Right now, there are probably those of you in the know who are understandably scratching your head at the sight of the car on these pages. To the rest of you, it's just like any other '01 Sunset Orange Formula convertible. And that's exactly where you're wrong.
For starters, GM never produced a Formula convertible during the LS1 era, as they were only available as a hardtop coupe or T-top after the 1997 model year. Secondly, the Firehawk badge on the front bumper under the lip of the WS6 hood was applied later, after this car's rebuild. So by now you're probably trying to figure out what you're looking at in front of you. To answer those questions, you must first read on.
Being the owner and founder of Hawk's Third-Gen Performance for nearly the last twenty years, Bruce Hawkins has a whole host of parts (both new and used) and donor cars at his disposal. Starting out as your average Joe looking for more performance from his '82 Z28, today he can effectively build an entire 3rd- or 4th-Gen F-body (or twelve) from scratch using the donors he has at his facility. What he wanted was an LS-powered Formula convertible, however, with the coveted and now classic (too soon?) 1998-2002 styling. Since GM never actually built such an animal, Bruce had to create his own. Believe it or not, this car started out in life as a black 2000 Trans Am WS6 droptop, and since it had been previously wrecked, Bruce saw it as a perfect opportunity to create a very unique twist on the Firebird.
The first and most obvious task was replacing many of the Trans Am's body panels; such as the front and rear bumpers, and removing the side rocker panels. As all of you F-body gurus know, the Formula shared the same body as the standard V-6 Firebird; including the front and rear fasicas and the complete lack of side rocker panels; ala' ground effects. Then came a fresh coat of Sunset Orange Metallic (SOM) – probably the most adored of all 4th-Generation F-body hues. While SOM might not be on the top of everyone's list, there's no denying the significant "pop" that the metallic orange paint exudes under pretty much any kind of light you throw at it.
Bruce Hawkins Gives a WS6 T/A Convertible a Second Lease on Life
Since Bruce was already planning on making tons of reliable, but sreetable, horsepower, the original LS1 was removed and put on a shelf, while a 2004-spec LQ4 short block went in it's place. Starting with an already proven formula (see what we did there?), the LQ4 bottom end was topped off with a pair of AFR 225 heads that Hawkins himself ported for increased performance. Then a Hawks custom-grind camshaft specifically ground for boosted applications was slid into the block.
Not satisfied with a simple "head and cam" car, Bruce topped it off with a Roots-style Magnuson TVS 2300 supercharger. What's that you say, a Roots-style blower doesn't fit under the cowl of a 4th-Gen? Au contrair, mon amie. Bruce went the extra mile, did his research, and fabricated what he needed to in order to fit the killer blower into place without making the car look like a hack-job built by some teenaged newb. And yes, the car does have functioning air conditioning and windshield wipers – it's a fully streetable and street legal machine. But he didn't stop there, oh no.
As Bruce tells us, he wanted the car to function 100%, just as it did the day it rolled off the assembly line. The only difference was that he wanted twice the power of the original LS1. So along with the Maggie-blown LQ4, ported 225 heads, and the custom blower bumpstick, he added American Racing 1.75-inch diameter long-tube headers, a custom y-pipe with a cutout, and a 3-inch chambered exhaust to help expel the gases quickly, not to mention, add a killer soundtrack to the car's menacing appearance. He also installed a set of Granatelli coil packs and 8.5mm wires, since he initially experienced a misfire with the OEM components. To get additional power over the standard Maggie setup, Bruce installed an 8-rib, 10% underdrive pulley, a 3.5-inch upper blower pulley, and "the largest intercooler that Magnuson makes," as he put it.
Helping the Magnuson blower inject oxygen into the combustion chambers is a K&N filter stuffed into an aftermarket airlid, a 2-bar MAF, and a Nick Williams 102mm throttle body. This combination puts out an astounding 730 horsepower, with an equally impressive 680 ft-lbs. of twist to the pavement. A Hawks-fortified T-56 gearbox, a RAM Powergrip HD clutch and billet steel flywheel sit behind the boosted LQ4, and Bruce selects the six forward gears with a Pro 5.0 shifter.
