Pontiac may be gone, but it lives on in our hearts and souls as one of General Motors’ coolest [departed] brands. With a strong performance image being pushed since the mid-’60s, Pontiac had a history of offering the buyer a range of vehicles in which to suit their performance tastes and budget. While the Firebird was the number-one choice for many years, especially during the EFI era, it was during Pontiac’s twilight where performance reached its peak and buyers had more than one serious option by way of V8 power.
Pontiac’s last true musclecar was the G8 sedan, available in 3.6L V6, 6.0L GT and 6.2L GXP varieties. For the final year of assembly, SLP Performance Specialty Vehicles, (now Specialty Vehicle Engineering), took the V8-powered G8s to a whole new level, thanks to engine, braking, suspension and cosmetic modifications.
What the crew at SLP/SVE had done, was reach down into their own history and pull out a name attached to exclusive high-performance Pontiacs of their own creation; Firehawk. Wanting to christen the final Pontiac musclecars with a name that actually meant something to the Pontiac faithful, it only made sense to SVE to attach it to a car that deserved such an honor. After all, there was no Firebird in production to speak of and with GM given the Tin Indian brand the ax, SLP/SVE saw it as their last chance to build them one more time.
As a result, they equipped a select number of the Zeta sedans, including 10 GXP versions, with progressive-rate springs at all four corners, 19-inch gunmetal wheels, an SLP TVS 1900 blower stuffed with Eaton internals, in conjunction with a cold-air induction kit, and an axle-back exhaust system. The engine mods brought with them an impressive, 500hp when strapped to the GT’s 6-liter. The ultra-rare GXP version pumped out closer to 600 hp at the crank, however.
All versions were covered with a three-year/36,000-mile warranty and were offered with 14-inch Baer brakes for an additional $4995, working in unison of the 19-inch, 5-spoke alloy wheels wrapped in 245/40/19 Bridgestone Potenza tires. Special Firehawk badging, inside and out, Firehawk stitching on the seats and unique, matte black grille surrounds, rear spoiler and center hood section stripe added to the look and appeal of the car.
The other day, we found ourselves stuck in the time warp section of YouTube, and ran across this throwback video from our colleagues at MotorWeek. John Davis praised the car’s poise, performance and aesthetic modifications, citing that it was a throwback to the classic musclecars of yore. Clicking off a 12.1 at 124 mph (!?) in the quarter-mile and running a solid 4-seconds flat in a 0-60 sprint, it more than deserved the Firehawk name, in our opinion.
Was it a Firebird? No. But what else would you call a late-model Pontiac from then-SLP that would eat a Shelby GT500’s lunch?
While we don’t know for certain what the future collector market holds for this piece of SLP/SVE/Firehawk history, but you can bet there will be those of us who would pay what we could for the last tuner Pontiac ever offered to the public. We’ll take ours with a 6-speed manual and in GXP spec, please.
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of GMEFI Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.