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.

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.

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.

"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.

Taking full advantage of the bumpstick's specs are AFR CNC-ported cylinder heads, which feature 227cc intake runners, 56cc chambers, and 2.02/1.60 stainless steel valves, and flow more than 315 cfm on the intakes.

The impressive small-block is fed with a set of FMS 42-lb/hr injectors and a twin 58mm BBK throttle body breathing through a 90mm Granatelli LS1 MAF. An Aeromotive 800hp inline fuel pump in conjunction with an in-tank 255-lph pump is necessary to deliver the fuel.

When it was all said and done, Chad put his money where his mouth was, as his engine produced just over 600 naturally aspirated horses on the company's engine dyno with his tuning.

While the engine was being assembled, Shane and his father were hard at work on his 100 percent stock Firehawk in preparation for the influx of power. A Spec Stage 5 clutch sits ahead of the stock, Hurst-shifted T56 transmission.

Up front, a Spohn K-member and A-arms dramatically reduce weight over the factory stamped-steel pieces and increase strength, too. QA1 dual-adjustable shocks and springs replaced the Bilsteins. A set of Aerospace drag brakes were installed up front to trim down unsprung weight, and the rear suspension was given similar treatment with the installation of BMR drag bags, QA1 shocks with BMR springs, and Spohn lower control arms and torque arm.

Surprisingly, the notoriously weak 10-bolt rearend was alive and kicking even after the abuse Shane had put it through. It was pulled out and replaced with a Moser 12-bolt featuring 4.10 gears and an Eaton Posi, which has a much greater power-holding ability. Shane kept the A/C system as well as the heater.

Once the engine was secured between the strut towers, the nitrous kit was upgraded to an Edelbrock wet system that was capable of 300 hp.

This power rocketed the Bird to 10.40 at 141 mph in the quarter-mile. The 1.6 60-foot has some room for improvement, but we're sure it has the potential for a 9-second pass given the trap speed. This wouldn't be possible without his custom set of Hole Shot Hole Star 15x10 rear wheels with red anodized centers mounted to Mickey Thompson 28x11.5x15 ET Street tires.

It's safe to say "mission accomplished" when you take a look at Shane's Firehawk. The 315hp hood decals have been replaced with the more suitable 607hp callouts and are the only visible indication that might raise a few eyebrows. The original Firehawk wheels have been replaced with the newer design for street duty, and the rear spoiler has been exchanged with a Trans Am high-rise one.

Today, Shane races in a variety of classes at his local tracks, where he's required to run a "street" tire. The Firehawk's good looks and Golen power makes it a very quick Pontiac, one that Shane admits has been taken a bit over the top, preventing him from taking it out on the street as often as he likes--so much for gas mileage, huh? He's not afraid to put anyone in their place, though. Like we said, anything can be improved upon, and when it comes to drag racing, this Firehawk proves our point.

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