Many of our readers grew up during the height of the '60-'70s musclecar wars between GM, Ford, and Mopar. Fast-forward 30-some-odd years and you find a new group of kids battling it out in the modern musclecar wars.
While carburetors have been replaced with EFI and screwdriver tuning is now done with a laptop, the idea is still the same-these V-8-powered coupes drive the rear wheels and offer a lot of excitement for relatively little cash. Chicago's Alex Oppice is a soldier in this new battle of high-tech musclecars, and his weapons of choice have always been Pontiacs.
It all started at age 15 with the purchase of a beaten-up '88 Trans Am GTA. "When I first got it, I didn't even know where to add the oil." he says. His neighbor, a mechanic, showed him a few things about working on cars. Eventually the poor condition of his GTA became too much for him, and he purchased an '89 Formula 350. With the help of his friend Eric Quinn, he swapped in a free-flowing exhaust, a hotter cam, and made a few other supporting modifications.
As Alex got deeper into working on cars, it soon became his life's ambition, so he decided to attend WyoTech, a technical school in Laramie, Wyoming. There he learned everything he needed to know to turn his hobby into a career. He landed a job at a Mercedes dealership straight out of school. To celebrate, he splurged on a used six-speed, WS6 '01 Trans Am.
First Round Of Mods
Alex began with bolt-ons. An intake lid with a K&N filter and a larger mass airflow sensor were fitted to the LS mill.
Soon thereafter the dealership where he worked, Mercedes Benz of Chicago, acquired an '01 Z28 on a trade. It had Hooker long-tube headers, an off-road Y-pipe, and a Flowmaster aftercat. Alex explained to his boss that they couldn't sell a car with an aftermarket exhaust without catalytic converters, offering to remove it and replace the parts with his stock pieces.
With the Bird moving air more efficiently, a TNT nitrous system was then installed. "The first time I hit the button on a 150 shot at the track on drag radials, it was a life-changing experience," he recalls. After this, Alex decided to step things up in the power department. A heads and cam package was installed, along with a Moser TrueTrac, posi-equipped, Ford 9-inch with 3.70:1 gears.
Swappin' A Trans And Beefing The Suspension
At this horsepower level-probably in the neighborhood of the high 500s-finding a comfortable clutch to hold it all was tough, so Finish Line Transmissions of Wooddale, Illinois, converted the T/A to a 4L60E automatic. The bulletproof rebuild uses a billet output shaft along with a Vigilante 3,600-stall, triple-disc torque converter.
A pair of PA Racing upper and lower control arms is utilized up front, accompanied by PA's K-member. This setup sheds some weight off the front end while providing greater strength thanks to its lightweight, tubular construction. The factory sway bar is still in place-this is a street car, after all. Out back are BMR rear lower control arms; a Spohn 1-inch sway bar; BMR subframe connectors; and a unibody-mounted, adjustable torque arm. The factory DeCarbon's have performed well thus far, so the shocks are left untouched to handle rough Chicago streets. A pair of adjustable airbags sit inside the factory rear springs and help control the Trans Am under hard launches.
Here Comes A Turbo And More Engine Upgrades
Alex soon grew tired of refilling the nitrous bottle all the time, so he decided to go with a single-turbo setup from Quarter Mile Performance. It uses a Turbonetics TC-78 turbocharger and cools the intake charge with a massive 31x12x4-inch, front-mount intercooler. A 3-inch downpipe feeds into a custom exhaust, a MagnaFlow aftercat, and a QTP electric cut-out. The Flowmaster muffler was ditched in favor of the straight-through design of the MagnaFlow.
Alex Oppice's plate jests...
Alex Oppice's plate jests that the WS6 is bone-stock. We know otherwise, as there's a heavily fortified LS1 with a single 78mm turbocharger residing underneath the Ram Air hood. On the street, the Trans Am takes on a more conventional look with chrome Z06 Replica wheels. Up front, 275/40ZR17 BFGoodrich KDWs are used and ultra-wide 315/35-17 BFG KDs are out back. The rotors were upgraded to drilled and slotted units, and Hawks brake pads increase the stock calipers' bite.
The bumper support and foglights...
The bumper support and foglights were removed to fit the massive 31x12x4-inch, front-mount intercooler, marking the only body modification to Alex's T/A. He doesn't try to hide the truth about this WS6-the intercooler says it all.
Turbo? What turbo? The Quarter...
Turbo? What turbo? The Quarter Mile Performance turbo kit hides the Turbonetics TC-78 turbocharger well. A Lingenfelter launch-control module (lower right) allows Alex to build more boost before leaving the line while maintaining a consistent launch rpm. An AEM boost-control solenoid gives him the luxury of adding or decreasing boost by a simple turn of the knob. The rest of the engine bay appears fairly tame, belying the mods within the 347. Alex powdercoated the intake manifold black to match the intake tube.
Inside is a completely stock...
Inside is a completely stock interior. "I love the interior on the Trans Am. It's very comfortable," Alex claims. The console has been converted to an automatic since he made the conversion to a 4L60E.
The ball-bearing, Turbonetics...
The ball-bearing, Turbonetics TC-78 turbocharger is rated for more than 1,000 hp, giving Alex plenty of room to grow into his future plans. With the Quarter Mile Performance kit, the turbocharger is mounted low near the sway bar and out of view from anyone who happens to look under the hood. The mounting location requires the sway bar to be lowered with the provided blocks.