The prized Firebird was entrusted to Joe Correia of Jorge's Auto Body in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in September 2006, where its body was stripped to bare metal, and then treated to two coats of Mipa Primer, followed by seven coats of R-M Diamont Gloss Black and Mipa 2K MS clear. The finish was wet-sanded with 600- to 2,000-grit paper before being polished to a mirror-like gloss using 3M products.
In addition to the exterior refresh, black leather replaced the tired Ebony cloth interior, and the suspension was treated to some mild upgrades, including aftermarket springs and shocks, and wheels and tires. A Flowmaster aft-cat exhaust system was installed, but the LS1 engine otherwise remained original.
A.J. was pleased with his Formula's appearance, but the feeling proved short lived. "I took it to its first car show in April 2007, and there were seven other black Firebirds there," he recalls. "I realized then that I had to set my Formula apart from the others. I decided to customize the body by adding flames and incorporating a tribal Phoenix into the hood. I wanted the car to have that old-school look, though."
D&V Auto Body in Newark wet-sanded the fresh black finish using 1,500-grit paper, and portions of the body were masked off. Using a flame design that A.J. created as a template, Ken Elias of Ken's Kustoms in Elizabeth produced a life-sized stencil depicting that flame pattern. Spies Hecker modern Corvette Red with orange, yellow, and white accents was applied to portions of the body before the entire finish was coated with Spies Hecker clear. Final sanding and polishing followed.
Both front seats and the center...
Both front seats and the center of the rear upperseat features a custom embroidered Firebird logo.
To make the Firebird's presence...
To make the Firebird's presence felt at sport compact shows or tailgating at purist events, A.J. had Carlos Ramirez (NVS AUDIO in Elizabeth) install a completely new electronics system, including neon exterior lighting, underdash interior accents, a 9-inch DVD monitor that drops down from the suede headliner, and a monster stereo system. The custom-made rear enclosure was designed for quick and easy removal, so the entire speaker system can be disconnected and set aside should the Formula be in a race event.
The remote-mounted STS turbocharger...
The remote-mounted STS turbocharger has the potential to provide 15 pounds of boost and generate 750 hp. In this particular application, however, the system produces about 500hp and is limited to 8 psi because the LS1 engine is largely unmodified.
The Formula was completed just in time for A.J. to drive it on the 2007 Hot Rod Power Tour. "It turned out even better than I imagined and I received compliments wherever I took it," says A.J. Wanting even more from his Formula, a five-piece Wings West body kit, improved suspension components, and new wheels and tires were added in 2009, and a completely new audio system was installed.
The LS1 remained mostly stock and A.J. was content with its performance for several years, but as the Formula stepped up in looks and handling, it wasn't long before he realized the LS1 needed to pack more punch. "I knew a power adder was an easy way to take it to the next level," says A.J. "I wanted to make sure whatever I chose was compatible with the stock LS1 and any engine modifications I might make later."
The exhaust required to operate a turbocharger increases underhood operating temperatures, and A.J. didn't want to risk damaging his Formula's one-of-a-kind custom flames. To keep those temps to a minimum, A.J. opted for a remote-mounted turbocharger system from STS Turbo in Orem, Utah. Its 67mm STS turbocharger resides where the muffler is normally found. The impeller in the turbine housing is driven by exhaust gases to spin the intake impeller in the compressor housing, which draws outside air through an STS 9-inch conical air filter and a 3-inch intake tube. This pressurized air is sent forward through a series of increasing-diameter intake charge-air pipes, which step up to 3 inches at the intercooler. From there, the cooler, denser air is delivered to the 3.5-inch MAF, and then through a 4-inch silicone adapter that connects the MAF to the throttle body. Excess boost is bled off with an STS 38mm wastegate and 3-inch-diameter downpipe on the exhaust side, and an STS 50mm blow-off valve releases boost pressure on the intake side when the throttle closes.