Catmaigne
Catmaigne New Reader
10/20/23 4:54 p.m.

My childhood Gran Turismo fantasies really caught up with me in my post-college years and I couldn't stop thinking about road course driving. However, I had no real driving experience aside from a couple trips to the drag strip, an autocross, and many late night rips through Appalachian back roads like a dunce. Sliding around office complexes after dark wouldn't be good for my criminal record in the long run, so I needed to find better outlets for this behavior. Thankfully, graduating and acquiring a big-boy™ job opened a couple doors for me.

My original plan was to use my longtime project car (96 Z28) as a means to get on track, but ballooning power numbers and sentimental value ultimately led me to look for something a little more... disposable? I was open to switching platforms and ideally wanted to scoop a higher mileage C5 for around $10k pre-pandemic dollars (lol), but suddenly this Firechicken fell into my lap in January 2020.

It's a 1995 Firebird Firehawk with a very questionable history and a horrendous Maaco paint job. A friend bought it from his barber a couple years prior as a drivable project, but the car sat as he was not mechanically inclined and lacked the will to fix some of its more major issues (misfire, rear end noise, drivetrain vibrations, etc.). To make matters worse, he kept it at an outdoor storage unit where a family of mice decided to make the glovebox their new home. It was also taking in rainwater at the firewall where one of several POs drilled a hole to run wires through. On the upside, the car was already modified and had a bunch of aftermarket parts on it including triangulated subframe connectors, LCAs, panhard, torque arm, lowering springs, trufiber hood, and shifter. He cuts me a deal and I end up getting the car for the price of its transmission on the used market and figured that the worst possible outcome is a part-out... or hantavirus from all those mouse turds.

Here's how it looked when I brought it home. The first thing I did was strip the interior. The stench was unbearable!

It is a legit Firehawk, although a lot of the SLP specific stuff has been swapped or is missing. It was stolen in the early 2000s and recovered soon after which explains a lot. Thankfully, the Level 2 suspension stuff was still there like thicker sway bars and Bilstein shocks.

I threw on a junkyard opti, a 3.42 rear from the u-pull-it yard, and did a bunch of maintenance before autocrossing it for a year. I quickly found out that the mishmash of drag and handling parts on the car weren't doing me any favors, so I sold and traded them around until I got the setup seemingly compliant. I also did some longevity mods to the car in prep for the road course and then began tracking it during the summer of 2021. Since then, I've been hooked on track days like crack and have racked up about 23 events (although half are shorter TNIA events).

Here's what the car looks like now:

Basic gist of the setup as it sits right now:

  • 350whp from the LT1 engine (mild heads/cam, also short shifted at 5.2k)
  • Hankook RS4 tires 285/35 square on C5 Z06 rears
  • 3300lbs not including me
  • Ridetech SA coilovers up front
  • Koni SA shocks and BMR springs in rear
  • 35/21mm sway bars
  • Aftermarket torque arm, panhard, rear LCAs
  • GW front UCAs for extra camber/caster
  • CTSV1 Brembos and 14" 5th gen SS rotors
  • Custom 6" lexan spoiler
  • No ABS, traction control, stability, etc.

Some lap times I've run thus far:

  • NJMP Thunderbolt: 1:33.44 on RS4s
  • NJMP Lightning: 1:16.15 on RS4s
  • Pocono N/S: 1:44.5 on RT615k+, no spoiler
  • Palmer CCW: 1:54.30 on RS4s, no spoiler
  • NYST: 1:41.1 on RT615k+, no spoiler, 300whp

My plans for the future involve safety, longevity, power, and more grip.

  • I seriously need a half cage and 5/6pt harnesses (with hans) in this car as I did not expect it to be this fast. I have been getting by with the stock 3pt belt, a fixed back Momo, and a belt clip which is not ideal.
  • The bottom end of the motor is untouched/stock and I do short shift it for longevity, but I am leaving a ton of power on the table. I picked up a cheap 4-bolt vette block and plan on piecing together a mild 355 that'll be happy to tach up to 6500rpm all day with a larger cam. This should last a lot longer and get me near 400whp that's actually useable.
  • I need to bite the bullet and buy a hot 200tw tire. I've only ever run Federal RS-Pros, Falken RT615k+s, and now Hankook RS4s, all of which aren't that fast. I would like to swap to an RE71RS or CR-S sometime in the future and also go a little wider this time.

