Due to the EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation, our website is currently unavailable to visitors from most European countries. We apologize for this inconvenience and encourage you to visit www.motortrend.com for the latest on new cars, car reviews and news, concept cars and auto show coverage, awards and much more.MOTORTREND.COM
Subscribe to the Free

2001 Pontiac Trans Am - A Lasting Impression

Christian Garcia's '01 Ws6 Was Born From A 30-Second Commercial, Now It Puts Down Over 545 Rwhp And Can Inspire Others To Do The Same

Justin Cesler Nov 5, 2010
View Full Gallery

Take a moment to think back to your very first memory of the LS1 Trans Am WS6. Go on, we'll wait. If you're anything like Christian Garcia and I, you're probably still daydreaming of that sweet Pontiac commercial, the one that launched the '98 WS6 by showing it creeping up to a red sports car at a traffic light, in the middle of the night and devouring it, leaving only its carcass behind once the light turned green. That ad, one of Pontiacs most memorable, has left a solid impression on many of us long-time GM High Tech enthusiasts, but for Christian it means something a little more.


"When I was in high school I remember watching that Trans Am commercial and I wanted that thing bad, but $30,000 was out of the question. My dad knew a guy who owned a salvage yard and one day we were over there looking at cars and I asked him if he had seen any come in." Unfortunately, he had not seen any wrecked WS6 cars, but he told Christian he would keep an eye out. "A year later I had completely forgotten about the car, when I received a phone call saying he had the car I was looking for." After asking all of the appropriate questions and finding out it was, unfortunately, an automatic, Christian hopped in his truck and drove over to see it in person. "The WS6 only had 8,300 miles and a woman had owned it-I thought, jackpot! The damage was in the back, it had broken glass in the rear and the taillights and bumper were hit. It was an easy fix."

With his low mileage WS6 back at his house, Christian got to work, first repairing the car's cosmetics and getting it back in running condition. "The car was great for stock, it met my needs for daily driving." Of course, you know what happened next. Christian began installing little bits and pieces, trying to add some power on a budget by installing an SLP air lid, a set of long-tube headers, and an exhaust. Happy with the new power and completely addicted to the LS1 engine, Christian began saving up for a set of LS6 cylinder heads and an LS6 camshaft, a combo that may seem a bit dated now, but it was once the bee's knees! Once installed and tuned, Christian started looking for something else to do, when he decided it was time to swap out the stock 4L60E automatic for the six-speed manual transmission he had always dreamed of, a decision that would later snowball into the car you see before you.


To fund his transmission swap, Christian pulled the stock automatic and torque converter and sold it to another enthusiast looking for a 4L60E. With the money from the sale and his own savings, Christian ordered a built six-speed from a company online and began to play the waiting game. Unfortunately, as weeks turned into months and months into almost half a year, Christian's mind began to wonder and his dreams of cruising around with a six-speed behind his heads/cam LS1 turned into something much more sinister. "Since the transmission was taking so long and I already had the motor almost out, I just went ahead and sold the motor so I could build a new one."

Although mechanically inclined, Christian decided to farm out his short-block build to none other than the world famous crew at Late Model Engines (LME) in Houston. After discussing his goals, LME got to work using an '06 LS2 block as the foundation of Christian's new bullet. Not content to keep with the stock 364 cubic inches, LME installed a new Callies Compstar 4-inch crankshaft, which would spin a set of 6.125-inch Callies H-beam rods and an octet of Wiseco forged pistons. This combo of parts brought the final displacement to 402 cubic inches and was set up by LME to make great power while being reliable. Almost complete, LME slid a custom-ground camshaft in place that Christian had selected and, with their end of the bargain complete, LME shipped the short-block to Christian where he began assembling the rest of the engine. Up above the bores Christian bolted on a pair of Trick Flow Specialties (TFS) 235cc CNC-ported cylinder heads to which he installed a set of Jesel Mohawk rocker arms. Taking care of the induction, Christian installed a new Tony Mamo-ported FAST 92mm intake manifold, which he topped with a 95mm Nick Williams throttle body, both of which he finish-ported by himself.


Around this time, Christian's transmission finally arrived, a unit that was filled with M12 (GTO/Z06) goodies, upgraded billet keys, steel shift forks, and carbon syncros. Christian mated his new transmission to his engine with a SPEC 3+ clutch and was almost ready to hit the mean streets of Sacramento, California. Actually, he had one more thing to do and that was to install the most eye-catching and brilliant part of this build: the narrowed rearend, big brakes, and killer wheels.

