Meet the Kevin Morgan Concept Trans Am. "We decided to use the '77-style front end due to the public response to it, and we thought it would be the most recognizable because of Smokey and the Bandit," Kevin says. "My desire was to modernize the '77 hood bird as well, without losing its identity."
Looking back just a year or two ago, few Pontiac loyalists could have imagined there wouldn't be a Pontiac Division in 2010 and the responsibility of creating a new Trans Am would fall to determined privateers.
Using a '10 Camaro as the basis for the project, Kevin Morgan of Kevin Morgan Designs (www.kevinmorgandesigns.com), Todd Otto of Otto Body (www.ottobody.com), Tod and Scott Warmack of Trans Am Depot (www.transamdepot.com) and a dedicated support staff of volunteers have done what Pontiac could not. They've built a running '10 Concept T/A and are forging ahead to produce the Kevin Morgan Phoenix T/A.
The seed for the project was planted in 2006 and sowed in 2009. It's growth was an exercise in personal initiative.
Kevin Morgan of Canton, Pennsylvania, was less than pleased back in 2006when he learned that a new Camaro was in the works but a Trans Am was not. Having been raised on a steady diet of Smokey and the Bandit movies, toys (he was only 4 years old when the first movie debuted), and legends, and owning an '81 T-top T/A, he felt that GM's snub of the T/A could not go unchallenged. Picking up the gauntlet thrown down by a wanting Pontiac hobby, Kevin decided to put his graphic-design talents to work to start a grassroots effort that would ultimately convince GM to bring back the Trans Am.
He created renderings of the new Camaro body with various vintage Trans Am noses and tails and posted some on www.transamcountry.com. The striking artwork and a "What if?" story written by the site's owner, Mike Barefoot, set Internet message boards on fire, and soon everyone was talking about Kevin's designs. Some were published in multiple issues of HPP over the next year, and Hot Rod, Smoke Signals, Popular Hot Rodding, and other car magazines took notice as well.
The next opportunity arose when Trans Am enthusiast Mike Montague arranged to have Kevin display his drawings at the T/A Nationals in 2006, where he received a very warm reception, signed his first autograph, and ended up designing the T/A Nats' event T-shirts for the next year's show. Kevin was then invited by The Bandit Run's owner, Dave Hall of Restore a Muscle Car (www.restoreamusclecar.com), to set up at the YearOne Experience in 2007 to sell his art.
This sign is in the parking lot of the mostly vacant General Motors Moraine assembly plant
The only underhood mod on the 426-horse 6.2L LS3 is the addition of a non-functional Shake
Using HPP contributor Melvin Benzaquen's new Camaro 2SS/RS, we can illustrate the changes
Kevin was admittedly still ill-prepared for the excitement his renderings had caused. "My wife and I were selling the art off of the top of a cooler as the event staff could not locate a table for us," he recalls. I met Chip Foose and gave him my concept Trans Am poster, and had him sign one for me. I was also interviewed for 'Burt Builds A Bandit' on the DIY Network. It was certainly a trip to remember!"
Following more Trans Am Nationals, Bandit Runs, and meetings with Pontiac luminaries like Jim Wangers, and the concept of a 2010 Trans Am began to take on a life of its own.
Enter Tod Warmack. He, his brother Scott, and partner Jim Dowling own Trans Am Depot in Tallahassee, Florida. Primarily, the company performs restorations, and sells and reproduces parts for Second-Gen Trans Ams. Tod was impressed with Kevin's renderings back in 2006 when he first saw them, and assumed that Pontiac or an aftermarket company would pick up on them and build a Trans Am. When it still hadn't happened by April 2008, he decided to call Kevin and propose they do it together.
"I wanted to make a conversion kit with Kevin, and thought that he should be the one who gets honored from this project," Tod recalls. A partnership was born, and the search for suppliers was on.
Though the initial plan was to build a model of the Concept T/A to show to potential leads, that all changed when Todd Otto of Mead, Nebraska, came onboard. He has been doing bodywork for over 20 years. Starting right out of high school, he did collision work for about 15 years and has been doing restorations for the last 6.
The interior received tasteful upgrades, which again offer a modern slant on classic Bandi
The factory Camaro gauges remain but are dressed with the gold "engine-turned" trim.
This custom badging for the horn button will change to "Phoenix T/A" for the hand-crafted
Todd and Kevin spoke at the various Bandit Runs and the T/A Nationals, and he regularly asked how the project was coming. On the 2009 Bandit Run in May, Kevin told him a company was working on developing the kit for the Camaro, and he became even more interested.
An outside party approached Todd about doing a different T/A kit. Feeling that Kevin should get the first kit to market given the work that he had already done, Todd called him and offered to build the Concept T/A on his own time, provided Kevin could get a Camaro SS to him in Nebraska. (Coincidentally, Kevin's daughter Alli was born on the same day Todd called-May 20, 2009.
