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1995 Pontiac Trans Am - Track Star

Carlos Saberbein's 9-Second LT1 TA Makes It Look All Too Easy

Justin Cesler Jan 1, 2010

I first met Carlos Saberbein in, of all places, a hotel elevator. We had both just arrived in Kansas City for the LTX Shootout and engaged in the usual elevator small talk. When we split ways, I thought to myself, "Self, that guy was pretty cool, he seemed really excited about being at the race. I wonder which car he drives? Which reminds me, I have got to find a super clean feature car for this next issue, the LT1 fans are starting to foam at the mouth again, we owe them something special." The next morning, as everyone was unloading their cars at Kansas City International Raceway for the LTx Shootout, I calmly perused the pits looking for a car that had all of those feature qualities we look for: good clean lines, a solid drivetrain combination, and a little special something to put it over the top. As I pulled into the Speed Inc. pit area, I immediately knew I had found the car I needed, and, wouldn't you know it, I had already met the owner.

gmhtp_01_z 1995_pontiac_trans_am Drag_race_launch 2/11

"Shortly after receiving multiple speeding tickets and being a regular at traffic safety school, I realized it was time to take it to the next level, the dragstrip." It was there that Carlos began to catch the racing bug. "It started with the basic stuff: a cold-air intake, cat-back, and Nittos. The car would run 13.9s all day long." While that was fun for a little while, it didn't take long for him to start seeking out more go-fast parts for his 1995 Trans Am. "I had Speed Inc. install a cam, headers, and a TNT nitrous system, which got the car to run in the low 11s. Then, Larry and I sat together and worked on a 9-second project." After monthsof work, the car was loaded up on the trailer to make some test passes at KCIR, where it was able to break into the 9s on a tiny 100-rwhp nitrous shot.

To do this, the team at Speed Inc. first pulled the entire stock motor apart and began working from the ground up. A 4.030-inch bore and 3.800-inch stroke were chosen to bring 388 cubic-inches of displacement to the table. For strength and reliability an Eagle 4340 crankshaft was installed, wrapped around a set of four-bolt mains and Clevite bearings. Matching forged Eagle H-beam rods rotate around the crank and pull on a set of Diamond forged pistons wrapped in Total Seal rings. Oiling for the motor is done by a ported Melling oil pump, which draws off a Canton oil pan. Knowing they were building a stout naturally aspirated motor that would also be sprayed with nitrous, Speed Inc. had Lloyd Elliot spec a perfect hydraulic roller camshaft, which features 249 degrees of intake duration and 257 degrees of exhaust on a choppy 107 LSA. With the camshaft in hand, Speed Inc. began modifying a set of Brodix SBC heads to work on this LT1, a job that ultimately paid off in the long run. After conversion and hand porting, the heads were installed, bolted down with ARP hardware and topped with a ported stock intake manifold. In front of the manifold is a 58mm throttle body, which is fed a ton of nitrous (up to 250 rwhp worth) from dual nozzles installed in a Trick Flow elbow and K&N cold-air system. A stock MAF tells the computer how much air is incoming and Jim Moran is responsible for keeping the tune spot on. As the air enters the cylinder, fuel is fed using an octet of 30 lb/hr injectors supplied by twin, in-tank Walbro fuel pumps. The resulting mixture is sent out a pair of 13/4 to 17/8-inch Kooks long-tube headers and 3-inch bullet mufflers.