A stock driveshaft with heavy-duty u-joints is all that Bruce calls upon to send power to the Hawks 8.8 rear end, that itself is stuffed with 4.10 gears, Moser 31-spline axles, and a spool. Keeping this monster attached to the pavement is a combination of V-6 F-body rear coil springs, the OEM WS6 front a rear sway bars, and Hawks' own Sinister Rear Suspension package. Bilstein struts, SLP Level 2 coils in the front and V-6 Firebird shocks out back help the suspension provide a firm, but comfortable ride and a solid launch.
Speaking of the dragstrip, Bruce has yet to visit the quarter-mile with this car, but has made a few exhibition passes at his local 1/8th-mile ‘strip. As of this writing his best pass down the short track is a 6.8 at 101 mph with a 1.6 60-ft. That's not too shabby, considering Bruce claims that this 4th-Gen actually tips the scales at over 5,000 lbs., thanks to it's iron block, Maggie blower, and other weight-adding modifications.
Miraculously, all that's needed to stop this overweight pony car is a set of C5 Z06 front brakes and the stock WS6 rear binders. That's it. It's a bit of a head-scratcher for us, but we think the reason for these seemingly "small brakes" lends to the fact that Bruce took the road less traveled, and installed a set of 15-inch Billet Specialties wheels at all four corners, measuring 4-inches wide in the front, and ten in the rear. These were painted in a body-matching Sunset Orange, and the rear wheels feature a killer "deep dish" look, lending a unique appearance to the already unusual car. Inside, the interior upholstery appears relatively tame compared to the exterior, with the OEM Ebony leather interior offering a comfortable, and supple riding experience. But why mess with perfection; the interiors in these cars were always a welcoming place to be, if you can get passed the hump in the passenger side floorboard, and cheap interior plastics.
With a collection that includes former GMHTP feature cars including a '92 Firehawk, an '89 1LE Camaro, and even a 2010 CTS-V daily driver, we don't think Bruce minds the relatively stock interior of this old F-body much. Being the owner of one of the largest aftermarket and F-body restoration companies around, we admire Bruce's dedication to the platform. More often than not, we see guys start companies for cars such as these, but move on to Porches and Ferraris. It's good to see that Bruce stayed true to his roots.
Car: '00 WS6 "Formula" convertible
Owner: Bruce Hawkins
Block: LQ4, 364 ci.
Compression Ratio: 10:1
Heads: AFR 225, ported and assembled by Hawks
Cam: hydraulic; Hawks custom grind blower cam
Rocker Arms: stock, 1.8
Pistons: stock, LQ4
Rings: stock, LQ4
Crankshaft: stock, LQ4
Rods: stock, LQ4
Fuel Injectors: 80 lb.
Fuel Pump: dual in-tank; Walbro 255
Ignition: Granatelli coli packs and wires, NGK BR7 plugs
Engine Management: stock 2000 T/A PCM; custom Hawks tune
Power Adder: Magnuson TVS 2300
Intercooler: "Largest Magnuson Makes"
Exhaust System: American Racing Headers 1-3/4, custom Y-pipe with cutout, 3-inch chambered exhaust
Transmission: Hawks Level 2 T-56
Clutch: RAM Powergrip HD
Front Suspension: Bilstein struts, SLP Level 2 springs, WS6 front sway bar, stock upper and lower A-arms
Rear Suspension: V6 Fbody shocks and springs, WS6 rear sway bar, HAWKS "Sinister" Rear Suspension Kit and torque arm
Rear End: Hawks 8.8, 4.10 gears, spool, Moser 31-spline axles
Brakes: C5 Z06 front, stock rear
Wheels: Billet Specialties; 15x4 front, 15x10 rear
Front Tires: Nankang 165/80/15
Rear Tires: Hoosier 275/60/15
Fuel: pump gas; 93 octane
ET/MPH: 6.8/101 mph (in the 1/8th)
Best 60-FT: 1.6
Mileage: 121,000 miles