I hope this post inspires people to take their f-bodies somewhere other than the drag strip! These cars do have a lot of potential that is underutilized. Hope to see some of you out there next year.

Also, if you want to see the car in action, you can find me on Youtube under @JunkRacecars.

Catmaigne
Catmaigne New Reader
10/20/23 5:00 p.m.

More pics:

Wheelie hill at NYST

New addition, spoiler I made from lexan on a TA hatch

Hub adapters I designed and had CNC'd to run a stronger C7 wheel bearing

Loweguy5
Loweguy5 Dork
10/20/23 11:32 p.m.

I've always thought those were a good looking car and had the chops to be a good start on a track day ride.  

Slow_M
Slow_M Reader
10/23/23 1:50 a.m.

If that's the ratty one, I'm imagining a show car as the not ratty one. 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito UltimaDork
10/23/23 9:02 a.m.

This is not helping my urges to acquire a 4th Gen. Cool car!

Catmaigne
Catmaigne New Reader
10/23/23 9:54 a.m.
Slow_M said:

If that's the ratty one, I'm imagining a show car as the not ratty one. 

The black hides a lot of the issues when photographed from afar. It has one of those minimal-prep Maaco paint jobs that's fading, cracking, and peeling everywhere, especially the roof. The whole car is orange peel textured and they also painted over the weatherstripping. The hood is unpainted primer gelcoat that's impossible to keep clean and I spray painted a replacement rear bumper with Rustoleum since the old one was really cracked. There are some quarter panel dents too, but this car is too worthless and high mileage to bother fixing any of it.

If I ever end up in the tirewall, I'm probably going to swap its guts into a clean V6 roller. I occasionally get grief at tech inspection at some of the snootier HPDE clubs because of how haggard it is.

1SlowVW
1SlowVW Dork
10/23/23 10:44 a.m.

Cool car and great project name. 
 

Any tech inspector giving you a hard time for cosmetic issues should be sent to a lemons event for a weekend for re-education. 

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
10/23/23 10:55 a.m.

To be honest, I was expecting something much more ratty based on the thread title.

Looks like a lot a fun.

myusdmcavalier
myusdmcavalier New Reader
10/23/23 11:44 a.m.

Pretty clean for a 90's firebird. All the ones near me look like junk.

Catmaigne
Catmaigne New Reader
3/25/24 6:20 p.m.

I decided to invest in safety equipment and longevity mods this winter teardown rather than wider wheels and tires. Next year I guess.

I picked up 2x G-Force enduro style harnesses, a Necksgen, and a bolt-in Autopower cage (4pt w/diagonal). I understand that bolt-in cages aren't the greatest, but it might not be as bad in my chassis since the main hoop mounts right where the LCA bracket, rear frame rail, and pinch weld area all overlap. Still waiting on the Autopower in the mail, but I'm trying to throw it on before Watkins Glen in late April.

Decided to dig into my T56 in an attempt to fix 5th gear grinding and hopefully solve a drivetrain vibration that's been impossible to track down. I opted to do the bare minimum because of time and only replaced 5th gear, 5th synchro ring, 5-6 slider, 5-6/R fork pads, tailshaft bushing, seals, and flipped the reverse slider. I also reshimmed the trans slightly tighter, but the stock shims were pretty close. Tbh I am starting to think the source of the vibration is the aluminum driveshaft.


I also am swapping my Kevko RR oil pan to a Champ RR oil pan since the former was causing starvation problems at a couple tracks (usually a RH sweeper followed by hard braking and tighter RH turn). The Champ has 5 trap doors and 4 partitions compared to 3 and 2 for the Kevko.