Upon hearing the news that Todd Otto was offering to build a fully operational Kevin Morgan Concept T/A, Tod Warmack got right to work on finding a Camaro SS. Having the foresight to realize that the Concept T/A was to be one-of-one-since the production versions would be called Phoenix T/As and would have changes to the body kit-he contacted Devoe Moore, who owns the Tallahassee Automobile Museum (www.tacm.com). Devoe agreed to buy a Camaro SS that would become the basis for the Concept T/A and, ultimately, a permanent display at his museum. The primary players were now in place.
Sam McCaughey, Kevin's high school art teacher and mentor, said of the 3 1/2-year project, "It's like magic in slow motion." While the phrase certainly is apropos, "slow" could no longer be part of the game plan.
After an exhaustive search, Tod was finally able to secure a Camaro SS with the LS3 and six-speed manual from a California dealer, and on June 26, 2009, Todd Otto took delivery in Nebraska. The group had just eight weeks to do what no one had yet accomplished: build a '10 Trans Am concept from a '10 Camaro, and do it in time to make the scheduled debut at the T/A Nationals on August 29, 2009.
Learn how it was done in Kevin Morgan's, Tod Warmack's, and Todd Otto's own words in this exclusive HPP interview.
Note the badge and number for the Concept "0000." Hand-built models will get "Kevin Morgan
The custom 20-inch Forgelines blend vintage and modern styling cues in a reinterpretation
Newly-designed air extractors were molded into the Camaro's composite fenders. Another one
High Performance Pontiac: How was the Kevin Morgan Concept T/A received at the Trans Am Nationals, and what other opportunities have presented themselves?
Kevin Morgan: The T/A Nationals debut was amazing. People went crazy over the car. It was like dreaming while I was still awake. Even legendary Pontiac designer John Schinella checked it out and complimented the T/A Concept.
Tod Warmack: Yes, the public response was fantastic, and the overall buzz generated about the car has been huge. We were even approached by a production company that is interested in the Phoenix T/A for a movie. It's a suspense thriller, and the company wants a "hero car" (four vehicles). It's asking for some changes to the look, but those are all the movie details I have right now as it's still in the planning stages.
HPP: Have you gotten licensing from GM and/or the SCCA to use the Pontiac symbol or the Trans Am name?
TW: We only did that for the concept car. It was our way of honoring an old friend. The conversions will be badged as "Phoenix T/A."
KM: Since the Concept T/A will not be sold and it's a one-off, it shouldn't cause any problems.
HPP: When will production versions of the Kevin Morgan Phoenix T/A hit the streets?
TW: At this point, Kevin and I speak constantly as we put together the plan to complete the kit. The introduction is scheduled for early 2010. However, we are offering one-offs designed for those who'd rather have a hand-crafted limited edition. Since we plan some changes for the production models, the "hand-crafted" Phoenix T/As will have their own identity.
HPP: Can you detail the production changes?
TW: Though we are still working on them, we can tell you that the Phoenix T/A will have a slightly more squared-off rear with totally new taillights. It will be closer to Kevin's original design, and from our point of view, more installer friendly. The Concept T/A has lots of custom work on the rear that isn't practical for production.
The headrests are embroidered, too.
Todd Otto: We may lean the rear spoiler back, modify the foglights, and use Pontiac blue engine paint on the engine cover.
HPP: Any plans to make the Shaker functional?
KM: Yes, the production models should have a functional Shaker hood via modifications to the stock air-cleaner assembly. Maintenance for the owner will remain simple since the 2010 Camaro air filter is retained.
HPP: Which companies will be involved with building the Phoenix T/As?
TW: Conversions will take place at Trans Am Depot in Tallahassee, Florida, or at Otto Body in Lincoln, Nebraska. Both locations will handle the optional Procharger supercharger engine-upgrade package.
HPP: How long will it take to build each car?
TW: It will take three weeks for the standard package and about five weeks if performance options are added. We will offer turnkey cars and conversions on existing customer cars. So far, we are seeing a 50/50 spilt in the demand for turnkey versus customer-car conversions.
HPP: What are the price points for the Phoenix T/A and its option packages?
TW: We expect the Phoenix kit to be in the mid $20Ks, with the performance upgrade anticipated in the low $30Ks.
HPP: Are you seeking out any GM new-car dealerships to sell cars?
TW: Yes, we have a few dealers who have expressed interest in selling cars.
HPP: Will the Phoenix T/A be offered in any color available on the Camaro?
TW: Yes, and any custom color the buyer desires.
HPP: When these T/As are finished, will they still be registered as Camaros?
HPP: Will you offer a warranty on them, since the addition of the package and options will probably void the factory warranty?
TW: Yes, a warranty will be provided on anything related to the conversion and/or conversion parts.
HPP: Will you sell individual parts to customers who want to put them on their Camaros?
TW: For now, the Phoenix T/A components are strictly for our conversion. However, there will be accessory and body components available through our online catalog.
HPP: How many Phoenix T/As must be built to make this a viable venture for the companies involved?
TW: Our goal is to produce 80 cars in the first 18 months.
