While at first glance this ’02 T/A is easily recognizable as having rolled off a GM assembly line, a peek beneath its vanilla wrapper reveals a level of modification with style that Pontiac would never have been allowed to achieve. Tim Conneway’s Bird hides a nasty, growling turbo LSX engine poised to pounce on anything on the road, the track, or at a show.
The 46-year-old owner of Gulf Bindery has always been a serious car guy. When he found out that ’02 would be the final year for the Firebird, he had to have one. Since his search began mid-model year, his pickings would be slim. “I wanted a white, six-speed WS6 Trans Am,” he says. “There wasn’t a single dealer near me that had what I was looking for.” Finally, in May of 2002, he located one in Orlando.
Within the first year, Tim began modifying the T/A. “The plan was to keep it mostly stock with a cam and a few bolt-ons,” he explains. “But after hanging out with a bunch of my Cobra buddies making 500 rwhp with just a pulley and tune, I became a little let down with my naturally aspirated setup.” It wasn’t until he took a ride in his friend’s street-legal, 8-second turbo Mustang that he knew he had to go turbo.
Tim had a number in his head—800 rwhp. Luckily, he knew of a well-qualified shop to help him with the build—J&J Performance, located in Cape Coral, Florida. “There were quite a few local forced-induction cars Justin Nelson at J&J built,” he says. “But unlike the rest of those, I wanted to maintain pump-gas freedom and my A/C.”
Trying to make over 800 rwhp on pump gas is no easy feat, but Justin and Tim set out to make it happen. Over the next four years, Tim went through four engines before finally opting for the cast-iron, six-bolt LSX block. The stock block couldn’t hold the heads down with 15 psi of boost being shoved into it, but the six-bolt configuration on the LSX block has had no trouble at all.
No filter under this lid!...
No filter under this lid! This is where the Snow Performance water/meth kit sprays in Tim’s detonation deterrent.
Hameetman Racing Engines in Ft. Myers performed the machine work on the GM Performance Parts block before handing it back to Tim. A set of 4.125-inch CP forged pistons fill the bores and feature a 5cc dish to help lower compression. They are attached to Crower 6.125-inch rods and a Crower 3.50-inch crankshaft—final compression calculates out to 9.5:1 and displacement is 374 ci.
Tim went to Total Engine Airflow to order his six-bolt Trick Flow 235cc CNC heads. On a 4.125-inch bore, the heads are advertised to flow 344/276-cfm at 0.600 lift. A custom set of exhaust manifolds feed into an 88mm Garrett 47/88 turbo that rests in front of the driver-side tire. Justin fabricated a pair of manifolds and plumbed the piping from the turbo into a Precision Turbo PT1500 air-to-water intercooler to cool the intake charge before it makes its way into the 90mm FAST intake and throttle body.
To help Tim achieve his power goals with pump gas, a Snow Performance water/methanol kit using a reserve tank keeps the engine from detonating. A healthy dose of 93-octane is delivered from the factory tank by a Magna-fuel Pro Tuner MP-4304 pump into 95-lb/hr injectors.
Outside, the Trans Am is bone-stock...
Outside, the Trans Am is bone-stock Arctic White. Tim has a battery shutoff lever in his bumper for his rear-mounted battery. On the street, the lever is removed and a body-colored plug covers the hole, adding to its sleeper quality.
For the cam, Justin concocted a custom, solid roller from Comp with 270 degrees duration at 0.050 and a lift of 0.640-inch on a 117 LSA. Crower shaft-mounted, 1.7:1 roller rockers obey the commands of the solid-roller cam, and operate the 2.080-inch Ferrea titanium intake valves and 1.600-inch stainless exhaust valves.
Once the exhaust has done its job inside the turbo, it’s evacuated through a 3.5-inch downpipe where an exhaust cutout awaits the flick of a switch to be open. When it is, the symphony produced by the engine is in guttural tones, and, as Tim has experienced, catches most people off guard with just how menacing it sounds. For more reserved street duty, Tim closes the cutout and allows the car to breath through a B&B after-cat. Under full boost, however, he has actually expanded previous mufflers, so he doesn’t hit 15 pounds with it closed.