Since the car has been down, I also decided to take some more weight out by removing the passenger airbag, random underdash bits, extra stereo speakers, AC evaporator and cut down HVAC box, and ABS block. I am going to redo some of the flares since I am not super trusting of the AGS "bubble" tube nuts with the DIN mushroom flares my tool makes. There's too much of a chamfer on the nut ID so the contact area seems smaller than it should be. I am accepting no less than perfection with brakes so hopefully the new tube nuts in the mail will be better.

etifosi
etifosi SuperDork
3/25/24 8:07 p.m.

Catmaigne
Catmaigne New Reader
5/2/24 9:59 p.m.

Got the car back together just in time. The T56 went back in OK, I swapped in a new Summit driveshaft that's apparently made by Sonnax, oil pan went in after some clearancing for the steering rack/knock sensor, and the Belmetric tube nuts ended up being perfect. I also went to swap out my rotors since the heat checking was getting pretty bad, but I noticed that a corner on one of my Raybestos ST-43s was missing. The pads only had about 6mm left, so I decided to retire them and get replacements only to find that ST-43s are backordered and/or likely discontinued. I decided to try out EBC's SR-11 pad which is supposed to be similar... or so I read.

I had the car at NJMP Lightning for a TNIA last Wednesday to brush the rust off. Things were going OK, but I noticed I kept having issues getting into 3rd. It ended up being the Tremec shift boot I stretched over my Pro 5.0 shifter getting caught between the stick and shifter stops. I ripped it off in the paddock and everything was great after that! I managed to run 0.04s off last year's PB with a 1:16.18 so I considered myself fully warmed up.

I threw myself right into the fire by driving up to Watkins Glen for an event 2 days later. This was a totally new track to me and I was pretty terrified overall. Car did alright aside from some pretty gnarly brake fade 15mins into each 30min session, so I guess my next project will be brake cooling. I'm unsure if this is the fault of the SR-11s or not since I think the ST-43s would've faded just as quickly. I managed to run a 2:15.9 despite this and almost got a low 15 if not for the Miata lol. Lots of room for improvement so I'll have to come back later in the year.

https://youtu.be/tUg1SazjhNE

nsogiba
nsogiba Reader
5/3/24 8:46 a.m.

The Glen is notoriously hard on brakes, some cooling will definitely do you some good. 

What group did you run with there? 

What did you think of the entry to the bus stop? It's different this year.

Catmaigne
Catmaigne New Reader
5/3/24 12:33 p.m.
nsogiba said:

The Glen is notoriously hard on brakes, some cooling will definitely do you some good. 

What group did you run with there? 

What did you think of the entry to the bus stop? It's different this year.

Yeah, I don't wanna blame the pads since I'm guessing some form of cooling becomes a necessity at my power/weight/grip level. Part of me wants to shotgun DTC-60s onto the car, but another part knows that reducing temps overall will be better for my hubs, rotors, and calipers in the long run. I was going to rig up a deflector style setup like the OEs use nowadays since it's unbelievably cramped in front of the lower A-arm.

The event was a MassTuning HPDE. Really love the group!

I'm guessing the new bus stop is slower than before? I was getting pretty close to the pyramids and hopping the 2nd curbing, but it seems like the angle of attack is much greater than before where you could basically make a straight line through curbs 1 and 2. I never drove on the old setup so I can't really say.

golfduke
golfduke Dork
5/3/24 1:44 p.m.

We run a lot of the same tracks!  1.54x is pretty good for Palmer on 200tw's for sure! 

 

I also was very surprised to see 3300# on this car.  I always had it in my mind that these things were hefty pigs, but that's pretty sporty!  Chalk another one up to my own ignorance! 

 

 

Catmaigne
Catmaigne New Reader
5/3/24 2:39 p.m.
golfduke said:

We run a lot of the same tracks!  1.54x is pretty good for Palmer on 200tw's for sure! 

 

I also was very surprised to see 3300# on this car.  I always had it in my mind that these things were hefty pigs, but that's pretty sporty!  Chalk another one up to my own ignorance! 

