Back in 1998, Mike Rebentisch from Bellmore, New York, was in the market for a ride that would appeal to his wild side and express his passion for high-performance American muscle.
After many years on the road and at the track, Mike recently had his Firehawk repainted in
Being a certified auto mechanic and having already owned a ’94 V-6 Firebird and a ’97 LT1 Formula with a six-speed, he was poised to purchase and modify another Pontiac performer—a Firehawk T/A. It was in the early ’90s that SLP (Street Legal Performance) of Toms River, New Jersey, first released its potent Firehawk package on the Third-Gen Bird, then continued production on the Fourth-Gens, and was even responsible for the first two years of WS6 conversions.
Mike’s search began on the still young Internet, where he found himself webinizing with Dave Hamburger, SLP’s marketing manager and son of Ed Hamburger, the founder of the company. Mike was informed that no Firehawks would be available for the ’98 model year, but he could order a ’99 from a participating dealer. Little did he realize that “participating dealer” was a liberal term. He laments, “Three dealerships refused to order it without full payment up front, and one said the Firehawk would never be available.”
Mustang casualties that have fallen prey to this Hawk’s performance.
Finally, Malmstrom Pontiac on Long Island agreed to accept Mike’s order for his RPO WU6 SLP Firehawk Trans Am. It would specify Navy Blue Metallic paint and a six-speed manual gearbox. Along with these choices, the rare bird would be equipped with all the standard SLP Firehawk goodies, including exterior identification, functional hood with heat extractors, 17x9-inch lightweight aluminum wheels rolling on Firestone Firehawk P275/40ZR17 rubber, specific stainless-steel dual/dual-tip exhaust, and console plaque. Mike also added the embroidered Firehawk floormats and car cover from the Firehawk options list. (Later, he added an Auburn differential, which was an extra-cost option on Firehawks that year.)
To aid Mike in his purchase, his (now late) dad, George, agreed to put the Navy Blue Bird in his name, which earned him a seat on the Hawk’s maiden flight, but anticipation became determination as they waited 13 months for delivery. The day Mike drove by the dealership and saw his gleaming new Firehawk perched atop the car carrier, he got right on the phone. The salesman told him that no such car had arrived and they hadn’t heard anything yet. Mike kindly asked him to peer out the window. Behold, the Hawk had landed.
Immediately after taking possession of No. 426 of only 719 Hawks produced that year, Mike had subframe connectors and a strut tower brace installed to stiffen up his fresh F-body. The next five years would see three quarters of the odometer’s present 51,000 miles accumulate, as he drove and raced his bird of prey in Long Island and Englishtown, New Jersey. Putting his professional skills to work, he also handled almost all the modifications himself. This included powertrain and suspension upgrades, and so on. The most radical mod was a 200-shot NOS system.
Not the easiest place to wrench on a car, nevertheless, Mike swapped the broken LS1 for a
After years of racing, while running some time shots at the now-defunct Long Island Dragway one weekend, the LS1 expired and grounded any further flights. Mike was devastated, but remembers saying to a friend “Well, it’s fixable.” Searching for a new powerplant, he located a very low-mileage 5.7 LS6 from a nearly new ’04 Z06 Corvette in Pennsylvania and felt it would make an excellent foundation for further upgrades.
Next, he plotted his master plan to modify all aspects of his Hawk to suit his desires. Though the bottom end remains stock, a Thunder Racing 230/224-degree reverse-split duration cam with 0.575/0.563 lift (with the stock 1.7:1 rockers) and a 111-degree LSA was installed, the LS6 heads were ported and polished, and Comp Cams 918 springs and titanium retainers were added, along with chromoly pushrods.