Nitrous. For some, it's an addiction. For others, it's a habit they don't care to even risk trying. Anyone who has used it can tell you how thrilling it is to inject loads of horsepower into your engine by simply activating a switch or pressing a button. Trust me, it can be exhilerating.
It's commonly referred to as the poor man's supercharger, and for good reason. They essentially do the same thing, but in two totally different ways. Superchargers and turbochargers force high-pressure air into an engine, increasing the amount of oxygen present, allowing more fuel to be added, thus creating more horsepower. Nitrous, or N20, is two parts nitrogen and one part oxygen. Pure oxygen would be too volatile. The presence of this extra oxygen means that more fuel can be added as a catalyst, making more power.
Twenty-nine-year-old Progressive Insurance customer-service coach Jarrod Hess is very open about his nitrous obsession. He has a passion for speed, and found the easiest path to it was via a bottle in the back seat of his '01 WS6.
Rather than bother with hiding...
Rather than bother with hiding it, Jarrod proudly displays his 10-pound NX bottle in the back seat. This also gives him easy access to the bottle without a remote opener. Note that his NHRA-required blow-down tube hasn’t been installed in this new location, but it will be soon.
Back in March 2005, Jarrod was set to marry his girlfriend, Jen. His father, Timothy, decided he would drive down from his home in Missouri to attend the wedding in Florida. "He had just purchased an '04 GTO and was willing to put the miles on to come down with it," Jarrod recalls, "I took it for one test drive and fell in love with the power!"
Unfortunately, it's not always the best idea for a newlywed to buy a new car, so he began to look for something more in line with his budget that would offer the same thrills and an LS1. With the GTO out of reach, and a used Vette costing around the same, he became hooked on the Trans Am's styling and price. "I love the overall aggressive styling on the WS6, so I set out to find one," he says.
"I knew I wanted an automatic transmission because I planned on drag racing the car," he continues. "I was willing to give up the thrill of a six-speed on the street for the consistency at the track and better 60-foot times of a properly stalled automatic." Ultimately, this red LS1, automatic, 3.23-geared, '01 WS6 was the winner; he took it home on June 30, 2005.
The Trans Am’s rear fascia...
The Trans Am’s rear fascia incorporates cutouts for the exhaust to exit, but you’ll note that they’re empty. Jarrod was looking for the most power he could from his LS1, so he had Transmission Physicians fabricate a custom 3-inch exhaust, with 18-inch-length Dynomax bullet mufflers and an X-crossover.
Jarrod's color choice was influenced by his father's Torrid Red GTO, and he didn't waste a minute getting started on modifying the Bird. He took the WS6 to the track within two weeks of ownership to establish a baseline in completely stock form. His 13.5 at 103 mph was an excellent starting point. He claims he purchased his first mod, a new lid and K&N filter, before his first car payment was due.
Here Come the Mods
Within three months, he found a used Yank ST 4,000-stall converter and had Jeremy Formato, who would continue to tickle the keys for his WS6, tune it for the new torque converter. Soon thereafter, Jarrod was back at the track, anxious to see how much more e.t. his new mod shaved off. He was rewarded with an impressive 12.6 at 106 mph with the stock exhaust manifolds, suspension, and WS6 exhaust.
Less than a month later, a coworker removed his NX Wet Kit from his Honda Civic and sold it to Jarrod for $250. By this time, Jarrod had become good friends with local LS-engine guru Kyle Briese. Kyle installed the NX kit, and set the fuel and nitrous pills to safely accommodate 75 rwhp. Again, Jarrod was back at the track. On his first pass, he clicked off an 11.97.
The clear lid and factory-screened...
The clear lid and factory-screened MAF probably won’t raise too many eyebrows regarding this 5.7-liter LS1, but the NX wet kit injected from the passenger side behind the MAF just might. Internally, this engine has never been touched. Externally, a set of MSD wires, nitrous spark plugs, and Quick Time Performance stainless-steel headers round out the engine mods.
"This was the only time I ever used the 75-shot," he admits. "The following week, I was pilled up to a 100-shot and going deeper in the 11s." He continued to run the 100-shot for about a year before he bumped it up to 150.
Jarrod finally got around to installing more bolt-on parts. A set of Quick Time Performance 1.75-inch primaries long-tube headers were bolted on, as was a custom 3-inch true dual system with an x-type pipe, 18-inch-length Dynomax bullets, and turndowns fabricated by Fernando Rosales at Transmission Physicians, a defunct GM super shop in Tampa. This completed his engine mods; next was the chassis.
BMR adjustable lower control arms with relocation brackets and an adjustable Panhard bar were installed to help the rear suspension. Up front, the factory WS6 bar was tossed to reduce front weight and free up the suspension travel during launch. Before Jarrod would hit the track again, Transmission Physicians also installed a Wolfe six-point rollbar with swingouts, which should keep him legal through the 10s.
Now Jarrod was getting a little cocky. Nobody around him seemed to be pulling the numbers of his Trans Am in the quarter-mile with a mostly stock engine. "I called out my friend with a twin-turbo '03 Cobra on the car forum Need2Speed.com," he recalls. "There were a lot of people interested in the race because his car made so much more power, and I had essentially a stock engine with some spray and suspension. Nobody gave me a chance but if racing was all about horsepower, we would just race on the dyno."
