Car Feature 1998 Pontiac Trans Am WS6If you have been into drag racing for any length of time, what you are about to read is an all too familiar tale. What starts innocently enough as a perfectly good daily driver eventually turns into some sort of half-driven, half-tracked monster that leaves you wanting even more. All of your friends keep telling you to go big or go home, and suddenly you are literally spending your house money for the thrill of more speed. "I originally bought the car for a daily driver. The mods started with some suspension stuff and a 125 shot of nitrous ..." If this sounds eerily familiar or even exactly like something you said to your friends a week ago, welcome to the club. It all leads to the same twisted place, as Mike Piccione of Hazlet, NJ, goes on to explain "... Cartek then installed a 383, then a 408, and then this current motor."
Piccione's addiction began in 1998, staring at a brand-new Pontiac Trans Am on the dealer floor. Bought as something to drive daily and have fun with, Mike started to get the itch. "I have always loved the looks of a fourth-generation Trans Am and I love the car's attitude when it leaves the starting line." As time progressed Mike built a 383 and then a 408. After getting bored of those, Mike knew the next bullet would have to be much bigger. Having sprayed some of his old motors, Mike decided that this time, he would use only nature's own 14.7 psi to feed his powerplant. If you are going to be competitive in this day and age with an all-motor combo, you better know what you are doing. For Mike and the boys at Cartek, this proved almost too easy.
First on the list was getting the air in, and to do this Mike fabricated his own "dual ram air system." Using the factory foglight holes to draw air up to the stock filter location, air is then passed through a FAST 90mm throttle body and into a Cartek ported L76 intake manifold. This manifold is bolted to a set of ported and decked L92 cylinder heads, which are directed by a custom ground Cartek camshaft. A hydraulic roller with 252/262 duration, 0.630/0.630-inch lift on a 116 LSA makes for a "surprisingly good drive and nice idle" while also providing enough power to put Mike's TA well into the 9's.
Fueling for all this airflow is done by a set of 60-pound injectors and tuning by Julio at Cartek using the stock ECU. Once the air/fuel mixture enters the cylinder, the really trick parts start to show their stuff. Starting with a new LS7 block, the boys over at Cartek added a 4.125-inch stroke and 4.125-inch bore together to get a massive 441 cubic inches of displacement. To do this, they used a Callies forged crankshaft, hung by the stock LS7 caps and wrapped in Clevite bearings. Swinging around the crankshaft is a set of Manley forged rods that connect to a set of Manley forged pistons with Sealed Power rings. This combination ends up being 13.0:1, which is right where Mike and Cartek needed it. For exhausting all of this air, a set of Quick Time Performance 1 7/8-inch long-tube headers are tied to a 3-inch Texas Speed cross-pipe and Dynatech mufflers.