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 that the WS6 is bone-stock. We know otherwise, as there's a heav
The bumper support and foglights were removed to fit the massive 31x12x4-inch, front-mount
Turbo? What turbo? The Quarter Mile Performance turbo kit hides the Turbonetics TC-78 turb
Inside is a completely stock interior. "I love the interior on the Trans Am. It's very com
The ball-bearing, Turbonetics TC-78 turbocharger is rated for more than 1,000 hp, giving A
This switch panel controls a variety of functions, including the fuel-pump booster and lin
To accompany the forced-induction setup, the LS1 was fortified by Borowski Race Enterprises in Rockdale, Illinois. Within the hobby, a commonly known, strong-yet-affordable buildup is referred to as a 347. It usually retains the factory bore size and crank, which is made from nodular-iron and capable of withstanding intense horsepower setups. The rods and pistons are replaced with forged parts. In Alex's case, the pistons were replaced with Probe forged boost slugs that drop compression down to 8.6:1 and use Eagle forged H-beam rods. To keep everything lubricated inside the aluminum block, a Melling high-volume oil pump was installed.
Ported and powdercoated, the LS6 intake manifold transfers 15.5 psi of air and fuel into the 241-casting LS1 cylinder heads, which have also been ported by Borowski Race Enterprises. The valvetrain was strengthened with Patriot Dual Gold springs and Thunder Racing hardened pushrods. A custom Comp 226/228-degree duration at 0.050 cam with 0.600/0.609-inch lift and a 115-degree LSA was tailored to his forced-induction engine setup. Rounding out the valvetrain are Comp 1.75:1, adjustable roller rockers and Comp Pro lifters.
Fuel is delivered by a custom in-tank, dual, 255-lph Walbro pump setup that's boosted through a hotwire switch and activates the second pump at 4 psi. The factory lines deliver the fuel to '97-'98 Corvette fuel rails with a boost-referenced fuel-pressure regulator and Siemens 60-lb/hr injectors.
The AEM Tru Boost gauge clearly displays when Alex hits full boost. "The turbo is matched
Mike Hornback at Straightline Performance in New Lenox, Illinois, tuned the factory LS1 PCM on a Mustang Dyno using HP Tuners software. The Trans Am was converted to a speed-density system, eliminating the need for a mass airflow sensor, which can sometimes fail with high-boost applications. The numbers were 560 hp to the rear wheels and a chassis-twisting 680 lb-ft of torque.
At The Track
Don't let the big-name shops fool you: Alex performed a ton of the work himself with the assistance of his good friend Mark Sirota. "I just wanted to build a comfortable 10-second, street-driven Trans Am," he says. He made it official at the track when the force-fed LS1 propelled him to 10.8 at 124 mph. Launching off the footbrake at 2,000 rpm, he blazes through the 60-foot in 1.52 seconds and shifts at 6,800 rpm. For strip outings, a set of Weld Prostars, 15x3.5 inch in front with skinnies and 15x10 inch in the rear with 27x11.5x15 M&H slicks, are mounted. They are a departure from his 17x9.5-inch chrome Z06 Replica wheels shod in BFGoodrich KDW rubber, which see regular street service.
This A-pillar pod houses a transmission temperature gauge, a fuel pressure gauge, and a Dy
On The Road
These days, Alex races and even shows his WS6. Believe it or not, it becomes his daily driver whenever the Chicago weather allows. "I drive it about 200 miles a week from March to December," he says. "I'm a real estate agent on the side, and I think it's funny that I drive to closings in a 560hp, 10-second car." The Trans Am sees a lot of highway time, especially when he drives to shows, such as the '08 Trans Am Nationals, roughly 750 miles round-trip. Even with all that power, the T/A averaged 22 mpg-not bad for a legitimate 10-second Pontiac.
Alex's plans include converting his T/A to run on E-85, which will require 96-lb/hr, low-impedance injectors and further computer tuning. A 6.0L passenger-side manifold and drivers C6 Corvette manfold will be employed for their greater airflow, and a new 3.5-inch downpipe with a better wastegate will generate more boost.
Cosmetically, time has taken its toll. New carpeting will be installed, and the rear bumper, scorched with molten rubber, will be resprayed. To finish things off, a pair of HID Xenon headlamps will be added.
"I keep thinking about buying a new car since it's been a while," Alex laments. "But then I ask myself: Why? This one has everything I want: 10-second e.t.'s with a full interior, great handling and looks, and a killer stereo."
What better weapon to brandish when fighting in the modern musclecar wars?