Reed Farrar’s Fourth-Gen Firebird Cleans House When The Light Drops

April 5, 2019 / by Bradley Iger

Like many racers, Reed Farrar grew up around the race track. When the time came to try his hand at the wheel, Reed had notions of following in the footsteps of his father and his 9-second ’66 GTO bracket racer.

“We originally bought a stripped Firehawk with the intention of making a dedicated drag racer,” he says. “But at the time I was going to school and I quickly realized that it costs a lot of money to build a race car, and I was frustrated by the idea of putting that much cash into something I’d only get to drive once in a while.”

 After sinking a few grand into the car without much result, Farrar decided to change tack. “I decided to look for something that I could race with, but also use as a daily driver,” he explains. “So I started scouring Craigslist, and I found this NHRA Edition Firebird. They only made about 60 of these (with a six-speed and the Formula package), it was four thousand bucks, and I had exactly that amount in the bank.”

While he wasn’t necessarily seeking out a rare example, Reed ended up snagging an NHRA Edition Firebird – one of just a handful made in this six-speed Formula configuration, he says.

Reed quickly snatched up the F-body, and it wasn’t long before he was ready to inject more performance into his new acquisition. “I started thinking, ‘let’s do this, let’s do that,’ and now it’s pretty much a drag car,” he says with a laugh. “I knew I wanted something with an LS in it because everyone I knew had an LS and they kept telling me about how easy they are to work on and build power with.”

Shortly after finishing school Reed took a job as a lube tech for Hyundai, and that’s when he really started wrenching. “I busted my ass and within a couple of months they’d turned me into a tech,” he recalls. “That’s how I started making some money, which I immediately started putting into the car. By then I had some idea of what I was doing.”

Reed’s build goes to show how much of a fast ET comes down to grip and the ability to effectively putting the power to the ground. While 500rwhp is nothing to scoff at, there’s plenty of cars making a lot more power that would be envious of this Pontiac’s ETs.

Starting with a more or less factory-stock example, the car ran 13s at its first outing at the track. Reed wanted more. “I’ve had it for about five years now, and it’s gone from a 13-second car to a 12-second car, to an 11-second car. And now it’s a 10-second car.”

After swapping in some race rubber, Farrar ditched out the factory rear end for a 9-inch with 4.10 gears. “That got me deep into the 12s,” he says. The LS1 was still basically stock, though, and it would stay that way until one fateful night racing. “I killed the transmission,” he says. “It grinded into third and I knew something was wrong, but I stayed in it. As soon as we got done and I went to leave, it was clear that the syncros were toast.”

To get the car to hook, Reed installed an array of BMR Suspension components, along with a UMI Performance torque arm, subframe connectors, and Viking coilovers at all four corners.

Reed took advantage of the downtime to build out other elements of the car. “While the transmission was off being rebuilt I worked on the rear suspension components, and I also decided to have an LS1 built around the same time. But that motor only lasted a few thousand miles before I got thrust bearing failure and it started eating itself up. So that’s when I decided to have the 408 built.”

This time around Reed got a 6.0-liter mill and paired it up with a Texas Speed rotating assembly – forged crank and connecting rods, along with Wiseco forged pistons. A Brian Tooley Stage 3 cam, ported 243 cylinder heads, a FAST intake, and a Nick Williams 92mm throttle body round out the package. “It dyno’d right at around 500 horsepower at the wheels,” he notes.

Over the past five years, Farrar has built the Firebird up from an essentially bone-stock machine to a 10-second street and strip terror.

Getting the Firebird up to speed has been a crash course in hot hodding, as well as Craigslist shopping, for Farrar. “I bought this used rear end that just wasn’t built right,” he says. “The car would vibrate like crazy on the freeway, and we tried a few different driveshafts thinking that was the problem. We finally took the rear end apart and it was a total mess. It turned out that the third member was a bunch of old parts from the 80s stuffed inside a Moser housing. At the time I bought it I didn’t know any better… but you learn quick.”

Despite all the go-fast hardware, the interior of the Firebird is a civilized place to be.

While he considered building the Pontiac to fit into class racing, he says that at this point he’s content to just enjoy it as it is. “It’s still my daily,” he tells us. “And I have my motorcycle for the days when the car is down.”

And despite the fact that the Firebird is posting 10-second time slips, Reed says it’s still very much a street car. “It doesn’t have AC in it right now, but all I need to do is bolt it back up – the motor went in back in November. But it’s got heat, a nice stereo, and the interior is in pretty good shape. The only thing missing is the rear seat – the carpet is still there, the seats are stock and there’s no cage in it. I really need to put one of those in, come to think of it.”

Reed says that while he’s stoked on that 10.8 pass, he thinks there’s still more in it as the car sits now. 10.5 is the next goal before he sets his sights on the 9s with some spray.

Considering the time slips the Firebird is posting these days, that’s probably a good idea. “The fastest time it has posted so far is a 10.8,” Reed says. “It’s hauling ass, finally. And it’s also not giving me any problems, so that’s a nice change, too.” 

After chewing up a built LS1 in just over a year, Reed decided to go big with his 408ci build, a motor which has proven to be bulletproof thus far.

Farrar says 10.5 is the next goal. “I think we can get there more or less as it sits, naturally aspirated. But when I spray it, I’m going to spray the hell out of it with a 200 shot or something along those lines. That’s new territory for me though, so I’m not totally sure how that’s going to come together just yet. I think it’ll definitely be in the 9s by that point. And I plan on keeping it a six-speed for as long as it lasts. If the trans blows up again I’ll have to contemplate, but I like how it's set up right now.”

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Written by Bradley Iger