With an adjustable ride height from the QA1 coilovers up front and BMR springs out back, A
Owning a performance car can be a tough job. You're always tempted to modify it or race it, but if you're on a budget, you need to get creative. For Andrew Bolagay, a 23-year-old machinist from Palm Harbor, Florida, temptation got the best of him. As he modified and raced his beloved T/A, things didn't always go as planned, but he still managed to build a street lethal combination.
When Andrew was just a young lad, he knew that he was a hard-core car guy. His first car was an '87 Monte Carlo that became his weekend warrior. While it was certainly fun to take to the track and hang out at late-night car meets, he desired something else. "I have always wanted a WS6 Trans Am because I love the way they look and I love the LS engine," he tells HPP. "I started getting bored with the Monte and thought, Why not look around for a WS6?"
After searching on the Internet, Andrew found a promising ad for a pre-owned T/A at Bill Buck Chevrolet in Venice Beach, Florida—about an hour and 45 minutes south of Palm Harbor. It was an '00 Navy Blue Metallic WS6 with a six-speed, and 56,000 miles reading on the clock.
To slow down the car, slotted rotors from the WS6 Store replaced the factory rotors, and H
Andrew took the drive down to check it out and was not impressed when he arrived. Knowing Fourth-Gen Birds pretty well, he immediately noticed that it wasn't a real WS6, but a replica. "The wheels were the 16-inch ones that never came on WS6 cars, but the hood was clearly a real WS6 hood and had the Ram Air raised air box." After some consideration, he decided to buy it anyway since it was a clone of the car he wanted and used its questionable pedigree as a bargaining chip to get the price down to $10,000.
It wasn't stock, either. Underhood, Andrew could clearly see a set of 1.75-inch Hooker headers mated to a Hooker Y-pipe and after-cat. With an ear-to-ear smile on his face, he shifted the T56 all the way home on Halloween 2008.
Being into the car scene for some time, he already knew the parts that made the LS1 Birds fly faster, and added bolt-ons as his budget allowed. Since there was already a decent snarl coming from the back of his T/A, he installed an SLP air lid, UMI lower control arms with relocation brackets, and a set of '98-'00 WS6 wheels. Later, he tossed the Hooker Y-pipe and after-cat for a Texas Speed & Performance off-road Y-pipe and an adjustable Borla exhaust. With these mods, the LS1 produced a respectable 348 rwhp and 342 lb-ft of torque.
He wasn't joyous for too long because as the miles began to rack up, the Trans Am started showing signs of wear. First to go was the T56. "It started grinding Third, so I took out the transmission and rebuilt it myself," he says.
The rear 17x9-inch WS6 wheels were sent to James Reading at Weld Craft Wheels to be widene
After the transmission was built up and a SPEC Stage 2 clutch was installed, a budget-friendly nitrous system from NOS was plumbed up to deliver a 100-rwhp shot. Suddenly his tame daily driver became a 440-plus-horsepower car at the flick of the switch.
Then in August 2010, the LS1 played its swan song. "One night when leaving work, the engine broke a rod as I was starting it," he says. The block was toast and the rotating assembly was twisted up. Underneath, the LS1 bled out 5.5 quarts of oil and fragments of metal.
Andrew was shocked to see his street fighter knocked out cold, and didn't know how he would completely rebuild an engine with a new block on his small budget.
"I called up my good friend, Chris Webber, who had recently begun working for 360 Customs in Brandon," he says. "Chris is a wealth of knowledge for LS1 stuff, so I talked with him about my dilemma." The two discussed the possibilities of buying a new LS1 block and starting from scratch, but the price would eclipse $3,000 and the idea was scrapped.