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...
Only the shiny radiator topper and bright metal and blue silicone tubing immediately draws the eye, although the bigger fuel rails are a giveaway to a more discerning eye. Possibly a turbocharged 383?
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,...
Owner Nick Nagrodsky says, “My T/A drives very close to stock and is rather quiet when you’re just cruising around town—no loud noises (unless the cutout is open). But when you put your foot to the floor, its personality completely changes. The acceleration is violent as boost kicks in early due to the larger-size engine and it just sounds pissed off, telling everyone to move out of the way!”
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...
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.”
Exhaust cutouts under the...
Exhaust cutouts under the doors are one giveaway; the fat single pipes out the back are another. A “turbo” badge under the passenger-side taillight promotes truth in advertising. The blacked-out rear bumper area, aka the CETA mod, slenderizes the rear considerably.
Of course, you can’t have all that power and not back it up. The stock T56 six-speed has been selectively reinforced with a steel 3-4 shift fork, bronze fork pads, billet slider keys, and carbon-fiber synchros. Additional upgrades include a McLeod twin-disc clutch, New Era Performance SFI-approved flywheel, and SFI-approved bellhousing and transmission blankets. A custom-length, 3.00-inch, chrome-moly driveshaft and Random Tech torque arm are also employed. The factory 10-bolt rear was swapped out for a beefy Ford 9-inch, stuffed with 28-spline Currie axles and a 3.50-cogged Detroit Locker.
A set of custom-made subframe connectors keep the unit-body from twisting on launch. The suspension is aftermarket except for the K-member, and includes a set of Eibach Drag Launch springs and KYB AGX shocks on all corners, plus TracTek lower control arms and Random Tech panhard bar. Rick Crain Engineering in Melbourne, Florida, handled all of the non-engine driveline upgrades.
Nick runs custom-made 18x9 and 18x10 Boze Touring wheels on his T/A, with wide 275/40-series Sumitomo HTR ZIIIs in front and 295/35-series Goodyear Eagle F1 GS-D3s in back. At the track he switches to stock T/A wheels with 295/50-16 M/T Drag Radials set to 20 psi. Despite a 3,850-pound race weight, he’s still able to clock 10.6s at 132 mph at Orlando Drag World, posting 1.55 60-foot times and shifting at 6,300 rpm.
He then drives home again, knocking down absurd fuel mileage. “I usually get between 25 and 30 mpg cruising on the highway at 80 mph,” Nick reports. “The six-speed certainly helps, and I only have a 3.50 rear gear, so the engine only turns maybe 2,000 rpm at 80 mph.”
The stock seats are still...
The stock seats are still leather and all of the modern accoutrements remain, even the air conditioning blows cold. Only an A-pillar-mounted gauge cluster is out of the ordinary from factory-stock.
And inside? Complete comfort. Nick has sacrificed literally nothing to obtain his 10-second dreams: He still has power steering and brakes, air conditioning, leather seats, cruise control, and the factory Monsoon stereo system. Even the shifter remains stock; only a brace of A-pillar-mounted gauges, and a custom-installed DVD system for the passenger who is somehow bored with the notion of riding around the streets of Florida in a 10-second slingshot go beyond factory specification. There isn’t even a rollbar or cage, which HPP strongly recommends given the Pontiac’s e.t.’s and trap speed. The NHRA would concur—any car running quicker than 10.99 requires one.
And best of all, Nick can cover his turf nearly invisibly. Silver—the most popular color in the world’s automotive paint palette for a while now—covers the Trans Am’s voluptuous flanks. And everything seen here is stock, save for the US Exotics WS9 hood and the CETA mod to the rear bumper. We’re not saying that this super-sano slingshot isn’t a head-turner—clearly it is. But in everyday traffic, it has the ability to blend better than something wearing its abilities on its sleeves (or fenders, if you will) with bright paint and wild striping.
This $20 bill provides an...
This $20 bill provides an indication of how deep the wheel lip is on the 18x10 Bose wheels. Rolling of the rear quarter-panel wheel openings was required to fit the 295/35-series Goodyear rubber.
It can be, and has been, Nick’s daily driver, even with the mods that make it a 10-second screamer. “It’s still street-legal and 100 percent a street car,” Nick tells us. Although it’s been removed from daily-driver duty because he doesn’t want to rack up the miles, he very easily could. “It actually was my daily driver for about a year after I finished it. The turbo does not make it too radical for the street; it actually drives close to stock when you’re just cruising around. It’s only when you put your foot into the throttle that it really wakes up. And with the 383 motor, the turbo spools fast, so it is quite fun on the street.”
With cars like Nick’s Trans Am, the term “daily driver” need not be uttered with a contemptuous sneer any longer.
Nick would like to thank his parents, wife, Mike, Josh, and friends for putting up with his car obsession.