GMHTP Featured Car - 505HP 1999 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Mar 3, 2004.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    GMHTP Featured Car - 1999 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

    Change Machine - In search of civil disobedience with GM's protean power player

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    By Jay Heath
    Photography: Johnny Hunkins

    Politicos and silver-screen adulation junkies have long recognized that the capacity for reinvention is the cornerstone of longevity. The principle obtains equally in the automotive realm, where product planners have been repurposing powerplants, vehicle platforms, and catchy monikers since before Henry Ford developed his ill-advised predilection for liebfraumilch and lederhosen.

    For a modern exemplar, one needs look no further than GM's many-splendored "Gen. III" engine family. Since sloughing off its caul between the hydroformed frame rails of the all-new 1997 Corvette, this endlessly renewable performance resource has seen duty in a wildly divergent range of applications, from spec-race machines to workaday pickups to the new 2004 Pontiac GTO. Individual performance buffs have taken a particular shine to the performance-tuned LS1 variant, making the 1998-2002 F-Body perhaps the most widely modified American vehicle platform since the days of the "Five-O" Mustang.

    One trend currently in particular vogue among higher-echelon LS1 tuners is that of augmenting engine displacement through the use of bored-out blocks and long-stroke crankshafts. As we typically adhere to the time-honored "bigger is better" maxim in matters of vehicular motivation, it should surprise exactly no one that we recently fell hopelessly in thrall to the brutish charms of Aaron Thames' 1999 Trans Am. Stuffed to the gunwales with seven liters of Gen. III firepower, it's the sort of perception-altering experience one never quite gets over.

    A previous owner of two LT1 F-Bodies, Thames was appalled to discover just how poorly the old iron-block thumper fared against its high-tech successor in contests of straight-line acceleration. "I raced a stock LS1 with my modified LT1 car and was handed my backside, so I purchased [the '99] new," he says. "I knew immediately I was going to upgrade the car."

    His bruised ego now on the mend, Thames immediately set about crafting his own vision of the ultimate F-Body escape module. The transformation began on a reasonably modest scale, consisting of a "Stage II" head-and-cam package from Houston-based speed-peddler Motorsport Technologies Inc. (MTI). No shrinking violet, the setup was good for 10-second ETs at almost 130 mph with a supplemental snort of nitrous oxide.

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    Accelerative motivation is provided by a 422-cube MTI stroker engine worth a very civilized 505 rear-wheel horsepower naturally aspirated, and around 675 on the bottle. Transparent MTI airbox lid adds a piquant finishing touch.

    Still, stupefyingly quick F-Bodies are increasingly the norm in Texas, and Thames was not about to let his car fall behind the ever-advancing engine-technology curve once again. For the second round of upgrades, MTI prescribed its burly 422-cube LS1 stroker engine, versions of which have proved capable of punting a properly prepared F-body through the quarter mile in under 10 seconds. The foundation of the package is a re-sleeved LS1 block, into which the MTI techs stuffed a street-oriented custom-grind hydraulic cam, forged Lunati crankshaft, and a set of Wiseco 11.25:1 forged pistons. A pair of extensively ported LS6 cylinder heads with upsized valves repose thereon, while MAC intermediate-length headers ("the old-school kind," reports Thames) and a 3-inch Corsa cat-back channel the combustive leftovers abaft. In the unlikely event the big engine can't get the job done on its own, a TNT wet nitrous system plumbed into the ported throttle body administers a 150-horsepower coup de grace.

    Output is predictably vast. Although Thames hasn't had an opportunity to track-test the new combination as this is written, he prophesies high-9-second ETs "on the bottle" given adequate traction. That sounds perfectly reasonable considering that the car recently put 505 SAE-corrected horsepower to the rollers at the MTI dyno shop (675 with the conservatively rated nitrous system flowing).

    Upgrades to the remainder of the drivetrain are rather less drastic, comprising a McLeod twin-disc clutch and a KTRE 12-bolt rear end housing factory-issue 3.42 gears. The stock 6-speed trans and driveshaft remain, though Thames is understandably reluctant to provide a forecast for their continued wellbeing. "The first time I really hook up on the slicks, well, that'll probably be about it."

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    If J. Robert Oppenheimer designed a road car, chances are it would look something like this. Of the numerous descriptors that spring instantly to mind, "subtle" is not one.

    To bring the TA's visual presentation into concinnity with its otherworldly power output, Thames had Rudy Gutierrez at 911 Collision in San Antonio strip away the factory black paint in favor of a sulfurous shade of orange called, simply, "Sunset Pearl." (We're thinking "Satanic Tangelo" is more like it.) The resulting look is equal parts roadgoing supernova and Bikini-atoll A-bomb test--just the thing for striking fear in the hearts of impetiginous Vin Diesel aspirants in pavement-scraping Civic hatchbacks.

    Incredibly, Thames avers the car comports itself with the civility of a stocker in everyday driving. "I told MTI I wanted the most streetable 422 they could build, and that's what they gave me. I drive it to work on a regular basis. It idles smooth, and I've never had any issues with overheating, even in bumper-to-bumper traffic."

    Even the interior presentation bespeaks an emphasis on the quotidian. Forsaking generally accepted speed-junkie logic, which dictates that cars in this performance stratum be approximately as comfortable as a barium enema, Thames' chose to preserve virtually all of the TA's factory-installed luxury spiffs, right down to the HVAC system, Monsoon audio rig, and a multiplicity of power assists. (He has, however, yanked the back seat since our photo shoot.) Safety equipment? Yeah, there's some of that.

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    It takes a special brand of fatalism (not to mention a determinedly apathetic tech crew) to run 9-second ETs without the benefit of a roll cage.

