Flying high after his victory in the Spike TV series, Bullrun, Mike Alsop, general manager of Mike Raisor Pontiac in Lafayette, Indiana, took the great feeling to the design board for a SEMA-showpiece LSXP-40 Trans Am that pays homage to the Flying Tigers fighter planes of World War II. "I learned a lot winning Bullrun and put the lessons into this new show/race Trans Am," Mike recalls. "I learned many strengths the Trans Am has and many strengths I think it needs to have."
Starting with a '98 Trans Am, which Mike described as "very rough," he used the in-house team at Mike Raisor Pontiac Premier Autosports and stripped the Bird to its bare body shell. "We put the Trans Am up on a lift and pulled the crossmember, cradle, front suspension and engine," he says. "That allowed us to move the body shell onto a body dolly with the rear wheels still bolted on."
He enlisted the help of Bobby Vandergraff and Jaylin Scott and they removed the bumpers, fenders, doors and exterior moldings, and stripped the interior completely including seats, dash, carpet, headliner and trim. "The car was completely gutted at that point," Bobby says. "Because we were bringing the P-40 theme throughout the cabin, our only choice was to completely remove every piece of existing trim that the factory installed into the Trans Am."
Drop what you're doing! Mike took the message literally and dropped the entire drivetrain
After stripping the body to bare metal/plastic, Bobby worked it straight while it remained on the dolly. Then he turned to concept drawings, penned by artist Rick Moon, for direction and sprayed the engine bay, interior, trunk, and doorjambs of the body shell, followed by the body panels-hood, fenders, doors, and decklid-using Glasurit Universal HS Primer Filler.
After block-sanding and sealing the body with 285-60 Universal HS Primer, his team shot the interior and jambs in basecoat Glasurit Olive Drab. "We hung the body panels back on the T/A and sprayed the entire exterior Glasurit Black basecoat followed by two coats of Glasurit HS Multi-Clear. I then wet-sanded, using 1,200 to 2,000 grit," Bobby says.
The numerous graphics on the LSXP-40 T/A required repetitive stages of painting and masking. "I started laying out all the artwork on the body including the mouth, the eyes, The Flying Tigers, the No. 53 logos, the monikers on the fenders and the body stripes," Bobby continues. "I sprayed the colors progressively, starting with white for the teeth, red for the tongue and grey for the mouth. Then I sprayed The Flying Tigers on the doors." For all of the artwork, Bobby used House of Kolors specialty paints.
The LSXP-40 is more than a SEMA show car, it's a race car, too. It made its racing debut a
It took painter Bobby Vandergraff 400 hours to transform a '98 Trans Am into this stunning
Once he perfected the eye-grabbing graphics, he masked them off and sprayed Olive Drab basecoat over the entire exterior, followed by a contrasting patina of Glasurit Desert Tan. He thinned the Black basecoat 150 percent to make the lettering look like it came right off a retired WW II fighter plane. To polish the look, he airbrushed 829 rivets around the car. "It nearly drove me crazy to paint all those rivets," Bobby recalls. With the airbrush work completed, he sprayed four more coats of finished clear, followed by a second wet-sand, five more coats of clear, and a final wet-sanding using progressive grits of 2,000 to 3,000. All in all, 400 hours of shop time were dedicated to the body and paint.
Mike chose Allante tan bomber jacket leather and green leather inserts to cover the T/A's seats. The material was sewn by Miranda's Customs, of Lafayette, Indiana, who upholstered the headliner and sunvisors in tan and green, too. Meanwhile, Bobby cleaned every plastic interior piece, applied adhesion promoter, and sprayed them in Olive Drab interior dye formulated by Auto Body Supply, of Lafayette, Indiana. He installed the new seat covers onto the thrones and reassembled the interior.
Custom bomber-jacket leather and Olive Drab interior dye were used to carry the theme of t
To acquire the sound necessary for a national-level show car, Mike installed an MTX Elite 604 4-channel amplifier, Thunder Axe 5.1 components, a Pioneer 390P head unit and MTX speakers. "It's enough to shake the tarmac," he says. What makes this sound system unique is its inboard/outboard speaker layout. He installed one for the vehicle's occupants, and a second that cranks the tunes for the onlookers ogling over the Trans Am. "It's like having stage monitors and a full P.A. system for the crowd," he says.
The original plan was to outfit the T/A with an LSX crate engine, which explains the car's name, but the crate engine was not released in time so another route had to be taken. "Although we originally mounted an iron-block 6.0L LQ9 into the T/A, it didn't produce the naturally-aspirated power I was after," he explains. "I went to an LS6; I wanted something stronger than the LS1 that won Bullrun, and that's what's in the engine bay now."
