the optional suspension and the optional exhaust. It was enough to knock the Cobra out of his mind, and he drove home in the Pontiac that day.
Local competition was the driving force behind Shane's modifications. He knew a few Mustangs that needed to be put in their places. The simple stuff was taken care of quickly when he added all the bolt-on parts including an LT4 kit. Soon, he graduated to a nitrous system. In 2006, Shane was still enjoying his victories but wanted more.
This Bird dominates at the...
This Bird dominates at the local track in owner Shane Quam's hometown of Gladstone, Illinois.
"I thought that about 500 rwhp was what I needed to get the job done," he says. "It seemed like I contacted every shop there was, and nobody was willing to do it the way I wanted." Producing that kind of power is no easy task, especially through an LT4 intake manifold, which was one of his requirements. "I wanted it to look as stock as possible when I opened the hood," he says. None of the engine builders thought it could be done with an LT4 intake except for Chad Golen of Golen Engine Service in Hudson, New Hampshire.
Chad located an LT1 block to take to the next level. It was bored and honed with a torque plate to 4.030 inches. Then it was O-ringed to increase the head gasket's effectiveness. The dynamically balanced rotating assembly consists of 13:1 compression JE forged pistons, Callies 4340 forged H-beam rods, and a Callies 3.825-inch-stroke 4340 forged-steel crankshaft. The boring and stroking resulted in 396 ci, and the high-compression pistons require high-octane race gas.
In order to produce the kind of power Shane was looking for, a custom solid-roller camshaft was ground for a hefty 260/266-degrees duration at 0.050. When combined with the 1.6:1 ratio Comp Cams roller rockers, the lift is 0.628/0.638 inch. LSA is 110 degrees.