1997 Trans-Am WS6 Convertible - Light ’Em Up

700-plus RWHP is more than enough to melt the tires off this boosted, drop-top LT1

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Owning a hot rod is often a journey filled with road blocks and creative solutions, especially one as high-powered as Brian DeLuca's '97 Trans Am WS6 convertible. Purchased new, by his father, Brian inherited the car after helping his father care for it over the prior four years and 20,000 miles. When simply washing and waxing the car was no longer enough to satiate Brian's interest in the WS6 he began tinkering with the usual components-muffler, short-throw shifter, throttle body and even nitrous. By his senior year of engineering school at Rutgers University he also had Edelbrock heads, a CC306 cam, Cartek tune, Strange S60 and beefy clutch. Daily driving the car from the New Brunswick, New Jersey campus to his home in Piscataway could be quite entertaining with 380-rwhp on tap (and another 100 hp of nitrous). But eventually Brian had decided that he wanted boost for full access to his horsepower. Unfortunately at this point, Brian knew he could not afford to do it the right way and following the wisdom of his wife-he got creative.

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Brian developed a true bi-xenon projector headlight kit for the 1998-2002 Firebird based off the design he made for his own car, and started Blackbird Lighting Solutions. Anyone who has driven a fourth-gen knows how terrible the headlights are, no matter which bulbs you use. Brian says, "While one-off setups have been created, many of them appeared a bit unfinished-typically leaving the projector lens naked to the elements. Others installed HID kits installed in sealed beam conversion housings, which put out a lot of light but glare was always a major concern." Enter Brian and his engineering background that was put to good use in developing a totally plug and play kit. After having sold enough of his '98-'02 Xenon kit (and later a '93-'97 kit and H6024 conversion), Brian finally had enough money to build his dream, but of course that was only half the adventure.

Lucky to have made plenty of friends in the New Jersey F-body Owners Association, Brian enlisted the help of his buddies to put his stockpile of parts to work. Starting with the heart of the operation, Brian had the LT1 block cleaned, blueprinted, and machined by Fonse Performance to accept a longer stroke crank and splayed 4-bolt main caps. Back in his garage the .030 over bore was treated to JE forged pistons built for boost with a -31cc dish connected to Callies Compstar 5.7-inch forged rods. The fresh bearings wrapped around a Callies Dragonslayer crankshaft to handle the abuse of a supercharger, which was secured (as was the rest of the motor) by ARP hardware. A Melling oil pump and Moroso 5.5-quart pan would keep the LS7 lifters and other moving parts lubricated, and minimize windage. The top-end work is owed to Lloyd Elliot who prepared a set of TrickFlow 21-degree 208cc LT1 heads, adding Patriot Gold springs and Manley valves, and ported the factory intake manifold to match. With one of Lloyd's signature cams adding 223-degrees of intake duration and 236-degrees to get the boosted mix out in a hurry, this bullet is certainly capable of handling pressure.

After building his first motor Brian wasn't shy about bolting up a ProCharger F1-A and custom ATI 12-rib pulley setup before dropping the motor into his Firebird. But of course he would need a few more pieces of the puzzle to support the sort of boost the F1-A was capable, chief among them was an EFI Connection 24x LS1 PCM conversion for optimum drive-ability. Using the LS2 coils and MAF, the kit would provide plenty of spark while keeping track of the incoming air, and allow him to choose from a plethora of good tuners in the New Jersey area. Ultimately he decided on Race Proven Motorsports in Delaware to dial in the beast with 15psi coming through ProCharger's twin 3.5-inch intercoolers. Siemens 80 lb/hr injectors fuel the beast with a Lonnies Double Pumper setup, Aeromotive regulator and Snow Performance Stage 2 methanol injection kit. Tuning was one of the few tasks that Brian actually chose to farm out, the other being the exhaust system. Mufflex was hired to build a Y-pipe for the LaMonte Performance stepped long-tube headers that would transition to 4-inch tubing and a Magnaflow bullet muffler. Fortifying of the transmission was left up to the experts at Tick Performance that brought the T56 up to Level 3 specs and sent along an adjustable master cylinder. Once paired with a McLeod Street Twin clutch and 3-inch chrome moly driveshaft, there wasn't a weak link in the driveline.

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The chassis is also well-outfitted for a streetcar, thanks to Brian and company. A Wolfe 6-point roll bar is a necessary upgrade given its 709-rear wheel horsepower, which may not be up to NHRA spec should he chose to best his previous 11.73 with nitrous and a stock bottom-end. But it certainly adds some necessary rigidity to the chassis along with Kenny Brown double diamond subframe connectors. UMI keeps the rear end under control with a 22mm sway bar, lower control arms and torque arm. The front suspension and brakes are stock at the moment, but Brian says he plans to throw on some LS1 brakes he has in his garage here soon. Though the 18-inch American Racing wheels afford some substantially sized BFG rubber, it is no match for the speed the WS6 is capable.

With the eye of an engineer, you can bet there are plenty more modifications than we can afford to list here and plenty more great stories that we'd like to share, such as how Brian almost lost his finger dropping out the old motor or the lengths he went to retrofit a BBC crank hub from ATI. The custom laser-etched items have to be seen to be appreciated, and we won't even get into how amazing the factory paint looks. Clearly Brian has spent some time at car shows, and between the TA and his G8 GT you can bet he'll be going to plenty more. That is the life of a true enthusiast, destined to create many fond memories revolving around four-wheel dreams. None of which would have been capable without creativity, resourcefulness and the strong desire to push the limits-whether personal or mechanical.

Data File

Car: 1997 Trans Am WS6 Convertible
Owner: Brian DeLuca
Block: LT1, 383cid
Compression ratio: 9.2:1
Heads: TrickFlow 21-degree LT1, 2.05 intake valves, 1.60 exhaust valves
Cam: Lloyd Elliot custom hydraulic roller, 223/236 duration at .050, .565/.592-inch lift, 115 LSA
Rocker arms: Comp Cams, 1.6-ratio
Pistons: JE, forged
Rings: Total Seal, gapless
Crankshaft: Callies, forged
Rods: Callies Compstar, forged
Throttle body: AS&M 58mm
Fuel injectors: Siemens 80 lb/hr
Fuel pump: Lonnies twin 255 lph in-tank
Ignition: LS1 coil-near-plug, AC Delco R42LTS plugs
Engine management: EFI Connection LS1 PCM, tuned by Race Proven Motorsports
Power Adder: ProCharger F-1A supercharger
Bypass Valve: ProCharger race
Intercooler: ProCharger 3.5-inch twin air-to-air
Exhaust system: LPP 1-3/4-to-1-7/8-inch long-tube headers, Mufflex 4-inch exhaust, Magnaflow bullet muffler
Transmission: T56, built by Tick Performance
Clutch: McLeod Street Twin
Driveshaft: 3-inch, chromoly
Front suspension: stock springs, shocks, control arms, sway bar
Rear suspension: QA1 shocks, UMI sway bar, torque arm, lower control arms, Kenny Brown subframe connectors, RK Sport Panhard bar, stock springs
Rear end: Strange S60, 3.73 gear, Strange 35-spline axles, True Trac
Brakes: Stock
Wheels: American Racing Torq Thrust II 18x8 front, 18x10 rear
Front tires: BFG KDW2 245/40/18
Rear tires: BFG KDW2 295/35/18
Fuel: 93-octane (pump) + methanol injection
Best 60-ft: 1.78
ET/MPH: 11.73/120
RWHP/RWTQ: 709/616
Current Mileage: 75,431

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