The reverse-manual-valvebody Turbo 400 means that Jarrod has to perform all of his own shifting now. Kyle Briese surgically sliced apart the factory console to make room for the large Hurst Pistol Grip shifter. That little red button on top arms the transbrake, which should reward the owner with even better 60-foot times once he has the Dana 60 installed.
The two men gathered at Bradenton Motorsports Park for Need2Speed's event, with a large crowd ready to see the showdown. The Ford and Pontiac lined up. Jarrod got a little anxious and cut the light too early, sending the red light victory to the Cobra. The next pass, both cars spun off the line but Jarrod's Trans Am came out ahead, as both cars ran low 12s in excess of 120 mph. Finally, for the win, the two cars lined up again. Jarrod was in his zone now. Right when the final amber went out, he launched to a perfect 0.000 light, taking the win over the monster-power Cobra. "I couldn't believe that I got my first-ever perfect light and it was for the win!" he says.
Jarrod didn't ride the glory very long, however. With a grin on his face and ominous weather looming, he began to head north to his home in Valrico, just outside of Tampa. "I was on the drag radials and the weather came in too fast, forcing me to drive in the rain. I reduced my speed to 50 mph but it wasn't slow enough. The car caught some standing water, and I looped 360 degrees and came to a halt with the back of my Trans Am slammed against a wall."
After swallowing his pride and fixing the rear quarter-panel of his Bird, he was ready to attack the track again, but not before he took care of a weak link. "I wanted to help the car hook better on the 150-shot out of the hole on my 275/60R15 ET Street Radials (20 psi)." On initial launch, the T/A would unload the front tires, transferring the weight of the car back and to the right. He was looking to distribute the weight more evenly and come back straight, so he tried out the BMR Xtreme rear sway bar and drove to the track to test it out.
Jarrod's first launch was a 60-foot time of 1.58 on motor. "My previous best was a 1.60 but it was consistently a 1.62 car," he explains. "Now I was seeing 1.5X short times each pass." With a new personal best as his encouragement, he checked his bottle pressure and got ready to hit it with the 150-shot out of the hole. "I crept up to the lights, staged, the light turned green, launch, and boom!" He found another weak link—his 7.5-inch, 10-bolt factory differential. Jarrod had the car towed home, where it sat in his garage until he could afford a new rearend.
For street duty, Jarrod runs...
For street duty, Jarrod runs the factory WS6 wheels, but for the track, it’s all business. “I had to sell my rear 15x10-inch Weld Racing Pro Stars to help pay for the transmission and rearend replacement, but I managed to find a good deal on a set of four 16-inch, five-spoke Firebird wheels with tires mounted,” he says. These wheels gave Jarrod a couple options—a pair of 26x11.5x16 ET Streets or P255/50R16 ET Street Radials. Both sets hook well, and have been used by other Fourth-Gen T/A racers for some impressive short times.
It was slow-going to keep putting money aside to get his toy back on the road, so he decided to throw another 10-bolt in and get back to enjoying the car. A 3.42-geared manual transmission rearend with a TA cover was installed. "I discovered that I ruined my 4L60E transmission when I took out the first rearend," he says. "I decided I wouldn't rebuild the 4L60E, and instead went with a Turbo 400, which I had planned to do later down the road."
Kyle got to work on the WS6 to install a built Turbo 400 from FTI with an FTI 4,000-rpm stall converter, a reverse manual valvebody, and a transbrake. A massive B&M transmission cooler was plumbed up to keep the transmission cool, and Fleetpride fabricated a custom 3-inch driveshaft to make the connection.
Jarrod's first passes with the new transmission were discouraging. Since the three-speed Turbo 400 uses a 2.48:1 first gear versus a 3.06:1 in the 4L60E, the taller, less aggressive gearing meant his short times suffered. He was back down to a being stuck in mid 12s with 1.72 60-foot, on motor.
He has decided to stay away from the track until he installs a narrowed Dana 60 with matching, large offset wheels. This will allow him to run a more aggressive rear gear to compensate for the transmission.
His father may have gotten Jarrod into the hobby, but it was his own passion for hunting that quick e.t. that has kept him in it. To this day, Jarrod says that he loves his WS6 so much that he still finds himself staring at it as it sits in the parking lot, six years after he bought it. He looks forward to having the stronger Dana 60 installed, and making a few more tweaks to the suspension before he touches the engine.
The LS1 is still running strong with over 84,000 miles, countless nitrous bottles, and several hundred track passes on it. A bottle of nitrous just might be his key to a 10-second daily driver.
The big guy on the left controls...
The big guy on the left controls the nitrous, and the little guy on the right controls fuel. A potential risk with wet nitrous systems is that if either solenoid fails and sticks open or closed, it could result in engine damage. Thankfully Jarrod hasn’t had any issues with his reliable NX ‘noids.
Inside, Jarrod has kept things...
Inside, Jarrod has kept things simple with a factory interior and a small control panel for his nitrous, located under the functional factory radio. The Wolfe six-point rollbar was installed for added safety and NHRA compliance, as he looks toward the 10s.
Here’s the essentials for...
Here’s the essentials for any nitrous-fed racing junkie—purge, line lock, nitrous arm, bottle heater. This plate has a dedication to his sibling, Sergeant First Class Jason J. Fabrizi, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on July 14, 2009. Jarrod plans to add several more memorials of his brother to the car, including custom WS6 badges.