Given that this feature centers around a successful female racer, one could probably waste a couple of paragraphs going on about women in drag racing or how women like Ashley Force Hood, Melanie Troxel, or Shirley Muldowney have spent years clearing the way for such racers. But we're not going to do any of that. You see, this feature isn't just about a woman who races; it is about a badass named Melissa Fiorello and the killer 10-second GTO she drives. And no, she doesn't just meander down the track on test and tune nights. Melissa actively bracket races her '04 GTO in several different series with a fair amount of success. Melissa has raced with Pinks All Out, the NSCA, and even qualified #1 at the Buckeye State Nationals. Still not impressed? How about the fact that Melissa was the first bolt-on LS1 GTO to break into the 11s and she now currently runs 10.89 at 122 mph using a pair of ported (243 casting) LS6 heads and a mild camshaft. Yeah, we told you Melissa was a badass.
"I strongly believe that in order to race a car well, you must first understand how it works. The best way to do that is by getting my hands dirty and cut up while wrenching on it side by side with Al. I may get a lot of broken nails and busted knuckles, but gaining the knowledge in return is well worth the sacrifice." And sacrifice she has. Believe it or not this GTO started out as a bone stock zero mile car, which Melissa found at a dealer after outgrowing her old '98 Grand Prix GTP. "Coming from a V-6, supercharged car, I didn't have many comparable options. Mustang? Nope. Vette? No way. GTO? Hmmm ... I wasn't too sure how I felt about the new incarnation of the Goat, but my husband suggested I consider it, and the rest is history."
And while Melissa's GTO has seen years worth of progress, the most interesting setup is the current one, which through careful modification has rocketed her GTO consistently into the 10-second zone. In reality, Melissa uses a fairly simple combination, with all of the hard breathing modifications sitting atop a stock LS1 short-block sans the stock camshaft, which has been replaced by a top-secret custom hydraulic roller. In fact, even the 243-casting cylinder heads are from GM, although they were ported and polished by Kaltech Tuning and Performance in Setauket, New York, prior to Melissa and Al bolting them onto the engine. Sitting atop the heads is a ported FAST 92mm intake manifold stuffed with eight 48-lb/hr injectors, which breathes through a 90mm Nick Williams throttle body and a Svede cold-air intake. No MAF here, Melissa and Kaltech Tuning ditched it to run the stock PCM in speed density mode, which makes the car deadly consistent on the track. After combustion, the spent gasses travel out a pair of Kooks 1 7/8-inch long-tube headers into a custom Mufflex-built 3-inch true dual exhaust system and directly out the back of her Torrid Red GTO.
Expecting some sort of exotic power-adder or another page worth of pricey modifications? You won't find it here, it seems Melissa doesn't need any more horsepower to run the number. And if you were impressed by the stock short-block you will be glad to know that Melissa still runs the stock 4L60E automatic transmission, which is spun by a Circle D Specialties 4C Plus torque converter and cooled by a Derale transmission cooler. As Melissa leaves the line, power is sent down a Drive Shaft Shop one-piece driveshaft to a-you guessed it-stock IRS housing that has had the stock gears exchanged for a much more aggressive Difftech 3.91 ring and pinion. The only other fortifying modifications are a pair of '05 GTO axles, which were upgraded with G-Force billet cages. For traction, Melissa relies upon a pair of 28x10.5 Hoosier slicks, which are wrapped around two 15x8 Holeshot wheels.
Of course, 1.44 60-foot times with stock factory suspension would be almost impossible to do, so Melissa and Al have spent some considerable time making sure that the GTO doesn't have any flex in any of the wrong places. Starting in the rear, Melissa installed a plethora of Pedders bushings, which are complemented by a pair of Pedders drag springs wrapped in a matching pair of shocks. Up front, Melissa uses a pair of Pedders 90/10 Drag shocks wrapped in stock springs, which allow her just enough travel and weight transfer to get a couple inches of air under each of the front 15x4.5 Holeshot wheels, a truly impressive display on an IRS-equipped, stock bottom end, naturally aspirated 346-cubic-inch LS1. And if that isn't enough to get you going, we recommend you look really close at the front end of Melissa's GTO. Besides the obvious custom 3-inch cowl hood and bright-red paint lies a much more subtle modification, a set of hand laid ghost flames done by Twin County Collision in Patterson, New York. Of course, like everything else on her GTO, Melissa even spent time working on the hood herself, helping the crew at Twin County sand everything down before heading into the paint booth.
"Between the Pedders suspension, the tuning by Kaltech, and the countless hours of trial and error that Al and I have put into this car, it's no wonder it just works so well. There are only a few people that can lift the wheels in an IRS GTO, I am proud to be among them. My greatest accomplishment to date with my car has been breaking the record as the first LS1 GTO to break 11s with just bolt-ons, which we did on March 22, 2008 at Englishtown. A year later, I am now the second fastest naturally aspirated LS1 GTO in the Northeast, running 10s with stock bottom end, heads and cam setup." Now, the only question left is what's next? Melissa didn't say, but we're sure she plans on staying in the winner's circle and we don't doubt she will have some more surprises in the next couple of seasons!
Car: 2004 Pontiac GTO
Owner: Melissa Fiorello
Block: LS1, 346 cid
Compression ratio: 10.2:1
Heads: LS6, ported by Kaltech Tuning and Performance, 2.00 intake, 1.50 exhaust valves
Cam: Custom hydraulic roller, 230/240 duration at 0.050
Rocker arms: Stock, 1.7 ratio
Pistons: Stock, hypereutectic
Crankshaft: Stock, nodular iron
Rods: Stock, powdered metal
Throttle body: Nick Williams 90mm
Fuel injectors: 48 lb/hr
Fuel pump: Stock
Ignition: Stock coil-near-plug
Engine management: Stock, tuned by Brian Kallmeyer/Kaltech Tuning and Performance
Exhaust system: Kooks 1 7/8 long-tube headers, 3-inch custom X-pipe, 3-inch Dynomax mufflers
Transmission: 4L60E Torque Converter: Circle D Specialties 4,000-stall
Driveshaft: Drive Shaft Shop one-piece, aluminum
Front suspension: Pedders 90/10 shocks, stock springs, control arms, removed sway bar
Rear suspension: Pedders shocks, Drag springs, Rocksand Racing modified control arms, stock sway bar
Rearend: Stock IRS, Difftech 3.91 gear, Detroit TrueTrac posi, '05 GTO axles with GForce billet cages
Brakes: DBA rotors, stock calipers front and rear
Wheels: Holeshot 15x4.5 front, 15x8 rear
Front tires: Hoosier 15x4.5
Rear tires: Hoosier radial slicks 28x10.5
Fuel Octane: 93
Current mileage: 24,000
Best ET/MPH: 10.89/122.7
Best 60-ft time: 1.44