    "I run at RCR [River City Raceway], which is an IHRA track," explains Thames. "I'm really not consistent enough yet to run at a bigger track. Besides, if I added a roll cage it wouldn't really be a street car anymore."

    But isn't there at least some sort of tech-in process?

    "Yeah, of course. They say, 'You got a helmet?' That's pretty much it."

    Kind of sounds like our job interview.

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    Car: 1999 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
    Owner: Aaron Thames
    Block: Re-sleeved Gen. III LS1, aluminum
    Compression ratio: 11.25:1

    Heads: Ported LS6 with Ferrea 2.08-/1.60-inch valves
    Cam: Comp/MTI hydraulic roller, .612/.612 lift,244*/244* duration at .050
    Pushrods: 7.4-inch Chrome moly
    Rocker arms: Stock 1.7
    Pistons: Wiseco forged
    Rings: Childs & Albert
    Crankshaft: Lunati forged
    Rods: Lunati billet
    Throttle body: Ported stock
    Fuel injectors: Ford SVO, 30-lb./hr.
    Fuel pump: Stock
    Ignition: Stock
    Engine management: Stock GM PCM with MTI tuning
    Power adder: TNT single-stage, 150-hp wet nitrous system
    Exhaust system: MAC 1.75-inch headers with custom cut-out, Corsa 3-inch cat-back
    Transmission: Stock T56 6-speed with Pro 5.0 shifter
    Clutch: McLeod twin-disc
    Driveshaft: Stock aluminum

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    Front suspension: Stock with Suspension Techniques springs
    Rear suspension: Tokico adjustable shocks, Suspension Techniques springs, Lakewood lower control arms, MAC subframe connectors, right rear air bag
    Rear end: KTRE 12-bolt with 33-spline axles, GM 3.42 ring and pinion
    Brakes: Power Slot slotted front rotors, stock rear discs
    Wheels: Weld Draglites, 15 x 3.5-inch (front)/16 x 9-inch (rear)
    Front tires: Mickey Thompson ET Fronts
    Rear tires: 28x10-16 Hoosier drag slicks
    Fuel octane: 93 (naturally aspirated)/104 (with nitrous)
    Power: 505HP NA, 675HP with Nitrous
    Current mileage: 73,000
    Miles driven weekly: 300


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  2. badvr4

    badvr4 New Member

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    thats aaron thames car. hes a really good friend of mine. car is fuckin pimp, fast as shit too! that article was out about 4 mos ago tho..
     
  3. LEGbEND

    LEGbEND .

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    greddy orange?
     
  4. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    rcr = :cool:
     
  5. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    I want this trans am :hs:

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  6. M-1000

    M-1000 COME FLY AWAY

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  7. AlbinoMuntjac

    AlbinoMuntjac New Member

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    Interesting. Why Ford SVO injectors??
     
  8. We_Todd

    We_Todd I'm a naughty squirrel.

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    think instead of one noozle at the end of the injector... ford ones have 4 :eek3:
     
  9. bokhan

    bokhan i love you

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    frumunda cheese~!
    love those cars.
     
  10. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    if they didn't cost so much to insure, I'd be driving one right now :o
     
  11. smiley

    smiley New Member

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  12. cereal1klr

    cereal1klr Guest

    Needs sideskirts or a shorter front bumper.
     
  13. NolanTA

    NolanTA You talkin' to me? OT Supporter

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    I heart that car.
     
  14. FrigginAnT

    FrigginAnT Humanity is like a train wreck....its fun to watch

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    BLACKBIRD > THAT



    although i like it
     
  15. Szymek

    Szymek Where's the rest of ya?!

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    Badass Color :bigthumb:



    I cant wait to take off the snow tires and rims off my 02 :hs:
     
  16. BOTLD92Z

    BOTLD92Z OT Supporter

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    stock driveshaft, eh? he obviously doesn't launch that car very hard.
     
  17. MAD PUNK inDC

    MAD PUNK inDC Sic Semper Tyrannis

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    they seem to be easier on the PCM than MSD, Accel , or Lucas injectors. Alot easier to tune, and they are also cheaper than most other aftermarket injectors.
     
  18. torchC5

    torchC5 Guest

    That color kicks ass!
     
  19. AlbinoMuntjac

    AlbinoMuntjac New Member

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    Interesting that the Ford injectors would work better than the aftermarket ones. You'd think that the aftermarket companies would try to make it as easy as possible to plug and play for each specific application.
     
  20. MAD PUNK inDC

    MAD PUNK inDC Sic Semper Tyrannis

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    yeah you would think, but Lucus and MSDs are a bitch. Larger aftermarket injectors also cost alot more than production Ford models. Alot of times anything over 36lbs hr, and alot of aftermarket companies go to high impedance injectors, you can get Fords up to 50lb hr before the switch. It's also not that Ford injectors work better, just that they work better with the stock PCM, than most aftermarket injectors. So it's various reasons as to why. I believe if you tossed the stock PCM for an Electromotive, or Motech unit, there would be much better results out of the aftermarket injectors.
     
  21. Fabian

    Fabian Guest

    That white blue TA is teh fuckin WIN
     
  22. austynn2001

    austynn2001 Guest

    :rofl: :bigthumb:
     
  23. MnM

    MnM Guest

    *Googly eyes* Check
    *Weak knees* Check
    *Sweaty palms* Check
    *Ejaculatory Processes* Check

    Damn that car is nice, even better it's a daily driver. :bigthumb:
     
  24. Benjirific

    Benjirific Guest

    What most of you don't know is that this car hasn't run in a LONG time.

    The same thing can be said for A LOT of MTI's 422's.

    MTI = teh suck.
     
  25. big_john2438

    big_john2438 Guest

    soooooo nice that is absolutely gorgeous beautiful and astonishingly amazing
     

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