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1999 Pontiac Trans Am - Twin Terror

An Exotic-Killing '99 Trans AM

Tony Whatley Jan 1, 2009

American performance cars have for decades inspired thousands of enthusiasts worldwide. Many people in other countries can only daydream about driving our V-8-powered sports cars on America's concrete expressways. When Tiago Salies was a teenager, he came from his homeland of Brazil and spent some time in the USA. Being exposed to all of the American performance cars got him hooked. He returned to Brazil and finished high school, eventually getting accepted to Oklahoma State University to study Mechanical Engineering. Now back on American soil, he was determined to own a GM performance car that he had dreamt about since his first visit stateside. Originally, he wanted an LT1-equipped Trans Am, but his budget was limited to a 1994 Firebird 3.4L V-6. The Firebird eventually put down 350 rwhp with a custom turbo kit that Salies built himself. This V-6 car served him well throughout college, and then he bought this red 1999 Trans Am as a graduation gift to himself.


Salies, age 26, suffers from gearhead sickness, and simply cannot leave anything stock. It is a strong disorder, as evidenced by his latest garage-built creation. This red Trans Am has had quite a few combinations under the hood, including a single T72 turbo kit that produced 120-mph trap speeds at 5 psi. Accidentally running a little lean on this combo resulted in a grenaded factory short-block. His next step was to build a forged-internal 346ci short-block with factory heads and crankshaft, and pushed 12 psi on the single-turbo kit. That combo produced 614 rwhp and 130+ mph trap speeds at the local quarter-mile. Eventually, Salies was bored again, and decided to design and build his own twin-turbo setup for the car. This time around, he went with two Master Power 70mm turbos, and a custom front-mounted intercooler system. The turbo system uses dual TiAL wastegates, and all of the hot and cold side piping were fabricated by Salies in his spare time. The 346ci forged-internal short-block survived the previous single-turbo combination, so it was freshened up with a set of AFR 225cc cylinder heads. These heads have a thicker deck than OEM heads, which result in less possibility of lifting from the engine block under high-boost conditions. For the intake side, an Edelbrock Victor Jr. carburetor-style intake manifold was used, along with a billet 90mm throttle body. Thunder Racing was called upon to supply one of their popular 224/224, 114 LSA hydraulic roller cams. Salies added a touch of custom work by fabricating his own hard-line turbo oiling and return system. Exhaust gases are spent from the turbos and through a custom "true-dual" exhaust system and a pair of Dynomax bullet mufflers. This latest twin-turbo setup produces 820 rwhp on 93 octane at 12-psi boost, and a whopping 952 rwhp on 106-octane race fuel and 18-psi boost!


Now that Salies had this bullet of an engine combo in the chamber, the rest of the car had to be upgraded to handle the power. In order to help humiliate the mega-horsepower exotic cars that roam the Houston highways late at night for "spirited" driving exhibitions, Salies needed his Pontiac to handle at high speeds and be able to stop quicker than the factory brakes would allow. The Trans Am was lowered with Strano coil springs, and Koni double-adjustable shocks were installed at all four corners. The weak factory 10-bolt rearend was swapped out with a Moser 12-bolt and "highway-bombing" 3.42 gears. The car still retains the factory six-speed T56 transmission, along with a Spec clutch and custom driveshaft. BMR and UMI suspension goodies were installed underneath, together with Spohn swaybars. This Trans Am is rumored to be rock-solid beyond 150+ mph, from what unidentified witnesses have claimed. Everything comes to a halt with Corvette Z06 brake calipers and Baer Eradispeed brake rotors. Salies selected a set of lightweight CCW 18-inch forged wheels and BFGoodrich Z-rated rubber to keep contact with the pavement.


As much as Salies enjoys running against exotics at high speeds, he still enjoys the occasional visit to the dragstrip. His future plans include a full NHRA-legal rollcage, an even-more-potent engine combination, and some drag tires. He hopes to clear 150 mph in the quarter-mile, as it has already managed 120 mph in the eighth-mile in current form-prior to being asked nicely to leave the track. It is a safe bet that this car will soon join the magical 1,000-rwhp club, but the question still remains: Will it ever be enough for Tiago Salies?



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