"My last two vehicles had wheels with a nice dish on them, I knew I wanted that on my WS6." As you may know, a nice lip on a truck is a bit easier to accomplish than on a Trans Am, so Christian knew he had to make some modifications to his stock rearend housing before continuing. But, rather than waste time with his 10-bolt, Christian turned instead to Moser Engineering, who built him a new 12-bolt, which they stuffed with a set of 4.10 gears and 33-spline axles. The trick here is that they also narrowed the rearend 2.5 inches on both sides, which would allow Christian to order custom wheels to fit his vision. With the new rearend in his garage, it was time to think about suspension and brakes, the latter of which truly set his car apart in a crowd. "Almost everything that UMI Performance makes for this car is installed on it," which includes a tubular K-member, full front and rear suspension, and a set of Koni adjustable shocks wrapped in Eibach springs. For stopping power, Christian chose to run a set of C6 Z06 brakes front and rear, which sounded simple enough. The fronts were easy, using a set of C6 Z06 rotors and UMI C5 Z06 brackets Christian was able to bolt everything up. Out back, he had to do some cutting and machining to the stock brackets, but was able to complete the install in a safe and clean manner. Over the brakes, Christian bolted on a set of 18x11.5 Boze Alloy wheels and finally set the car back on the ground.


With the help of his friend, Mark Roman, Christian spent the next couple of days getting the tuning right and driving his car around California after a long vacation from the street. On one of his first passes down the track, Christian ran an 11.34 at 129 mph, which really shows how much power his new combination makes on motor. "I would like to get the car to run in the 10s. I know the mile per hour is there and the 60-foot times aren't that bad for an 18-inch drag radial, but I was having trouble with the clutch and it wouldn't let me shift any higher than 6,400 rpm." Of course, Christian has already taken measures to rectify the transmission situation, tearing into it himself and making things right. "I never knew what I was missing, but the newly rebuilt transmission shifts much better than the old one." As we go to press, Christian hasn't been able to get to the track to nail down his 10-second pass but we're sure he will get it any day now.


"I would like to thank my girlfriend for putting up with all the late nights of the compressor turning on and having the impacts going and Mark Roman for the great job he did tuning my car." We, the staff of GMHTP, would like to thank Pontiac for building such an awesome car for enthusiasts to modify and for creating a commercial that still holds dear to every muscle car enthusiast's heart. It's amazing what you can do with a dream, a couple of tools and the vision to see a project through to the end.

Data File
Car: 2001 Pontiac Trans Am
Owner: Christian Garcia
Block: '06 LS2, 402 cid
Compression ratio: 11.75:1
Heads: TrickFlow 235cc, 2.08 intake, 1.60 exhaust valves
Cam: Comp Cams custom hydraulic roller, 247/251 duration, 0.624/0.624-inch lift, 114 LSA
Rocker arms: Jesel, 1.70-ratio
Pistons: Wiseco, forged
Rings: Total Seal
Crankshaft: Callies Compstar, forged
Rods: Callies Compstar, forged
Throttle body: Nick Williams, 95mm
Fuel injectors: 42 lb/hr
Fuel pump: Walbro 255-lph, in-tank
Ignition: Stock coil-near-plug, NGK TR55 plugs
Engine management: Stock PCM, tuned by Mark Roman
Exhaust system: Kooks 1 7/8-inch long-tube headers, 3-to-4-inch Y-pipe, 4-inch cutout, Billy Boat exhaust
Transmission: T56, built by the owner
Clutch: SPEC 3+
Driveshaft: 3.5-inch, aluminum
Front suspension: UMI Performance K-member, upper and lower control arms, Koni SA shocks, Eibach springs, Hotchkis swaybar
Rear suspension: UMI Performance torque arm, lower control arms, Panhard bar, custom subframe connectors, Koni SA shocks, Eibach springs
Rearend: Moser 12-bolt, 4.10 gear, 33-spline axles, Eaton differential
Brakes: C6 Z06 six-piston front, four-piston rear
Wheels: Boze Alloys 18x9 front, 18x11 rear
Front tires: Toyo 255/35/18
Rear tires: Toyo 315/35/18
Fuel octane: 91
HP/TQ: 545/471
Best ET/mph: 11.34/129
Best 60-ft. time: 1.59
Mileage: 47,500



Connect With Us

Get Latest News and Articles. Newsletter Sign Up

sponsored links

subscribe to the magazine

get digital get print