Greg Mroz's '82 Trans Am has...
Greg Mroz's '82 Trans Am has been a racer almost all of its life, having originally been built for Chuck Posey, then owner of Trans Am Specialties in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, for the 1983 24 Hours of Daytona. Greg bought it off of eBay in early 2002 as a roller, stuck in a built 350 Chevy and Super T10 trans and went racing. Total investment is still under 5 grand.
Fate can bring together man and machine in a twisting chain of events that can take decades and occur under the most unlikely circumstances. Each car has its own story and every owner has a tale that brought them together. Perhaps the machine was inherited by a family member or it was located after an extensive, years-long, nationwide search.
Or maybe it was just a quick check of eBay Motors. . .
Our story begins in October of 1981 when Chuck Posey, then owner of Trans Am Specialties in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, purchased a new '82 Trans Am. His intention was to build it into a full-tilt road racer to compete in the 1982 IMSA 24-Hour Pepsi Challenge Camel GT, better known as the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Trans Am Specialties was one of the many companies to spring up in the wake of the nation-sweeping Firebird Trans Am phenomenon of the late '70s. Unlike many of the aftermarket parts retailers of the era, T/A Specialties offered the "Bandit Trans Am," a heavily-upgraded turnkey conversion car that was even autographed by the "Bandit" himself, actor Burt Reynolds. The Bandit T/A was sort of a tuner car before the term had become popular, offering appearance, chassis, and engine upgrades to pump up those smog-era 400s and 455s. Even nitrous was available, long before kids started calling it "NOS."
Its cockpit is all business...
Its cockpit is all business with wraparound dash and red-painted aluminum work. The steering wheel has quick-release feature.
In order to increase exposure for the business and to give a shot in the arm to the new Third-Gen Trans Am, which was decidedly less macho than the car it replaced, and only available with a couple of weak-kneed versions of the proletariat 305 Chevy, Posey, ever the entrepreneur, decided to take a big bushel of lemons and make lemonade. Knowing that the new Trans Am was a very aerodynamic vehicle and the small-block Chevy was a very easy engine to get power out of, it would be a great candidate for the Daytona 24 Hour.
The new Trans Am was then dropped off at the shop of road race chassis whiz, Tommy Riggens, in Jacksonille, Florida, for the conversion-a process that took 6 weeks and involved the construction of a complete chassis and roll cage within the stock confines of the Firebird unibody structure. This new chassis also did away with the stock MacPherson struts up front and torque-arm rear suspension in favor of NASCAR-style componentry.
Under the hood of the Bandit Trans Am was a 510hp 350 Chevy hooked to a Doug Nash 5-speed transmission. Details of just what sort of componentry resided inside the 350 block are sketchy after 20-plus years, but nevertheless, it had enough steam to get it past 170 mph.
Though hardcore Pontiac fans...
Though hardcore Pontiac fans might cringe at the use of a Chevy engine, it is the legal engine for this car and the logical choice for cheap, easy-to-service power. The small-block displaces 350 hp and kicks out an impressive 447 hp.
One of the more unusual aspects of this race program was that the tire of choice was not a garden-variety race design, but was in fact, a completely street-legal BFGoodrich Radial Comp T/A-P265x15 to be exact, mounted on BBS modular racing wheels. Even then, Goodrich had a long history of racing their street tires on F-Bodies, dating back to the heyday of SCCA Trans Am. Drivers John Cordts and Don Pike first ran the Goodrich Radial "Tirebirds" in the '71 racing season.
Posey had also assembled a team of talented crew members and drivers to attack the competition at Daytona, including crewchief Gary Wysocki, crew member Rob Jones and 3 drivers, author and former GM engineer, Gary Witzenburg, journalist, Tony Swan, and well-known road racer, Elliott Forbes-Robinson. Kyle Petty had also initially agreed to drive, but was forced to back out due some prior contractual obligations.
Everything looked good on paper, but many hurdles plagued the team. In addition to a series of weather-shortened test sessions, there were mechanical problems such as overheating, a broken shifter, and some header and exhaust issues, which were costing upper-end power. After hastily correcting the problems during test sessions, the bugs were worked out. Unfortunately, the thrash in the pits didn't give them much opportunity on the track, so their qualifying times were only good for 66th place.