As the owner of a speed shop, Bruce Hawkins believes in serving his customers first and foremost. So you'd better believe that when the boss himself is the customer, he gets what he wants. Hawkins' turbocharged HOSS (Hugger Orange SS) convertible hits all the marks. It balances form and function nicely, showcasing his shop's abilities without being merely a rolling catalog sampler. "Our business is about building nice, show-quality and race-quality cars, but that get driven every day," Hawkins says, noting that only a small percentage of his business consists of building such single-function cars. "The car is not the best at any one thing, but it's the best all-around," Hawkins says. When he set out to build this car, he told his crew that, "it has to be fast, it has to look damn good and it has to drive really well and be dependable." Hawkins claims the car gets 26 mpg on the highway despite its 600-plus hp output. "The only thing this car won't do is get out of hand when you put your foot in it," he says.
The owner of Hawks Third Generation in Easley, South Carolina, Hawkins has spent the last decade serving F-body owners. He's seen Camaros of every stripe, but he's always been partial to Hugger Orange (he's owned a coupe in this shade), and he's a manual transmission loyalist too. When the opportunity came to buy this Hugger Orange SS convertible at an auction, and it had a 6-speed to boot, the fact that its engine was blown was no problem. Keep in mind that GM built only about three-dozen cars with this combination. Hawkins already had a built motor sitting around, and was looking to build a car using the (then) recently released 76-mm STS rear-mounted turbo system to achieve more than 600 rear-wheel horsepower. The convertible was a logical recipient.
The stock-displacement engine has forged pistons and rods and uses ARP hardware throughout. The heads are stock 6.0-liter truck heads, which give a lower-than-stock and turbo-friendly 9.0:1 compression ratio. Rather than using a dished piston, Hawkins reasoned that he could simply replace the heads if he ever wanted to go all-motor. The turbo system is where Hawks Third Generation shows its stuff. The GT76 turbocharger itself is unchanged from the STS kit, but much of the rest is customized. "We built the engine and turbo kit as clean as we could to showcase the shop's fabrication and installation skills," Hawkins says.
Like any other STS-equipped car, the exhaust travels back from the engine to a turbo concealed underneath the rear, aft of the rear axle. From the engine back, Hawks used hand-ported and extrude-honed stock manifolds, into a stainless, off-road 2.5-inch Y pipe and into a 3-inch pipe before the turbocharger. Rather than using sewer pipe all the way back, Hawkins says this stepped approach keeps exhaust velocity high in an effort to spool up the turbo quicker. Additionally, everything from the manifolds back to the turbo is heat-wrapped--after all, the role of the turbo is to convert heat energy into boost.
An LS6 intake manifold and...
An LS6 intake manifold and 6.0L truck heads highlight the changes made under the hood, but the real star of the show is that fat pipe rising out of the intercooler and straight into the ported throttle body. The coolant reservoir and battery were relocated to help accommodate it.
Sure, there are a few things...
Sure, there are a few things that are obvious extras in this interior, such as the A-pillar gauges (boost and air-fuel ratio) and the 4-point Wolfe Race Craft roll bar, but otherwise the interior doesn't call much attention to itself. But wait, what does that little switch on the center console do?
The Aeromotive fuel pressure...
The Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator plays middleman between the car's 255 lph in-tank fuel pump and the 60 lbs/hr injectors that feed this 600-plus horsepower beast. It's one little piece of flair in an otherwise businesslike engine bay.