1995 Pontiac Firehawk - The Texas Trophy Hunter
Twin 88mm turbos and 2,700 horsepower: going 7.23s in Late Model Racecraft’s formidable Firehawk
From the September, 2012 issue of GM High-Tech Performance
By Justin Cesler
Photography by Justin Cesler
It's quite difficult to write about this particular '95 Firehawk, owned by David Lewis and driven by Steven Fereday of the Late Model Racecraft camp, without using a slew of expletives. Out at a show I would probably hit you with a plethora of 4-letter words to accurately describe just how awesome seeing this 2,700-horsepower, twin 88mm equipped, 427 cubic-inch LSX monster run on track truly is. Eventually, I would jump on YouTube and show you wild videos of almost eighth-mile wheelies, massive explosions, and even one of the steering wheel falling off in the middle of a pass. There's the 209mph pass, which can only be described as "holy #*(@," and the old transmission fire videos, which need a three letter "FML" to really get it done. Of course, you didn't buy this fine publication to read about how I would describe something, so let's jump into it and get this all figured out. Oh, and for the purists, yes, this is indeed a '95 Firehawk that was bought brand new, converted over, and now used as a full on Drag Radial racer that runs 7's… deal with it.
To run these kind of numbers with an LSX, the Late Model Racecraft crew uses every trick in the engine-building handbook and in working with Late Model Engines, they've even invented a few tricks of their own. The block itself is from Chevrolet Performance, although its extensive modifications involve being dry decked, O-ringed, and set up for a set of massive .937-inch keyway lifters that ride atop the "260-ish, 260-ish duration, .710/.710-inch lift" solid roller camshaft. Inside, it's all business, with a 4-inch stroke Callies billet crankshaft twisting around a set of GRP aluminum connecting rods and an octet of Diamond pistons, a combination that results in just 427 cubic-inches of displacement, which is relatively small by LSX DR standards and flat out tiny compared to some of the True 10.5 racers that LMR lines up against all across the country. Up top sits a pair of LS7/C5R cylinder heads that were originally built by Cary Chouinard while he was employed by ET Performance, although they have since been modified by Late Model Engines, running 2.200-inch Titanium intake and 1.600-inch Inconel exhaust valves, along with a set of T&D shaft-mount 1.8:1 ratio roller rockers.
Inconel and Titanium sure do sound fancy, but they are in there for a very good reason. Actually, it's more like 45 good reasons, as that's about how much boost the twin 88mm turbochargers can deliver under full power. That's right, 45-pounds of boost from two GT 47-88 turbochargers on a 10:1 solid roller 427. In horsepower, LMR figures that's equal to roughly 2,700-hp, which is just insane when you consider the team is trying to put it down through a set of 315mm Mickey Thompson drag radial tires. As you would imagine, the entire turbo system on the Firehawk is custom, done by Josh Ledford, in house at LMR. Custom turbo manifolds flow into massive 3-inch hot-side pipes, which direct exhaust to either of the two turbines or one of the two Tial 60mm wastegates tasked with regulating boost. Compressed air flows through a pair of 3-inch aluminum pipes before merging into a single 4-inch that runs into the passenger compartment, where it is chilled thanks to a large PT-3000 Precision air-to-water intercooler. That much boost on that small of a tire requires tremendous control, which comes from both the Big Stuff 3 standalone computer and an AMS-1000 boost controller.
If you've been to any of the LSX Challenge Series races recently, you may already know something about the transmission in this twin-turbo beast as its made frequent appearances on the pavement surrounding the LMR pits. That is to say, its taken quite a bit to figure out how to spool the twins and stay together down track, although it appears that the team has finally begun to figure it all out. As of this writing, the LMR crew has teamed up with Carl Rossler to build a killer TH210 that runs a ProTorque converter and a billet flexplate. Josh was quick to point out in the transmission cooler box that they run "NONE," a piece that was omitted from the ride after a weekend full of nasty fires. If these issues tell us anything about this team, it's that they never give up, no matter how bad a problem they run into. Behind the transmission is a stout custom-built 9-inch rear that can be setup with either 3.90 or 3.42 rear gears depending on the track conditions and the length of the race to be run. This is all big boy stuff, with 44-spline axles and a Strange Ultra case.
