The next time your spouse starts giving you static about you wanting another new performance Pontiac, and for most of us this seems inevitable, you can tell her this happy little tale.
Dan Baber of Niles, Michigan, owned a '96 factory WS6 Trans Am from new, for 3 years and 38,000 miles; he only got it because the fella who had initially ordered it months earlier, got sick of waiting for it and cancelled as it was being built. Its non-negotiable sticker price was a painful $28,900 (WS6s were commanding over-sticker premiums at that point), and Dan paid every cent of it. The color (white) and transmission (automatic) were not what he would have chosen, but hey, it was a WS6, and for the time being, that was good enough. With minor bolt-ons (cat-back exhaust, K&N filter, underdrive pulleys, and drag radials) he ran a best of 13.98 at 101 mph at his local quarter-mile facility.
Of course, as time flew by, Dan wanted more (don't we all?), but a nagging doubt about the wisdom of modifying a factory Ram Air WS6 prevented him from going further. Meantime, he heard that LS1 T/As were screaming fast. Clearly, a switch was in order. But how could he make it work?
Calling his accounting background into play, and relying on friends on the LS1.com message board to help him locate something suitable, he found he could trade in his out-of-warranty WS6 for a brand-new, 0-mile, black '99 LS1 6-speed Trans Am, for $500 above dealer invoice (and a cool $4K less than he paid for his white one). The lower price meant he could fit the same-sized payments into a shorter time frame (four years instead of five); also, interest rates had come down a full three points in as many years. Dan whacked a solid $90 a month off his car payment, and paid it off in one year less than his white '96 would have taken. "I found that my best modification for my '96," Dan says, "was to trade that car in to get an LS1."
With 550 miles on the clock and the sole mod being a wheel-and-tire swap, Baber took his black Bird to the track and let it spread its wings, recording a 12.96 at 109 mph. That's more than a full second faster than the WS6 machine it replaced. Hmmm ... $90 a month cheaper, a factory warranty, and a stock mill that's a full second faster than the modified piece in the previous ride? What's the downside?
So the money saved in payments (and a little more here and there, we suspect) went toward making this T/A the badass, daily-driven, nitrous-huffed, 11-second monster you see before you.
Its bottom-end remains as it rolled of the Ste. Therese line-3.905 bore, 3.622 stroke, 346 ci of displacement. Most of the rest is the work of Motorsports Technology, Inc. in Houston, Texas. Dan specified MTI's Stage 2 treatment for his aluminum heads. This consists of a .030 milling (bumping compression half a point to a stout 11.0:1), fully ported intake and exhaust, stainless 2.055/1.60 valves with bronze guides, MTI's own dual valve springs, hardened Comp Cams pushrods, titanium retainers, and copper Fel-Pro gaskets. The heads now flow 300-cfm at .600 lift at the intake, compared to about 225-cfm stock, and redline has been moved up to 6,700 rpm.
The cam is an MTI custom grind (.581/.581 lift with stock 1.7:1 roller rockers and 224/224 degrees duration at .050 lift, 112 degrees lobe separation) utilizing stock lifters. MTI also reprogrammed the computer to accept the massive new influx of air and fuel. The MAF remains stock (screen removed) as do the 26 lb-hr injectors. A ported stock throttle body said to be good for an extra 100 cfm of airflow was opened up by Shaner (who haunts the LS1.com message board) feeds an LS6 intake. An ASP crank underdrive pulley, and an FTRA under-car cold-air system with a K&N filter fill out the rest of the bolt-on goodies. on the intake side. Spent gasses exit via SLP ceramic-coated stainless 1-3/4 inch long-tube headers a 3-inch SLP Y-pipe, and a Borla stainless muffler.
Except, there's that TNT nitrous system. A 15-pound bottle lives in what was once the spare tire well, while the nozzles, solid-mounted in the Power Ring mounted behind the throttle body, feed in the giggle juice. It's wired using the stock TNT kit, but Dan added an MSD Window switch to come on at 3,000 rpm and shut off at 6,400, for just that extra measure of protection. There's also a bottle warmer and a purge button.
Does it work? And how. On a recent dyno run, Dan scored 417 hp at 6,500 rpm and 404 ft-lb of torque at 4,500 rpm, naturally aspirated. With the nitrous spraying through jets rated for 75 additional horsepower, the power figure was bumped to 555 hp at 5,500 rpm, and the torque a stout 556 ft-lb at 3,800 rpm. Best of all, on the 2-hour drive home from the dyno; he scored 27 mpg at a steady 70 mph on the highway.