gmhtp_02_z 1995_pontiac_trans_am Custom_rims 3/11

With the motor and electronics complete, it was time to strengthen the rest of the drivetrain, starting with the transmission. A built TH400 with a transbrake was chosen to fill the tunnel, spun by an Ultimate Converter Concepts 4,500-stall converter and controlled by Carlos via a B&M Pro-Stick shifter. As soon as the transbrake is dropped, power is sent through a 3-inch chrome-moly driveshaft and into the Moser-built 12-bolt rearend. Inside, a 4.10 gear and aluminum spool transfer torque down a pair of 33-spline axles to the 28x10.5-inch Mickey Thompson ET Drags. To make everything stick, the rear suspension was upgraded with a pair of Strange double-adjustable shocks and a slew of tubular BMR suspension pieces, including a BMR Xtreme torque arm, sway bar, lower control arms, and subframe connectors. Up front, a UMI tubular K-member supports the motor along with a pair of UMI lower control arms and PA Racing spindles. This combination is good for some sick 1.29-second 60-foot times, which help propel Carlos well into the 9-second zone. "After a 6-second burnout, I stage the car and hold the transbrake. Once the car launches, I shift into Second while the front tires are still in the air. The rest is easy."

gmhtp_03_z 1995_pontiac_trans_am Engine_bay 4/11

Inside and out, Carlos maintains an all business attitude, using function over form to get it done. A VFN Raptor hood and gloss-black-painted "CETA" back bumper are the only exterior additions, while the lack of side moldings and badges help keep a clean appearance. Perfectly polished spindle-mount Alumastars adorn the front, matched by a pair of 15x10 Centerline Convo Pro wheels in the rear. Inside, a Chris Alston 10-point chrome-moly cage, a pair of Kirkey seats, and matching five-point harnesses keep Carlos safe. A custom-built switch panel makes routine work of running the car, which helps keep Carlos consistent enough to go rounds whenever he races. Of course, with such attention to detail, the engine bay is immaculate; truly clean enough to eat off of.

So, what is Carlos's favorite part about his ride? "The feeling of launching the car on two wheels, that can't be compared to anything. I love it." By the time you read this, Carlos hopes to be even further in the 9s, as he has added a new Nitrous Outlet nitrous kit and has begun building a newer, more powerful motor. "I am waiting on parts to build a big-cube LT1 and matching single-plane, direct-port setup. I am hoping to go into the 8s." Sounds like a lofty goal, but judging by past success, we don't doubt that Carlos and the crew at Speed Inc. could pull it off.

gmhtp_04_z 1995_pontiac_trans_am Hood_scoop 5/11

Data File 1995 Pontiac Trans Am
Owner: Carlos Saberbein
Block: LT1, 388 cid
Compression ratio: 12.0:1
Heads: Brodix SBC, 2.080 intake, 1.600 exhaust valves
Cam: Llyod Elliot hydraulic roller, 249/257 duration at .050, 0.573/0.573-inch lift, 107 LSA
Rocker Arms: Crower Enduro 1.6 ratio
Pistons: Diamond, forged
Rings: Total Seal
Crankshaft: Eagle 4340, forged
Rods: Eagle H-beam, forged
Throttle body: 58mm
Fuel injectors: 30 lb/hr
Fuel pump: Twin Walbro GS340, in-tank
Ignition: MSD Digital-6, MSD Opti-spark, NGK 7173
Engine management: Stock, tuned by Jim Moran of Speed Inc.
Power Adder: TNT Nitrous, 250 hp
Exhaust system: Kooks 13/4 to 17/8-inch long-tube headers, 3-inch X-pipe with 3-inch bullet mufflers
Transmission: TH400
Torque Converter: Ultimate Converter Concepts 4,500-stall
Driveshaft: Custom 3-inch, chrome-moly
Front suspension: QA1 coilovers, removed front sway bar, stock upper and UMI lower control arms, UMI tubular K-member, PA Racing spindles
Rear suspension: Strange DA shocks, stock springs, BMR lower control arms, Panhard bar, torque arm, Xtreme sway bar
Rearend: Moser 12-bolt, 4.10 gear, 33-spline axles, spool
Brakes: Strange front and rear
Wheels: Weld Alumastars 15x3.5 front, Centerline Convo Pro 15x10 rear
Front tires: M/T ET Front 27.5x4.5
Rear tires: M/T ET Drag 28x10.5
Fuel Octane: 117
Best ET/mph: 9.78/138
Best 60-ft. time: 1.29
Current mileage: 67,000

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