In the Pontiac hobby, as in life, certain things just seem meant to be. For Michael Nowak, a 51-year-old dermatopathologist from West Palm Beach, Florida, the story of his particular '98 WS6 convertible actually begins with his '99 Trans Am convertible.
"It started out in 2009 as a favor for a friend who was looking for a Fourth-Gen Trans Am," Michael says. Long story short, he looked and ended up buying it for himself. But wait, it's not what you're thinking!
"Seemingly out of the blue, I received a call from a guy who needed to sell a black '98 Trans Am WS6 convertible. I drove my '99 Trans Am convertible and met the car owner…" From the moment Michael laid eyes on the black '98 before him, he knew it was meant to be. "I politely told the owner I was looking for a T-top automatic car and my friend could not drive a stick shift. He teased me by starting the cammed LS1 that provided an authoritative tone through the off-road Y-pipe and Magnaflow exhaust. I told him the car was very nice, but I was not in the market."
There is nothing subtle about this ’98 WS6 convertible. The paint is a Lamborghini Black b
Well, we all know what "not in the market" really means, and after a couple of days of research, Michael was back to pick up the rare '98 WS6 to start a brand-new project. With the car finally in his possession, he began to strategize. "I planned to find a shop that could remove the LS1 to replace the rear main seal and have the car repainted. Then, I began considering upgrading to a larger, rebuilt engine or to a new crate engine."
After months of research and contemplation, Michael reached out to Erik Bentley and Josh Issacs at Lashway Motorsports in Pompano Beach, Florida, to see what the shop would recommend. After discussing his options, Lashway's crew decided it would be best to skip the typical crate-engine offerings and look instead for a custom-built big-cube motor that would give Michael all of the muscle and reliability he wanted.
"Erik recommended I contact Mike Kovacks at Total Engine Concepts (TEC) in Riviera Beach, Florida. Interestingly, TEC is located in the Mosler Automotive Facility, home of the MT900, and approximately one mile from my office. Mike offered me the option of a custom built 427 LS7 engine that he had idle in his machine shop. It was an offer I couldn't refuse, so we were off to the races," Michael recalls.
Even though the engine was already together, it was spec'd out almost as if Michael and Lashway had built it themselves. Inside the LS7 block, TEC installed a set of Mahle 4.130-inch LS7 pistons, along with a set of Eagle connecting rods, and a matching Eagle forged-steel crankshaft. Texas Speed and Performance supplied a pair of ported LS7 cylinder heads for the engine combination, which receive direction from a Texas Speed Torquer LS7 camshaft cut on an aggressive LS7-specific split featuring 220/244-degrees duration at 0.050 and 0.615/0.648-inch lift on a 110-degree LSA.
"Every modification made was based on maximizing torque," which is why you will find a stock LS7 intake manifold atop Michael's 427, paired with a Nick Williams 90mm throttle body and an FTP 104mm air lid. A Racetronix in-tank fuel pump and Kenne Bell Boost-a-Pump feed 93-octane fuel to 42-lb/hr LS3 injectors. On the engine dyno at TEC, this combination produced 618 hp and 579 lb-ft of torque, which was more than enough to get Michael thinking about the rest of the drivetrain in his WS6.
"Once the engine was finished, Erik recommended upgrading the clutch and having the stock T56 transmission rebuilt to handle the power of the modified LS7." Promotion Performance was tasked with upgrading the T56 and the crew there put together a six-speed capable of handling up to 800 lb-ft of torque while still remaining street and track friendly. A Monster Stage 3 single-disc clutch was selected to handle the engagement of the transmission, which backs a 28-pound flywheel and the factory clutch hydraulics.
"Soon afterward we contacted Bob Beam at Brute Speed for the Moser 9-inch locker and driveshaft," Michael says. What arrived was a stock-width Moser 9-inch rear stuffed with 33-spline axles, 4.10:1 ring and pinion, and a tough Locker differential, which would take all of the abuse Michael could throw at it.
Underneath, Lashway's crew took the same approach to upgrading the suspension as they did with the rest of the vehicle build, adding only what they needed to take Michael's project to the next level. The stance comes from a set of 1-inch lowering springs from BMR, which ride alongside a set of Bilstein shocks. UMI Performance handled the rest of the suspension (pun intended) with an adjustable tunnel-mounted torque arm, adjustable rear lower control arms, a Panhard bar, and UMI custom three-point subframe connectors.
"It took true vision along with an understanding of basic mechanical engineering, tremendous perspiration, and trial and error to create this car. During the entire process, we researched each option and always kept our goal in mind—a very fast car, yet a very streetable car," Michael says. Fast isn't exactly a problem with 541-rwhp on tap exhaling through Kooks 1.875-inch long-tube headers and a 3-inch true dual system, but as you may have guessed, 541 rwhp just wasn't enough for this crew.
Nitrous Express carbon-fiber solenoids supply over 200 rwhp worth of nitrous oxide to the
Weld Racing supplied the 17-inch RT-S S71 wheels for Michael’s project, which look fantast
Enter the custom-built nitrous-oxide system, which pairs parts from Nitrous Express, NOS, and Nitrous Outlet for the perfect blend of style, control, and function. "I ordered up a nitrous-plate system to feed more dynamite to the torque hoarding monster LS7," Michael says. On a "baby 100-shot," the Tyrant made a "measly 638-rwhp and 658 lb-ft of torque" to the rear wheels, which still wasn't enough. And so, after 13 months of work, the Lashway crew set the nitrous system on kill and hit the WS6 with 200 hp worth of the giggle gas. The results? How does 660 rwhp and 680 lb-ft of torque sound? "Tyrant is the fastest car I've ever driven. Period. On the street, this power-packed ride leaves classic big-block musclecars in the dust. At the track, once the nitrous has been sprayed, the only limitation is my testicular fortitude to push the pedal to the metal," Michael says.
The interior remains mostly stock except for a Pioneer stereo system.
Of course, the Tyrant, named after the Tyrant Flycatcher bird that is best known for its swift, fierce, and formidable persona, is more than just a killer drivetrain. "One of the things I really wanted to do with the new bird was to make it one of a kind, even among it's own breed," Michael says. That meant adding custom exterior touches to make his WS6 stand out.
Don't be fooled by the dark paint—it's no longer the factory black that came on Michael's rare bird. In fact, it's actually a custom PPG Lamborghini black that is filled with metallic chips and a purple hue.
Orchestrated by Kris Lim of Superior Automotive Design, the exterior features many subtle modifications, including a filled front-plate panel, blacked-out taillights, and custom logos throughout. You won't find any factory emblems on the Tyrant, only a slew of modified Tyrant symbols that were designed by Michael himself.
"One of the things I enjoyed most about the build-out was the learning process," he says. "Despite having a vision for this car, I found that not all of what I wanted was realistic. I learned in doing high-level changes to a car there will be setbacks and challenges. You have to be creative. It requires time and flexibility."
How does 660 rwhp and 680 lb-ft of torque sound?!
As you can see on these pages, all of the effort was clearly worth it for Michael and the Lashway crew. What they built together is both an unruly beast and a tame supercar, a street monster and a show-car cruiser, a blend of form and function that makes it a one-of-a-kind WS6 and a true tyrant on the streets.
The blacked-out rear lights and custom center panel, which features a one-off custom Tyran
As of this writing, Michael's T/A lacks the safety equipment to make it NHRA legal for its e.t.'s. HPP urges anyone who is building a Pontiac and plans to race it to install all the proper safety equipment required by the sanctioning body and/or racetrack.