Inside the 346ci cast-aluminum block is a 3.90-inch bore allowing a 3.62-inch nodular cast iron crank to actuate powdered metal steel connecting rods and hypereutectic aluminum pistons. Fully CNC ported-and-polished 215cc heads, provided by Trick Flow, are outfitted with TF 51/416-inch pushrods operating Harland Sharp 1.7-ratio roller rockers that compress Comp 921 springs and open and close 2.08/1.65 Ferrea valves. A Futral Motorsports roller cam has 232/234-deg duration with a 0.649/0.602-inch lift on a 114-deg LSA. The compression ratio is 11.0:1 and custom tuning was performed by racing specialists Exotic Performance Plus, of Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
Fuel comes from a stock Firebird tank outfitted with a single Wahlbro 255-lph pump through factory lines and regulator to SVO 42 lb/hr injectors installed in a Wilson Fast 90mm intake manifold ported by Dustin Wheelock. Air feeds from an MTI power induction airbox that utilizes the airscoops on a stock WS6 hood to an 85mm GM MAF and 90mm Nick Williams throttle body. Ignition is handled by a GM distributorless coilpack system running spark through factory GM wires to NGK TR55 plugs. Exhaust is evacuated by Pacesetter headers with 1.75-inch primaries and 3-inch collectors, flowing through a 3.5-inch y-pipe and dump. There are no mufflers on this show car.
Though the LQ9 block was still in the Bird when this photo was taken, it has since been re
The Nitrous Express nitrous system is good for a 200-shot of juice.
Pushing the power rearward is a TCI flexplate, a Yank 3,600-rpm stall torque converter and a custom-built 4L60E transmission by Guaranteed Transmissions, of Lafayette, Indiana. It sends the torque through a stock driveshaft to a Moser 12-bolt posi rear assembly with 4.10 gears and 33-spline axles.
This air/fuel ratio gauge from FJO Racing Products was installed in the driver's air vent.
This Trans Am doesn't take jet fuel, but premium race fuel is preferred at all times.
Suspension And Brakes
This Trans Am features state-of-the-art suspension components from BMR including tubular upper and lower control arms, subframe connectors, panhard rod and torque arm, transmission mount and QA1 springs and adjustable shocks at all four corners. BMR Fabrications' Lee Spicher says, "We were excited to be involved again in a project with Mike Alsop. We supplied the suspension components for the Bullrun Trans Am and gladly supplied the components for the LSXP-40 Trans Am. We thought the car was extremely well-executed in the use of our components and in its uniqueness. Using our lightweight chrome-moly race hardware, we are confident we equipped this Trans Am with the components it needs to make it a force to be reckoned with."
The front suspension features QA1 coilovers and BMR tubular control arms for extreme handl
An outboard sound system from MTX allows Mike to convert his Trans Am into a mobile P.A. s
Braking power comes from SSBC units. On the front are Force 10 Tri-Power three-piston aluminum calipers handling 13-inch vented directionally slotted rotors followed by 11.9-inch rear rotors and stock calipers. The LSXP-40 rides on 17x9 WS6 wheels from an '01 T/A painted black, shorn in Goodyear Eagle F-1 275/40ZR17 tires up front and 16x8-inch T/A rims with M/T 26x11.5x16-inch rubber in the rear.
It took ten members of the Mike Raisor Premier team to put this show-stopper Fourth-Gen to
Although Mike's show car looks right at home at world-class auto events, he also designed it to be a racer. "I used an 8-point rollcage that came installed in the Trans Am and added a Simpson 5-point harnesses," he says. With motor only, the Trans Am produced 453 horsepower at the rear wheels. But Mike says that wasn't enough power for him. He added a single-stage wet nitrous system from Nitrous Express, which is armed with a window switch and activated via a throttle relay that sprays a 200-shot of juice at 3,800 rpm. On juice, the T/A pulled 527 rwhp.
It's no surprise that the LSXP-40 Trans Am was a huge hit at SEMA. "The response was incredible," Mike says. "Tens of thousands of people saw the car. Its workmanship and paint were eye-catchers and many people brought their friends and acquaintances back again and again to see it. The biggest question was, 'Is that all really paint?' We started the car several times so people could hear it run, and we also turned the MTX outboard speakers on so people could hear the sound outside of the car. Power TV did a piece on the car and ESPN shot it and put it on their Web site."
