Car Feature: Project Ladyhawk

photos by: the author

video by: Sam McConnell

One of the Rarest Forms of Firehawk Remains in one of the Largest F-Body Collections

A few weeks back, we had the opportunity to visit our friends at Hawks Motorsports in Easley, South Carolina. Surrounded by countless F-bodies, Corvettes, CTS-Vs, GTOs — you name it — there were quite a few cars that stuck out to us the most. One, was a Sunset Orange Firehawk belonging to Hawks’ Co-Owner, BJ Hawkins.

What appears as a stock Firehawk with a set of aftermarket rollers, it’s anything but unmolested. Underneath its rather unassuming aesthetics is quite a potent combination. Simple, but effective. Subtle, yet menacing. When you twist the ignition key to the ‘on’ position, it quickly becomes abundantly clear that she’s packing a bit more than the 335hp she left the SLP facility with in 2002.

Pop open that fiberglass Firehawk hood, and you’ll be greeted by a naturally-aspirated, SLP-assembled 402 cubic-inch LS2 powerplant — not the typical LS1 you’d expect.

Starting wth a forged bottom end from Callies, SLP and Manley, the 402 arrives to the party with a 11.0:1 compression ratio, Trick Flow 235cc ported cylinder heads and a Hawks Motorsports custom-grind camshaft. The induction is handled by a FAST 92mm throttle body and intake manifold, 85mm Z06 MAF sensor, aftermarket air lid and K&N air filter.

Balancing out the induction on the exhaust end, is a set of American Racing long-tube headers and Y-pipe, and a Magnaflow muffler with 4-inch Mufflex tubing for an exhaust system create the perfect soundtrack and excellent flow. No boost or nitrous can be found anywhere in the car, but despite that, the 402-cube alloy mill still laid down 530 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque to the rear tires on the Hawks in-house Dynojet. Of course, this couldn’t be done without the aid of 42-lb. injectors, 450-lph Walbro pump, a stock regulator and the pressure set to 65-psi. The spark is controlled by the OEM coil packs, MSD wires and NGK plugs.

Naturally, you can’t have a Firehawk without a 6-speed manual transmission. OK maybe you can, but in this case, there’s just no substitute. Not content with an off-the-shelf T-56, or an OEM example as was found in this car, Hawks took the time to modify it accordingly. Stronger internals were used, as was a Spec Stage 4 clutch and flywheel.

Once the power is transferred through the manual 6-speed, it’s then sent through the stock aluminum driveshaft and to the original 10-bolt rearend, which houses Richmond 4.10 gears and the stock axles. Mrs. Hawkins is certainly braver than we are, but after nearly 16 years, it seems to be holding up just fine! Underneath the car, you’ll find SLP subframe connectors, Bilstein shocks and struts, and a 35mm sway bar in the front, with a 21mm rear sway bar out back.

To truly appreciate this car, however, we felt we had to get some further insight from BJ herself:

“This car is pretty special. It was a surprise anniversary gift to me from my husband, Bruce, in October 2008. He purchased it from the original owner out of Illinois. He actually purchased it six months before our anniversary without my knowledge — sneaky guy I tell ya! It was an all-original, 17,000-mile Firehawk when he found it.

Bruce had decided to do some engine modifications because he knew I would want more horsepower as I was already familiar with a 450rwhp LS1 F-body car. He chose the SLP ZL402 because he thought that it would be the best engine for a real SLP Firehawk.

During the 6-month time period, I had no clue about his plans. Everyone around me knew what was going on  — even our then 10-year old son, Tyler, who was known to be a “big mouth” at that age. My sister made sure he kept his mouth closed [laughs]. They all got together the weekend before our anniversary and did the engine swap and all the other modifications. I was surprised to say the least. It meant the world to me that Bruce and all those that are part of my daily life took the time to do it! I was and still am beyond grateful! I am SOM-blessed lady!”

There have been subtle tweaks to the exterior of the car, including the “Firehawk” text on the side windows, Fiske FM5 wheels, wrapped in sticky BFG rubber, and a special plaque on the aftermarket air lid, depicting the car’s engine specs. It’s a Hawks-designed piece that adds a personal touch to BJ’s car. Tucked behind the 18-inch Fiske rollers are the stock brakes; just as they were when they left the SLP build facility over 15-years ago.

On the inside, you’ll find the SLP Firehawk floormats, rare cloth Ebony interior and a Pro 5.0 shifter. The t-tops help tie it all in together, and allow BJ to roll with the roof popped open, or closed, just with the sun beaming through the cockpit on the cooler days. We’re sure that there will be plenty of sunny days in the future of this car, but for now, it’s sitting pretty in the Hawks garage, where we think it’ll stay for many years to come.


  • CAR: 2002 Pontiac Firehawk
  • OWNER: BJ Hawkins
  • ENGINE BLOCK: LS2; 402 cubic-inch
  • CRANKSHAFT: Callies 4340
  • PISTONS: SLP/Manley, Diamond
  • CONNECTING RODS: SLP/Manley; 6.125-inch 4340 forged steel H-beam
  • CAMSHAFT: Hawks Motorsports; custom-grind
  • CYLINDER HEADS: Trick Flow; 235cc
  • INDUCTION: K&N air filter, FAST 92mm intake manifold, air lid, Nick Williams 92mm intake and throttle body, 85mm Z06 MAF housing
  • IGNITION: Stock coil packs, MSD 8.5mm wires, NGK BR7EF plugs
  • EXHAUST: American Racing long-tube headers and Y-pipe, Mufflex 4-inch tubing and Magnaflow muffler
  • FUEL DELIVERY: 42-lb. injectors, 450-lph  Walbro pump, stock regulator, 65-psi
  • OILING: Melling pump, stock pan
  • TUNING: Stock ECU; tuned by BJ of Hawks
  • TRANSMISSION: Tremec T-56 6-speed; built by Hawks Motorsports
  •  CLUTCH: Spec; Stage 4
  • SHIFTER: Pro 5.0
  • DRIVESHAFT: Stock; aluminum
  • REAREND: GM 10-bolt; Richmond 4.10 gears, stock axles
  • SUSPENSION: SLP weld-in subframe connectors, progressive-rate springs, Bilstein shocks/struts, 35mm front sway bar, 21mm rear sway bar
  • CHASSIS MODIFICATIONS: SLP driveshaft loop
  • BRAKES: Stock
  • WHEELS: Fikse FM5 (18×9.5 front, 18×10.5 rear)
  • TIRES: BFGoodrich G-Force
  •  HP/TQ.: 530/500
  • BEST 1/4-MILE ET: N/A

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Rick Seitz

Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of AutoCentric Media, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles; GM, Ford, Dodge, imports, trucks -- you name it! When he isn't clacking away on his keyboard, he's building, tuning, driving or testing his current crop of personal projects!

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