 

 

I would really love to get back to Palmer as I've only been there once. Definitely my favorite so far!

And yeah, GM did a pretty good job keeping the weight reasonable on the 4th gens as most of the body panels are fiberglass and plastic. They typically range between 3350-3500 stock with the low-optioned hardtop cars being the lightest. You can also fit square 315s under the stock body without too much effort so the ratio of rubber to weight is nice.

amg_rx7 (Forum Supporter)
amg_rx7 (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
5/3/24 6:06 p.m.

ST43 are good. So are hawk dtc. 
I don't know anyone that runs EBCs for serious track duty anymore. I'd definitely switch. 
 

That said, if you're running stock sized rotors, I'd definitely look to upgrade to bigger rotors. Maybe there's some corvette or ctsv parts that bolt on

Catmaigne
Catmaigne New Reader
5/4/24 6:23 p.m.
amg_rx7 (Forum Supporter) said:

ST43 are good. So are hawk dtc. 
I don't know anyone that runs EBCs for serious track duty anymore. I'd definitely switch. 
 

That said, if you're running stock sized rotors, I'd definitely look to upgrade to bigger rotors. Maybe there's some corvette or ctsv parts that bolt on

They're EBC's new line of sintered metal race pads that are supposed to be good from all the reviews I read, not the old yellows or other crappy dual duty pads. I know EBC got a bad reputation by advertising the yellows as trackable, but I figured these would be better after seeing a lot of positive reviews. I was able to similarly fade the ST-43s in a 20 or 30 minute session at NJMP Thunderbolt (home track) so I'm not surprised the SR-11s can't handle the heat either. I would try the DTC-60s if it seemed likely that they wouldn't fade, but I've read of other people experiencing the same thing so IDK if it's a worthy investment.

I already run a 14" 5th gen Camaro SS rotor with 4 pot Brembos from a CTSV, so I'm starting to thing brake cooling is a mandatory at my weight, power, and pace.

Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter)
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
5/5/24 11:12 a.m.

The gen 3 and 4 cars were the dominate force in SCCA  A Sedan road racing for years, the Mustangs couldnt come close. They ran the table in FS and ESP autocross too.

Catmaigne
Catmaigne New Reader
5/5/24 1:32 p.m.
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) said:

The gen 3 and 4 cars were the dominate force in SCCA  A Sedan road racing for years, the Mustangs couldnt come close. They ran the table in FS and ESP autocross too.

I really wish more people would stop hacking them up for drag builds and take them to the road course! They used to do pretty well in IMSA endurance racing and people still race them in NASA CMC also.

Here are some more pics from The Glen. Out here doin' it for Dale!

I forgot to adjust the spoiler angle for the 1st session so that's why the angle is different in some of the photos. I was wondering why the car felt so loose through the esses lol.

Catmaigne
Catmaigne New Reader
5/25/24 12:40 p.m.

Fabbed up some brake cooling and did a trial at a NJMP Thunderbolt track night earlier in the week. Seems to be working fine, but I have ordered some smoother ducting and less restrictive screens to try to make it even better (the current screen in the fenderwell is a gutter guard from Home Depot lol).

I added 3" ducts to the edges of the factory airdam that run to an outlet in the wheelwell. This dumps air onto a deflector that's clamped onto the sway bar end.

Track night was OK, but traffic, sloppy driving, and incidents kept me from getting into the 31s or 32s. I swapped rear pads to something higher mu and forgot to readjust my brake bias, so that wasn't helping either (esp at T9). The track was repaved and slightly changed over the winter and should be about 2s faster than before, but I was only able to match my old PB with a 1:33.3. Gonna try to make it back out there with NETC in a few weeks.

https://youtu.be/dM_AD8o4YEo

You'll need to log in to post.

Our Preferred Partners
xHlKg0wNsAWz3vGfmtpfvOPbxwUjKabZ9U2VfrJP04lUyeqAYxM8OlFSTy6IfUSP