With a build and power like this, you might expect a fancy name for this ride, but the owner Brad Riekkoff from West Bend, Wisconsin, keeps it real – this car is just known as “The Bird.”
Since childhood, he has been a car enthusiast with a big influence from his stepfather. His stepfather was into drag racing, mud drags and hill climbing.
“I always was a Pontiac guy. My first car – even before this one – was a 1969 Firebird that I restored in my mom’s garage before I even had my license. I always built Pontiacs. The biggest reason I like this one is that it was a father-son project,” Reikkoff says.
The car came to him in the usual condition for a teenage buyer – cheap and busted. “I bought the car when I was 16 years old. My stepfather and I went to the parts swap and bought the car – someone had brought it up from Oklahoma. It had a really bad header leak, and little did we know until we got it home – rod knock!” Reikkoff recalls.
Over his four years of high school, Brad swapped in several engines as the budget would allow. After graduating in 1992 though, the TA sat in his dad’s garage while Brad went out to make his way in the world. In 2008, he turned his hobby into a full-time job with the start of his company, West Bend Dyno Tuning.The Trans-Am sat in the garage from 1993 until 2010 while Reikkoff established himself in life and built his business at West Bend Dyno Tuning. The next step was obvious. He decided to bring the TA out of hibernation. Unfortunately, 17 years of sitting had not been kind to the engine and the TA was in need of another swap. Now with plenty of experience and more funds, Brad decided to build something that would be a great in-house shop car, which for a dyno shop, of course, meant lots of power. That starts with a Wegner Motorsports 416-cu.-in. LS3 engine with CNC-ported LS9 heads fed by a Lysholm 3.3-liter supercharger. Oiling is provided by a custom Dailey Engineering dry-sump system. Long tube headers and a custom exhaust make the noise that announces that this Firebird has hit the 1000-bhp mark and 938 lb-ft of torque.
But the team at West Bend Dyno Tuning wasn’t content to just have a big numbers engine. They mated the blown LS to a Bowler T56 6-speed manual transmission sourced from a fourth-gen Camaro, with a few key upgrades to handle the power. A Centerforce twin-disc clutch takes up the slack, and a Mark Williams custom driveshaft was made to get the power to the back end.“When I was a kid, my stepdad called them ‘Fire Chickens’. But everyone around the shop just called it ‘The Bird’. I never really cared for the name, but that’s what everybody called it, so that’s what we named it,” Reikkoff says.
To clear the big Lysholm, Brad fabricated a wider and taller factory-style Turbo TA scoop. It’s a slick car overall, but that one touch, along with the unique alternative to the standard screaming chicken on the hood, really caught our attention.