Once upon a time, daily-driver status and 10-second timeslips were mutually exclusive. Acceleration that’ll throw you back in your seat? Prepare for miserable gas mileage and/or some high revving from the 3.90 or 4.33 gears you stuffed in your rear axle—not such a big deal in, say, the ’60s or ’70s.
The engine revving deep into its power band at around-town speeds would make the radio superfluous. A suspension that would hook you up from a green light would be inclined to dump you out the window around a bend. Watch out for overheating that hot chunk of iron under the hood! Air conditioning? A 10-second car would never carry air conditioning—the weight and the drag (not to mention the strain on the compressor at high rpm) would be unacceptable.
Speaking of weight, you’d need to start shedding fast, and we’re not talking some late-night TV miracle weight-loss system. Comforts like backseats and radios would be gone, and a lot of steel bodywork would be replaced by fiberglass pieces. Of course, it would also rate on the low end of miles per gallon—fun in short bursts, but realistically improbable.
Only the shiny radiator topper and bright metal and blue silicone tubing immediately draws
Mercifully, modern technology eliminates these compromises in new cars, and even in vintage iron when applied correctly. In an era of 13-, 12- and even 11-second street cars from the factory, breaking the 10-second barrier remains a scorching marker for a real street car.
It’s more in reach than ever and choosing the right car will get you a long way toward your goals; one that can sniff 13s off the showroom floor is the right way to start. That’s what Melbourne, Florida’s Nick Nagrodsky did when he dropped $12,500 on this low-mileage six-speed Trans Am as a gently used second car in 2003 and set about making it his daily driver. What you see here has travelled 96,000 miles, although the driveline is considerably fresher.
In order to get him there, the powerplant has been revised from intake to pan. The stock 346 engine has been bored to 3.905 inches and stroked to 4.00 to net 383 ci with an Eagle forged stroker crank connected to forged custom 17cc, dished Wiseco pistons via Callies Compstar 6.125-inch rods. These, plus the ported LQ9 317-casting cylinder heads, allow 9:1 compression—a number that’s telling, considering what else is to come. The heads also feature Manley 2.00/1.55 valves and valvesprings, plus Comp Cams pushrods.
Owner Nick Nagrodsky says, “My T/A drives very close to stock and is rather quiet when you
A mild hydraulic cam, with just 226/222 degrees duration at 0.050, and 0.581/0.585 lift using factory 1.7:1 rocker arms, a stock ignition with only NGK TR7 plugs as an upgrade, and a stock oiling system with a modified pan belie this T/A’s commitment to speed. A custom 4.00-inch cone filter, a stock MAF and throttle body, and an LS6 intake let the air in efficiently, while a pair of in-tank Walbro 255 fuel pumps feed 60-pound Mototron injectors through an -8AN braided feed line, as well as fuel rails and a boost-referenced fuel-pressure regulator by Speed Inc. Erik Koenig and HKE Enterprises in Houston, Texas, built the engine, while the ECM was tweaked by Norris Motor-sports of Indianapolis.
That low-compression number was a hint that Nick is cranking a moderate amount of boost through the system via a turbo. The near-invisible installation is comprised of a single Precision T76GTS compressor (with Tial wastegate set for 10 psi of boost) that tucks up close to the block. The exhaust includes a set of JBA shorty headers with 1.625-inch primaries, a PhamSpeed 2.5-inch crossover pipe to the turbo, and a 3-inch downpipe (with a 3.5-inch exhaust cutout) to a 3.5-inch overaxle exhaust and single Magnaflow muffler.
Here’s the Precision T76GTS turbo installed.
The intercooler is a custom 4.00-inch-thick unit mounted between the foglights, where the license plate plug used to live, with polished 3-inch piping. What’s that work out to power-wise? “Based off of my quarter-mile time and weight, it’s making roughly 630 hp at the wheels,” Nick says. “It’s dyno’d at 600 rwhp on a non-load-bearing dyno, which works out to about 750 hp at the flywheel.”