Combining the best design attributes of Second-Gen and Fourth-Gen Trans Ams, Todd Witzigre
This rollbar is an RKSport unit with gold striping, and reproduction Firebird emblems are
The emblem speaks for itself.
Custom vinyl striping took over 40 hours to install. The German gothic lettering originall
Todd originally had gold stripes on the hood of the T/A, but changed it to the traditional
Chances are, if you're holding this magazine in your hands, you have seen the original Smokey and the Bandit cinema classic--you've probably also seen the two sequels. To those who didn't grow up in the late '70s, it's hard to describe just how influential this film was to car enthusiasts of the era.
Rather than spend money on traditional print and TV ads, Pontiac shrewdly invested in product placement in a movie to get the word out about Trans Ams in a way that television couldn't. There was no way executives at General Motors would have advocated such wanton displays of horsepower and irresponsible driving in a TV spot.Yet placed in the context of a movie outside of GM's control, it was fine, as they were out of reach of any accountability. Pontiac could reap all the benefits without any of the liability. Even if critics weren't exactly enthralled with the plot or thesingle-dimensioned characters, the stunts were first-rate and made the black '77 SE Trans Am the true star of the motion picture.
The response was insane. This author personally remembers people exiting the theater, yelling, acting crazy, getting into their cars and performing burnouts in the parking lot. If you saw the movie during its original release, you probably experienced something similar. The visceral reaction to it was really on the same level as Star Wars, also released that summer, yet Smokey and the Bandit was more applicable to the audience, as anyone with a halfway decent credit rating could go out and get a new Special Edition Trans Am. A Millenium Falcon or X-Wing fighter? Not so obtainable.
Even today, with nearly 30 years since the initial release of Smokey and the Bandit, the allure of the Special Edition Trans Ams is still strong. All one needs to do is to attend a Trans Am Nationals to see just how durable the Bandit mystique is.
Todd Witzigreuter of Fort Wayne, Indiana, is someone who was bitten by the Trans Am bug early on. He had a '77 Trans Am in high school and later a '76 Limited Edition 50th Anniversary Trans Am-the production model that originally ushered in the black and gold treatment. Unfortunately, Todd had to sell the '76 when it came time to purchase a home.
The story certainly didn't end there, but there is a bit of a twist. Rather than go out and try to find something similar to what he had before, Todd decided to update the theme a bit. "I really like the LS1-powered, Fourth-Generation Trans Am," he says, "especially the WS6 version. But the '02 Collector's Edition car didn't do it for me. I just didn't like the yellow. People remember the black and gold Special Edition cars, and that is what it should have been."
Todd decided he would go ahead and do what Pontiac should have done in the first place. So he built a scale model of his vision, using a 11/418-scale die-cast, painting the model black and adding the gold striping.
He then searched for just the right car, landing on a black '00 Trans Am convertible with a six-speed and black leather interior. It had only 9,000 miles and was in perfect shape. With the Trans Am in his possession, Todd set out to give it the visual package he had loved so much in his earlier years. He replicated the Fourth-Gen Special Edition striping in vinyl, which was cut and laid out by hand. He also firmed up the look with reproduction '76 Limited Edition Trans Am callouts, which were in the German Gothic style. The look was completed with an RKSport rollbar, accented with Firebird badges from Ames Performance Engineering and a set of 18x8-inch Boyd Coddington forged three-piece wheels-gold-toned of course-shod with P245/40ZR18 BFGoodrich G-Force T/A tires up front and BFG P275/30R18 Drag Radials out back.
Initially, the Trans Am's hood treatment was similar to those used on the Hurst Firebirds-a pair of stripes. After driving on the Hot Rod Power Tour, an admirer suggested that he add a hood bird to complete the look. He thought it was a great idea and purchased a reproduction hood bird to install.
As it turned out, the decal didn't work. The Ram Air hood had too many curves to allow for a smooth and professional installation. Undaunted, Todd enlisted the help of his good friend Gary Morgan from Morgan Signs in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to paint the gold hood bird on the Trans Am. The result screams for itself. The bird totally changed the T/A's character and exudes the same sort of bravado that its forebears possessed.
Inside, the "Bandit" treatment is also carried out to the max. Todd carefully cut the dash apart and inlaid the required gold engine-turned material around the gauges. The stock instrument cluster was also bolstered with a full complement of Auto Meter gauges.
With a look as aggressive as this Trans Am, there had better be some power to back up the "in your face" graphics package. Even though any WS6 Trans Am would rank as a formidable performer, Todd decided to up the ante dramatically.
For the transformation, he commissioned the folks at Livernois Motorsports in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, to build him an engine that would deliver on all fronts. The approach was the proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove-a Vortech-supercharged 383 LS1 stroker that retains the driveability of a stock car yet delivers a massive punch.
The stock-bore aluminum LS1 block was fortified with SRP forged pistons and rings. Eagle forged steel 6.125-inch rods swing from an Eagle forged crankshaft with a 4-inch stroke. The production LS1 heads with their 2.00/1.55 valves were retained and left essentially stock, but are held to the block by way of ARP studs. Likewise, the cam is also a stock LS1 grind featuring 209/198 degrees duration at 0.050, 0.500/0.500 lift with 1.70 rockers, and a 119.5 LDA.
An upgraded Vortech V-1T centrifugal supercharger works with a matching dual-pass, air-to-liquid intercooler, which in turn blows a maximum of 16 psi into a Weiand Lingenfelter intake manifold. Though a stock 75mm throttle body and MAF remain, big 60-lb/hr injectors are fed by twin Walbro fuel pumps. The PCM was upgraded by LMS to handle the tremendous increase in fuel and air delivery. A Nitrous Express 100-horse nitrous system is also available just in case the need for speed becomes just too unbearable.
The compressed mixture is lit with a stock crank-trigger ignition system firing NGK spark plugs, and the spent gases are expelled by full-length Kooks headers with 1.75-inch primary tubes, 3.5-inch collectors, and a full 3.5-inch Borla exhaust system.
All of the top-end exotica certainly paid dividends in performance, to the tune of a retina-popping 661.5 hp at the rear wheels without the nitrous. That is not a typo. The power is transferred to a S.P.E.C. Stage 3 clutch on to the Hurst-shifted T56 transmission, then to a Hires Performance aluminum driveshaft, and a Moser 12-bolt rearend with 3.73 gears and a limited-slip differential. A line-lock is also employed for racing use.
Subjecting the stock Firebird unibody structure to that much horsepower is tantamount to vehicular cruelty, so a set of BMR subframe connectors was utilized to keep the flexing in check. BMR also supplied lower rear control arms and an adjustable Panhard bar. Stopping power is provided by six-piston Wilwood disc brakes all around.
As one might guess, Todd and his '00 "Bandit" Trans Am garner a lot of attention wherever they go. He has successfully taken the spirit of the Limited Edition and Special Edition Trans Ams of the '70s and infused it with the performance of an LS1-powered, Fourth-Gen Trans Am, giving this Bird a unique personna of its own.
The stock Trans Am interior was accented with gold engine-turned material for the dash and
The Vortech V-1T centrifugal supercharger and dual-pass air-to-liquid intercooler take up
Here's the dyno graph for those who doubt the power numbers.
Rolling stock consists of Boyd Coddington three-piece forged wheels accented in gold. They