Creating this wild Trans Am has been another great moment in the national spotlight for Mike. "It comes down to passion," he tells HPP. "We wanted to show what our new shop, Premier Autosports, could do for our customers, and then take the LSXP-40 Trans Am to events, have fun and show all the hard work. Special thanks to Dr. Jamie Meyer of GM Performance Parts, BMR Fabrication and Stainless Steel Brake Corporation for all of their assistance on this project. Without them, we would still be in the shop."
A Trans Am with an overbite? No, this is the mouth to the LSXP-40 Trans Am sprayed in Hous
A Bird Of War
Anyone looking at the paint scheme on this Firebird recognizes the military theme, but did you know that this automotive tribute is of an aircraft of the Chinese Air Force American Volunteer Group (AVG) in WWII? "The Flying Tigers" became legendary as the nickname of the American Volunteer Group, comprised of U.S. military pilots and crews recruited with clandestine U.S. Government support to defend China against the invading Japanese. This was quietly accomplished in the Spring/Summer of 1941, before the United States entered the war. The AVG was critical to China's survival, as they were the defacto Chinese Air Force at the time.
The AVG spent the Summer and Fall of 1941 en route to Burma for training. The group first saw combat on December 20, 1941. As this was twelve days after Pearl Harbor and the U.S.'s entry into the war, secrecy became unnecessary. Frequently outnumbered by 15 to 1, The Flying Tigers achieved great success against unbeaten Japanese flyers during a period when the Japanese forces continued to roll up victory after victory.
AVG flew Curtiss P-40 fighters, which had a large shark face painted on the cowling. Although durable, the heavy P-40 was considered obsolete by WWII fighter standards. The AVG pilots were trained to avoid "dogfights" with Japanese aircraft, since they were faster climbers and much more maneuverable, but the P-40s were used effectively in diving attacks, where their superior dive speed kept them out of trouble. In only seven months of action, The Flying Tigers were credited with destroying almost 300 Japanese aircraft with a loss of only 14 pilots.
With an American press searching desperately to find good news to report in early 1942, the success of the AVG began to attract considerable attention. Their Washington support group dubbed the AVG The Flying Tigers, and they became known as "Fei Hu" or "Sharks' teeth" by the Chinese. The fledgling Walt Disney Company created a "Flying Tiger" Squadron insignia, and they became a sorely needed morale boost for victory-hungry Americans during the bleak days after Pearl Harbor.
One of the AVG's innovative tactics was the creation of rows of fake bamboo aircraft, built and painted by the Chinese, which successfully attracted Japanese air attacks away from the real (hidden) aircraft. These faux air strike successes dissuaded the Japanese from dealing the AVG a death blow by attacking in large numbers. Japanese intelligence documents of the time estimate the AVG at over 1,000 aircraft and pilots, when in fact the number was about 85 at three different squadron airfields.
Another innovative necessity was the Chinese air-raid warning system, a vast spidernet of people, radios, telephones, and telegraph lines. This provided the number and altitude of incoming enemy attacks, as well as located and guided lost friendlies, directed aid to pilots who had crashed or bailed out, and guided intelligence experts to wrecks of crashed enemy aircraft.
A "blood chit" was painted on the back of each flying jacket of The Flying Tigers pilots to help them if they were shot down. The Chinese characters read: "This foreign person has come to China to help in the war effort. Soldiers and civilians, one and all, should rescue, protect, and provide him medical care." Replicas of these jackets are still popular as fashion and collector items.
The AVG was disbanded in July 1942, to be replaced by U.S. Army Air Force units since the U.S. was now in the war. But these units never enjoyed the special place in history carved out by the bold and aggressive AVG. Even today, the shark-faced fighters remain among the most recognizable symbols of any unit in military history.
Replicated on this Firebird is the paint scheme of The Flying Tigers aircraft "White 53," one of the planes flown by Squadron Leader David Lee "Tex" Hill, who transferred to the USAAF after the AVG was disbanded, later becoming commander of the USAAF 23rd Fighter Group.
He is credited with 18 confirmed victories, making him a triple ace, and retired at age 31 as a Brigadier General. Tex won the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Presidential Unit Citation with Oak Leaf Cluster, Chinese Order of the Cloud
Banner 4th, 5th and 6th grades, 2-Star Wing Decorations, Chinese Victory Medal, and British Distinguished Flying Cross. He was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1968.
Tex Hill passed away recently on October 12, 2007, at age 92, but will forever be remembered as a shining example of the best traits of an American serviceman. Troy Avent