FORMULA FOR SPEED: AJ Viruet’s Turbo 2001 Firebird Formula

by Classic Industries on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 12:23pm

In this installment of Camaro and Firebird Wednesday, we have AJ Viruet’s amazing 2001 Firebird Formula. What’s so amazing about it? Well, it’s not just the flame job, that’s for sure. In the classic tradition of Pontiac, this bad boy is turbocharged. AJ is a USMC veteran (oo-rah) and ordered the car in '01 while still serving overseas in the Marine Corps. Coming home to a brand-spanking-new Firebird is one thing, but AJ couldn't leave it in stock form for long.

Yeah, you heard right. Turbocharged. This car makes a statement at every show it appears at, but make no mistake- this car is both "Show" and "Go." The original 5.7L LS1 now has a happy snail providing the increase in atmospheric pressure, breathing in through a SLP MAF into ported heads and intake, an 85mm Jantzer throttle body feeding a 67mm STS rear-mount turbocharger. It doesn’t stop there. Air then travels through the front mounted intercooler and 3” downpipe. The increase in air means it needs an increase in fuel, which is supplied through Deatschwerks 42# fuel injectors, which is then ignited by NGK plugs and MSD plug wires. There've been a few minor internal changes, too, like a Comp Cams "Cheater" cam, SLP oil pump and a few other goodies like custom painted engine covers to match the flame job and various chrome accents to add to the show-car look.

With all that muscle underhood, this Formula pumps out a whalloping 565 RWHP and an absurd 580 lb/ft of torque at just 9psi of boost. AJ tells us the setup is capable of over 700rwhp on motor, but keeps it at 9psi for the sake of reliability with non-forged internals, and that’s fine- at the track this Formula will blast down the 1320 in just 12.4 seconds on street tires. Of course, when more power is necessary without upping boost pressure, it’s only the push of a button away thanks to a 100shot NOS Fogger, fed through a 10lb chrome bottle for nearly 700RWHP. Of course, AJ tells us the NOS system hasn’t seen track use yet- yet being the key word there, but we’re thinking it can do a lot better than 12s with on the giggle gas. Of course, when you’re able to get up to speed this quickly, you’d better be able to stop just as quickly, so the brakes have been upgraded with a set of C5 front brake calipers squeezing down on a set of Powerstop C5 drilled and slotted rotors front and rear.

Apparently, birds of a feather *do* flock together!

One thing every hot rodder knows that when you seriously beef up the motor, you can’t leave everything else stock and without breaking things. Naturally, with far more than 565 hp at the crank, the transmission and rear end needed some beefing up to match. The MANUAL transmission (That’s right, he shifts for himself. What’s your excuse?) has been totally rebuilt with billet aluminum gears and shift forks by the tranny expert Jason, proprietor of and a Stage 2 clutch setup, which translates into melted rear tires in 1st, 2nd and 3rd without any chatter. Clearly Jason knows what he’s doing to yield those kind of results. Of course, the trans is meaningless if the rear end can’t handle it, so the already robust 10-bolt has been totally rebuilt and reinforced with a set of heavy duty gears from the same source.

With so much attention to power, AJ didn’t forget the Achilles heel of the 4th generation F-body- the chassis and suspension. You may think your F-body handles well stock, but compared to the 3rd generation models, in factory form, the 3rd gen will outhandle the 4th. AJ addressed that issue by ditching the junk factory sway bars with a set of Suspension Techniques sway bars to get rid of the nasty understeer GM dialed in from the factory and tie the front suspension together, and the sexy lowered stance is provided thanbks to a set of Strano Springs and KYB AGX adjustable shocks and struts. Any body roll that remained has been wiped out too, thanks to a full set of Energy Suspension bushings to ensure proper suspension geometry and eliminate the nasty suspension deflection that the factory rubber bushings cause.

But all this doesn’t fully address the handling issue of the 4th gen F-body, the real culprit behind the lack of handling performance is a more flexible chassis than the 3rd gen. AJ’s thought of that too, strengthening the chassis with Subframe connectors, UMI adjustable torque arm, Panhard bar, tubular lower control arms and rear manual air bags to keep the ride height perfect in the case of hauling something heavy in the hatch or stiffening up the ride for a great launch.

With everything under the skin handled, AJ turned to the body, laying down a custom red flame job and tribal Phoenix (aka Flaming Chicken) on the hood for a look totally perfect for this car. The body is dressed up thanks to a Wings West body kit and rear wing and a custom LEDglow underbody lighting setup for shows. Finishing off the look is a set of American Racing wheels, these black and red beauties measure 18x9 front and 18x10 rears all wrapped in BF Goodrich KDW2 rubber for proper traction whether carving corners or on the 1320.

Check out the custom tribal-design Flaming Phoenix on the hood!

Which brings us to the coup de gras of this Turbo Formula, the interior. The cockpit has been redone with custom reupholstered racing seats, shadow “Formula” logo stitched onto the center console. The interior is totally custom with leather upholstered door panels and flame accents throughout tie the interior to the exterior, with sail panels custom built to house massive 8” speakers and 7” TV screens, all wrapped in suede, as is the head liner and sun visors.

We think AJ has the right idea, because unlike vinyl or leather, Suede doesn’t crack. Moving to the rear, this bird also packs some boom in the back with a custom 4-sub enclosure with 3 kicker amps, all fed tunes through a Pioneer head unit. Of course, the enclosure is fully removable with quick disconnects for weight reduction purposes. AJ knows the value of weight reduction doesn't just do one thing with this car-- he does it all. Not only does he enter the car at shows, but in addition to drag racing, like a true Firebird, he also autocrosses it at various events all over the country-- and drives the car to all of them. Versatile? Heck yes. Check out this video of it in action on the autocross course:

The interior also sports a matching LEDGlow lighting setup to match the exterior for those Hot August Nights and power is supplied by 2 Optima batteries (one front and one rear), charged by a 200 amp alternator with capacitors to keep voltage spikes under control, with all this custom work done by Carlos Ramirez, proprietor of of Elizabethtown, NJ.

From the interior to the exterior, this bird is as wild as it gets. Our only regret is that we can’t hear the motor in person. But there’s one thing no one can deny: AJ has definitely found the Formula for speed.
AJ tells us the car has already hit 176mph in the standing mile and expects to be joining the 200MPH club this year at the Texas Mile and plans to enter Hot Rod's Drag competiton next year, all after driving it there.

Check out this in-car video from cruising the circletrack:

-By Nick Gregson, for Classic Industries