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1995 Pontiac Trans Am - Git-R-Done

With A Little Ingenuity, This LT1 Firebird Goes 9s For Under $10,000

Tony Whatley Jul 26, 2006

It's common knowledge that cars are one of the single worst investments you could ever purchase. As we drive them, modify them or race them, our hot rods are constantly decreasing in value. Even after pouring tens of thousands of dollars into one badass ride, it is still worth little more than its stock counterpart--and sometimes, even less! This is exactly what prompted Clint Schexnayder to take a more budget-minded approach on his '95 Trans Am.

"I wanted a fast streetcar, built as cheap as I could, doing all the work myself. Of course it doesn't hurt when your brother has his own shop." Except for machining the block, which was taken to a local machine shop for a .030 over bore and line honed four-bolt splayed caps, the Louisiana native has stayed true to his word in devoting plenty of elbow grease to the project. With help from his brother, Clint checked the clearances before installing Clevite bearings and a Lunati 3.48 stroke forged steel crank. The Sealed Power rings were file-fit and inserted into the Lunati nitrous-friendly high compression pistons. Finally, a set of full floating pins connected Eagle H-beam rods to the forged pistons to complete the 355-cube LT1 bottom end.

Schexnayder had originally used a set of ported stock heads, which had kept compression at 11.5:1. However, when the stockers cracked, he purchased a set of bare Trickflow heads off the Internet for a mere $700. Lloyd Elliot Portworks made good use of the extra material used in the aftermarket head, and after the combustion chambers were reshaped and the runners expanded, Clint assembled the heads. COMP Cams 977 springs and Manley 2.05 intake and 1.625 exhaust valves would help take advantage of 217cc intake runners. Even after milling the heads, however, compression was dropped to 10.5:1. While probably not optimum for a naturally aspirated or nitrous LT1, it did make Clint's job of tuning the new combo a bit easier with TunerCat hooked up to the stock computer. And a large 230/244 duration, .544/.576-inch lift COMP CC306 nitrous cam presented enough of a challenge. Those figures, of course, factor in the Scorpion 1.6 ratio rocker arms, which Schexnayder uses in cooperation with a set of COMP Cams hardened pushrods.

The big cam is supplied with sufficient airflow via a fully ported and welded LT4 intake manifold, BBK 58mm throttle body, and a 150 to 200hp dose of nitrous. The wet-style Nitrous Express kit has recently been expanded from a single Shark nozzle to a dual nozzle, dual stage kit. Clint says he hasn't used the second stage yet, but it is wired in through a Digitech timer while the first stage operates at wide-open throttle. The stock injectors have so far proven sufficient with this combo, using only an NOS 255-lph inline fuel pump and Accel regulator to boost fuel pressure to 55 psi. Likewise, Clint uses the stock Optispark with an MSD Coil and 6A ignition box. Exhaust duties are carried out by a set of Jet Hot long tube headers and 3-inch true dual exhaust setup Clint welded up using a Summit Universal X-pipe kit and Dynomax bullet mufflers.So far, Clint had spent a few coins on his TA, but the real savings would come in the driveline and suspension. The Panhard bar has never been unbolted since he bought the car in December 1999, and the stock torque arm has likewise been left untouched. The stock control arms are also intact, though they now sport polyurethane bushings and have been boxed for extra support. The stock springs and shocks still hold up the rear, but Schexnayder did switch to HAL/QA1 adjustable coil-overs in the front along with a BMR K-member to make engine removal a bit easier. The front sway bar is removed for weight savings.With a completely stock rear and used TH350, which had little more than a shift kit, he managed to propel the 3,450-pound TA to a 10.20. However, after scoring a great deal on a used, fully built TH350 with a transbrake (built by his brother) a few changes would have to be made. The stock 7.625-inch 10-bolt with a failing posi would no longer be sufficient. Clint went to work on grafting the stock axle tubes onto the center section of a Ford 8.8-inch rear from an old LTD. The 8.8 went into the jig and the F-body axle tubes were welded up to it before fabricating the torque arm mount. The stock GM 28-spline axles went back into their respective tubes, engaging the used Ford 3.55s and rebuilt Traction-Lock.

Using a set of meaty 325/50R15 Mickey Thompson drag radials and a Precision Industries 4000-stall converter, Schexnayder's TA is now capable of 1.42 short times on the way to 9.83 at 136mph on juice. Clint states that most runs have been made with a 150-shot on pump gas, but a high-octane cocktail has allowed 20 or so runs with 175 to 200hp worth of laughing gas. On motor, performance is hurt by the large diameter tires and extra stiff valvesprings, forcing him to switch to 26x10-inch slicks and short shifting at around 6,000 rpm. Despite not being able to buzz the motor up to the usual 6,500-7,000rpm, Clint has still managed an 11.15 at 121. It's amazing what a little bit of cash and a lot of hard work can get you.


Git-r-done! At the track Clint pulls off the K&N air filter and lets the MAF gulp as much fresh air from the ram air hood as possible. Meanwhile, the MAF-plumbed Nitrous Express Shark nozzle provides a little unnatural aspiration, varying between 150 and 200 hp. Close inspection will also reveal a BBK 58mm throttle body, ported LT4 intake manifold, ported Trickflow heads, and an MSD ignition. The near stock 355-cubic inch LT1 has propelled Clint to 9.83 at 136 mph. This kind of homemade power just makes you want to pull the sleeves off your favorite flannel don't it?

The steering wheel and Hurst shifter are two of the only deviations from stock at first glance. The rear seat and airbags have also been deleted for weight savings, and a roll cage may be on the way too.

Using a homemade Ford 8.8-inch hybrid rear end, TH350, and meaty Mickey Thompson 325/50R15 drag radials, the nitrous-fed TA is capable of low 1.40 short times.

Proud poppa Clint Schexnayder stands by his 9-second speed demon. For under ten large, he took this TA to single digits using his own two hands.

The VFN fiberglass hood provides an intimidating look and sheds a few pounds off the nose. In combination with the 15-inch Weld Draglites, the hood helps the '95 Trans Am tip the scales at only 3,450 pounds with driver.

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