The rest of the car follows suit, with a full 25.3 SFI certified chassis keeping everything together; a welded jungle gym of bars put together by the one and only Madman. Burkhart Chassis also stepped up to the plate, building a front K-member and upper and lower front control arms to work in conjunction with the custom valved AFCO shocks. The rear suspension is LMR built, with custom lower control arms, a custom sway bar, and a wishbone unit to replace the stock-style Panhard bar. And if you're wondering what all of this means, let's just break it down like this… 1.23-seconds to go the first 60-feet and then they really start to bring in the big boost.
Technical specifications aside, this Firehawk really represents what a team can do that is always looking to push the limits. Is it the prettiest drag radial car we've ever seen? No, although the new wrap is fantastic. Is it the fastest? Well, according to the 209mph pass: yes, it is the fastest. And it's currently number two on our unofficial quickest e.t. list with the 7.23-second pass. But here's the real deal; this is the most gut wrenching, hardcore, and in your face evil build we've seen in a very long time. Owner David Lewis and the crew from LMR aren't just racers going out once a year to set a record, and they're certainly not ones to sit around and wait for a combination to fall together. These are the exact guys that backyard racers and street enthusiasts love to see at the track. From the outside looking in, it almost doesn't even seem as if they're out there to have fun, go rounds, or collect the prize money. The LMR camp seems as if they show up to the track with every intention of chopping people's heads off, demolishing records, and getting the crowd to the edge of their seats, round after round. This isn't a Firehawk for the faint of heart; this is a killer for the fans of late night antics gone legit and 2,700-plus horsepower trying its best to tear the concrete right off of the track surface. It's what racing was meant to be, hardcore, nasty and down right *#!#$* fast.
Author's note: We'd like to note the LMR team would never actually chop anyone's head off. They're (unfortunately) a super nice group of guys and consistently represent what true professionals should behave like at the track. The car is gangster; they are not.
Car: 1995 Pontiac Firehawk
|Owner:|| David Lewis|
|Driver:|| Steven Fereday|
|Block:|| LSX, 427cid|
|Compression ratio:|| 10.0:1|
|Heads:|| ET Performance LS7/C5R, 2.20 intake, 1.60 exhaust valves|
|Cam:|| Custom LMR solid roller|
|Rocker arms:|| T&D Machine, 1.8-ratio|
|Pistons:|| Diamond, forged|
|Rings:|| Total Seal|
|Crankshaft:|| Callies, billet|
|Rods:|| GRP, aluminum|
|Throttle body:|| Accufab 105mm|
|Fuel injectors:|| Moran 212 lb/hr|
|Fuel pump:|| Waterman, mechanical|
|Ignition:|| MSD distributor, MSD grid|
|Engine management:|| Big Stuff 3, tuned by Late Model Racecraft|
|Exhaust system:|| Custom stainless steel turbo manifolds, dual 4-inch downpipes, no mufflers|
|Turbocharger:|| Twin Precision Turbo 88mm|
|Wastegate:|| Twin Tial 60mm|
|Blow-Off Valve:|| Twin Tial 50mm|
|Transmission:|| TH400, built by Rossler Transmission|
|Converter:|| ProTorque, custom|
|Driveshaft:|| Mark Williams, 3.5-inch steel|
|Front suspension:|| Burkhart K-member, upper and lower control arms, AFCO double adjustable coilovers, removed sway bar|
|Rear suspension:|| Late Model Racecraft wishbone, torque arm, lower control arms, anti-roll bar, AFCO double adjustable coilovers|
|Rear end:|| Late Model Racecraft 9-inch, 3.42/3.90 gear, Strange 44-spline axles, spool|
|Brakes:|| Strange front, dual caliper rear|
|Wheels:|| Weld Alumastar 15x3.5 front, 15x12 rear|
|Front tires:|| Mickey Thompson Front Runners|
|Rear tires:|| Mickey Thompson 315/65/15 drag radial|
|Fuel:|| VP Q16|
|HP:|| 2,700 (est.)|
|Best 60:|| 1.23|