HPP: Given the current economy, do you believe the demise of Pontiac helped or hindered this project?
KM: I feel that it definitely helped. For some reason, right after GM announced it, the idea began to grow again, drawing even more interest. Also, if Pontiac continued and built its own T/A, we would have been blown out of the water.
Building The Concept T/A
HPP: How challenging was it to transform the renderings into actual pieces for the concept car?
Todd Otto: Overall the project went well, but some concessions and modifications had to be made. We had to forego the quad headlamps because the structure behind that area on the Camaro made it difficult to add the additional lights, and if we were to use the same size as the outer lamps, the grille area would be greatly reduced. We also added more curve to where the center section (where the arrowhead is) transitions to the grille to give it a meaner look. The biggest challenge for the front was finding a honeycomb pattern to fit the grille correctly. Luckily, my Ford truck grille had the honeycomb pattern we needed.
HPP: How was the front bumper cover made?
TO: I made it using the urethane from donor bumpers that I already had. I cut what I needed and used repair kits to piece it together. There's no fiberglass up front-the nose is all urethane.
HPP: Tell us about the air extractors.
TO: They went through three or four design changes, but ultimately I chose one of them instead of trying a fifth because we were running out of time. The air extractors are made from sheetmetal, and the honeycomb insert came from a late-model GP grille.
There is no lack of ID on the concept. This badge will read "Kevin Morgan Phoenix T/A" on
Even the sill plates carry vehicle identification. "Otto Body" refers to concept-car build
Poised at the plant entrance, the two compare tails. The T/A uses a much more aggressive d
Here are the original renderings upon which the Concept T/A is based
HPP: How was the Shaker set-up built?
TO: It's made from two Shakers that I cut and put together to make one. It's widened 1 1/2 inches on each side compared to a stock one to better fit the modern Camaro proportions. The factory aluminum hood was a chore to cut the hole into because you have to be extremely careful during the process.
HPP: Since this area differs more substantially from the renderings, how did you arrive at the rear design?
TO: The basically-stock '77 taillight wouldn't work with the body contours, so I had to source different taillamps. After we decided on the lights, I began to think of the rounded tail of the '02 T/A, which inspired the rest of the rear look.
HPP: How difficult was it to create the ducktail rear spoiler?
TO: We developed a few versions of the rear spoiler. The first time I mocked it up with modeling clay as a base to make the molds, it shrunk too much to use. I ended up using Styrofoam for surfboards instead. It's really dense, so I could sand it to shape the spoiler. I mated this design with the existing Camaro spoiler, so the attaching holes would be in the stock places for the center section. Then I wrapped it all in fiberglass.
For more information on the Kevin Morgan Concept T/A, visit www.transamconcept.com. Ordering information for the Phoenix T/A is online at www.transamdepot.com.
Phoenix T/A Conversion
Rear fascia withnew taillamp lenses and bulbs
Phoenix T/A graphics package
Eibach adjustable coilover set up to lower the car 1/2-2 inches
Eibach 29mm tubular two-position adjustable front sway bar (stock is 23 mm)
Eibach 29mm three-position adjustable rear sway bar (stock is 23 mm)
Wheels and Tires
Snowflake wheels, CB-66.9 gold or silver machined face, Pirelli PZero tires
Front: 20x9.5-inch wheels, 275/45ZR20 tires
Rear: 20x11.5-inch wheels, 305/35ZR20 tires
Turned aluminum door-panel trim
Turned aluminum dash inserts
Turned aluminum instrument cluster
T/A numbered badge and designation
Extra Cost Packages
Offered on both automatic and six-speed T/As. Performance figures listed here are for the LS3 six-speed.
Exhaust Conversion With Optional Dyno Tuning
Exhaust conversion is comprised of 1.875-inch headers and a Pypes 2.50-inch system with twin cats and mufflers mounted further forward than stock, and custom tailpipes with splitters; 25hp increase at the flywheel
All components from the base package, plus: Complete ProCharger P-1SC-1 air-to-air intercooled supercharger kit
Here are the original renderings upon which the Concept T/A is based
A 3-D effect and a fresh font modernizes the Shaker graphic and depicts the LS3's engine d
Here are some of the principle players in the Kevin Morgan Concept T/A and the Kevin Morga
Kevin Morgan would like to thank:
My wife, Theresa, my mom, dad and extended family. We are Christians and feel God put us on this path and brought everyone together to make this project possible.
Kevin Morgan and Trans Am Depot
want to thank:
McVicker Upholstery, Lincoln, NE
The Sign Shop, Mansfield, PA
Third Shift Studios, Cincinnati, OH
Forgeline Wheels, Dayton, OH
Carey's Custom Screenprinting, Dillsburg, PA
Sew Simple, Gillett, PA
Detroit Speed, Mooresville, NC
DMB Supply, Hernando, FL
More Sales, Clearwater, FL
Dayton Tire, Dayton, OH
Phil Leak Company, Norwalk, OH
The Car Owner:
Devoe Moore, Tallahassee Automobile Museum
|The Bandit 3: