1986 Pontiac Trans Am - 3rd Gen's A Charm

Rob Spremulli takes the hands-on approach, making his road-find '86 T/A into a slick, Turbocharged, 11-second street sinner and show winner

Andrew Nussbaum Mar 14, 2014 0 Comment(s)
View Full Gallery

The word generation is often used when referring to people, names or recurring trends that trace their origins to a common line of descent. In the case of Rob Spremulli, a 28-year-old CNC technician from Suffield, CT., the term intersects and culminates into his awesome 3rd-generation Firebird Trans Am.

Back in the fall of 2002, Rob was a teenager in search of his first freedom-inducing-ride. With his dad Robert on board, Young Rob had his heart set on an American icon, the Pontiac Firebird.

Robert Sr. had the pleasure of owning a 2nd-generation, Cameo White with Tyrol Blue stripe, '71 455cid, 4-speed T/A back in the day. He would now pass on that experience and pride of Pontiac ownership to his son.

Originally looking at a '92 V-6 Firebird, the rough example prompted father and son to pass. On the drive home, destiny presented itself as an '86 ‘Bird was nesting on the side of the road with a for sale sign in the window.

1986 Pontiac Trans Am 2/9

The T/A was re-sprayed white with a grey/black cloth interior and its original Auto/305 TPI motor showing 106k miles on the clock; for $2200 the deal was done, and Rob took the running-driving bird home to begin his journey.

Rob cruised his stock T/A until he graduated from high school, when yearning for more power and a budding technical prowess lead the way to multiple modifications.

Doing the work himself, Rob yanked out the tired 305, installing an iron block 350ci. mill equipped with aftermarket heads, a big cam, and a custom fabricated mini-ram fuel injection kit. Rob admits only taking a couple of shop classes in HS, being completely self-taught as his project ‘Bird evolved.

Through much trial and tribulation, the 350 setup provided nothing but headaches, as Rob could never dial-in the performance, even listing the T/A for sale when frustration overcame him. Once again, destiny intervened when Rob realized he couldn't part with his Bird.

1986 Pontiac Trans Am Front 3/9

In 2006, another generational influence took place when Rob acquired an awesome '00 black on black 6-speed SLP Firehawk T/A. He loved the 4th-Gen's LS1 power, handling characteristics, and improved build quality. After only a year, finances dictated the sale of the Firehawk, but not without leaving a powerful and lasting impression.

A year later, Rob says, "I went off the deep end." After almost selling the '86, hedecided to take it off the road to fly around in his LS1 Firehawk, he was now determined to follow a path that would ultimately lead his 3rd-Gen to greatness.

He began the four-year labor of love by ripping the troublesome 350 from the engine bay and parting it out. Those funds were used to purchase the new heart of his phoenix, a 5.3L/LM7 truck motor from an '05 Chevy Tahoe and a T56 six-speed from a 4th Gen Camaro.

The 5.3L retains its stock internals, and benefits from an LS6 C5 Corvette camshaft with a 204/218 duration at .050, a .551/547-inch lift, and street friendly 117 LSA.

Adorning the new block are GM 317 6.0L aluminum truck heads, pulling air into their larger combustion chambers, through a Spectre air filter, stainless steel intake piping, and a FAST 78mm throttle body.

Fuel flows via 60-lb injectors guzzling from twin Walbro 255LPH pumps, operating at 58 psi.

Rob had long dreamed of a force-fed V-8, and wanted to achieve this by way of a turbo, thus he purchased a MIG welder, a used turbocharger, and all necessary parts to put it together. After learning how to weld during the install, the pre-owned turbo failed, and was sent off to the manufacturer for a full rebuild.

1986 Pontiac Trans Am J And M 4/9

The final custom-fit and fabricated system includes a Turbonetics T76 ball bearing turbocharger making 11-lbs. of boost with a Tial 50mm blow-off valve, MV-R 44mm wastegate, and a CX Racing intercooler with 2.5-3.0-inch custom fabricated stainless steel hot/cold side piping.

Exhaust gases are expelled through the stock LM7 manifolds –now mounted facing forward to mate up with the turbo's 3.5-inch downpipe leading into the piping and a single Borla XR-1 muffler.

Lighting the ‘Bird's fire is an MSD 2-step launch control box, connected to the stock coil-packs, pulling spark from NGK BR7EF plugs and stock wires.

Controlling vehicle functions is a custom HP-tuned, 4th-Gen F-body PCM, programmed with a 2-bar map speed density tune for proper Turbocharger operation.

Moving through the drivetrain, the aforementioned T56 went kaput after a mid-build test-drive refusing to engage gears. Rob sought the assistance of his friend, co-worker and tranny-guy Mark Vasseur, in rebuilding the six-speed to Viper-spec with upgraded parts; including a Textralia clutch and flywheel, a 4th-Gen LS1 aluminum driveshaft, and an MGW shifter.




Connect With Us

Get Latest News and Articles. Newsletter Sign Up

subscribe to the magazine

get digital get print