When Justin Gese of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, was 17 years old he had it all. At the center of his life was a car any teenager would love to be seen in, cruising the local hot spots. It was a 1986 Firebird with a pokey 2.8-liter V-6, but that didn't matter to Justin. What mattered was that it was different, just like Justin. It was a two-toned, burnt orange with a gold accent on the bottom half. Justin used the school's tech workshop and by the time he graduated high school he had installed a cat-back system and a banging new stereo with speakers and an amp. Justin and his dad had big plans to replace the tired, 120,000-mile V-6 with a stout V-8. That never materialized as Justin moved away to college and forgot about the plans to upgrade the ride as it was now a commuter and Justin never had the time to work on it.
As fate would have it, his ride was stolen right out from under him at school. The unscrupulous thieves trashed the car and the insurance company had no choice but to total it. Justin never knew what happened to the Firebird after the insurance company got a hold of it. He vowed to replace it one day and when Justin finally graduated college and got a well-paying job as a civil engineer, the time had come. Even as his friends all purchased high-dollar Corvettes and pressured him to follow suit, Justin just couldn't bring himself to be "that guy" and had to be different. He spent the next three months scouring the papers and the internet for that lovely shade of burnt orange that would make him stand out. The car Justin found on CarSoup.com had the perfect Sunset Orange paint and a leather interior. But that is just where the story begins, as Justin wasn't happy leaving a perfectly stock car "as-is" like he purchased it.
The car now sports a centrifugal blower from ProCharger pushing out a conservative 10-11 psi. Justin knows the stock LS1 long-block can handle the power, so he left well enough alone and called up Andy at DynoTune USA of Watertown, South Dakota, for a custom E85/Flex Fuel tune. The fuel pump was upgraded, due to the massive needs of the engine, with a single Walbro pump pushing 255 liters per hour of fuel. Fuel supply at the engine is handled by a set of Motron 60 lb/hr injectors, slipped into the stock LS6 intake manifold. Boost is chilled via a pair of 4.5-inch air-to-air intercoolers, while the blower breathes through a K&N air filter. The output of all those gasses is managed through TPiS 1.75-inch headers, then into a 3-inch stainless custom Y-pipe, and finally into a MagnaFlow catback system with a Dynomax bullet muffler. This combination allows the engine to create a tire-shredding 540 rear-wheel horsepower and a stump-pulling 480 lb/ft of torque.
Controlling all that power can be tricky; you can go all out and make the car handle like a slot-car, certainly compromising ride quality. Or you can go the route Justin did and have the best of both worlds. Ride quality wasn't going to suffer under Justin's watch as he changed out the front struts with KYB eight-way adjustable units and left in the stock control arms. He went straight to the back and began working with the Trans Am's weak point: rear end control. He installed a matching set of KYB shocks and Spohn chromoly lower control arms. UMI provided an adjustable torque arm and a set of three-point subframe connectors. Finally, the rearend was beefed up with a Motive 3.73 gearset, TA Performance differential cover, and stud kit for pinion support. The Trans Am features Ruff Racing 278 rims sized at 18x8.5 in the front and 18x9.5 in the rear. The fronts are wrapped in 255/40/18 BFG G-Force T/A KDW rubber, with the rears in 295/35/18 Kumho Ecsta MX tires. Rowing through a stock T56 with a Hurst shifter coupled to a UMI short stick and Centerforce Dual Friction clutch, the TA runs a best of 11.93 at 125 mph with a traction-limited 1.97 60-foot time.
The styling is ideal and needed little to make it flawless. The side moldings were removed while a Collector's Edition Trans Am WS6 badge and taillight centersection were added. Charcoal leather adorns the interior, and the Interceptor Scan gauge and Zeitronix LCD are the only clues as to the WS6's enhanced performance. Fuel pressure, boost, and air/fuel ratio are closely monitored using this instrumentation. Justin's aim was to have a car that could make a road trip or two; drive the six hours to the track, rip off an 11-second e.t. and then drive it the full six hours back, all in one piece. Accomplishing these tasks has helped Justin move past the old '86 that was destroyed by bandits while also expressing his passion via this awesome custom-built ride. He owes a big thanks to his cousin Jesse Gese who aided in the transformation process. Who knows whatever could have become of the old '86 Firebird, perhaps it could have been as killer as the one he's built now, but the chances of that are pretty slim. Hopefully this time a band of modern-day horse-thieves won't nab his prized, ground-pounding possession. Justin, you installed LoJack, right?
Car: 2001 Pontiac Trans Am WS6
Owner: Justin Gese
Block: Stock LS1
Compression ratio: 10.1:1
Cam: Stock hydraulic roller, 196/207 duration at 0.050, 0.466/0.477-inch lift, 116 LSA
Rocker arms: Stock, 1.7 ratio
Pistons: Stock, hypereutectic
Crankshaft: Stock, nodular iron
Rods: Stock, powdered metal
Throttle body: Ported stock
Intake: Stock LS6
Fuel injectors: Motron 60 lb/hr
Fuel pump: Walbro 225 lph with Kenne Bell Boost-A-Pump
Ignition: Stock coil-near-plug, TPiS wires, NGK TR6 plugs
Engine management: Stock, tuned by Andy Wicks/Dynotune USA
Power-adder: ProCharger D-1SC
Boost: 10 psi
Intercooler: Twin 4.5-inch air-to-air
Exhaust system: TPiS 1.75-inch long-tube headers, 3-inch Y-pipe, Dynomax bullet muffler
Transmission: Stock T56
Clutch: Centerforce Dual Friction
Driveshaft: Stock with Spohn Safety Loop
Front suspension: Stock control arms, springs, sway bar, KYB struts
Rear suspension: KYB shocks, UMI torque arm, Spohn chromoly lower control arms and Panhard bar
Rearend: Stock GM 10-bolt, 3.73 gear, stock axles, posi
Wheels: Ruff Racing 278 18x8.5 front, 18x9.5 rear.
Front tires: BFG G-Force T/A KDW 255/40/18
Rear tires: Kumho Ecsta MX 295/35/18
Fuel octane: 105(E85)/91
Race weight: 3,960
Best ET/mph: 11.93/125
Best 60-ft. time: 1.97
Current mileage: 37,000