Riddle me this, dear reader. What does building a magazine quality late-model GTO and flying a commercial airliner have in common? First, lets start with the weight. No, I kid. The most obvious similarity may actually be time, as becoming a successful airline pilot takes thousands of hours and years worth of work to accomplish. Building an ’04 GTO into a jaw-dropping muscle car probably takes the same amount of time because, let’s face it, they didn’t exactly ship from the factory wearing the prettiest attire. In fact, it’s probably never been said that the GTO was a particularly good-looking vehicle, albeit one that isn’t ugly either. They are just, well, bland. But for everything that a stock GTO gives up in looks, they more than make up for in function. The GTO has, according to Alek Zvonaryov, a “European quality interior, a big engine, and rear-wheel drive. It is a great cruiser and sports car at the same time” and unlike Alek’s other cars, “it is easy to maintain.” And that means a lot coming from a guy who has owned BMW M5s and Corvette Z06s.
“While attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, I fell in love with American muscle. My roommate owned a Trans Am. The sound alone made me want a muscle car.” After extensive research, Alek began to fall in love with the 2004 model GTO and once he finally decided he wanted one, it didn’t take long to locate a mint 300-mile Goat, although it was located all the way in Minnesota. “My dad and I flew out there to pick it up and drove back together to New York, which is where he lives. I then drove it down to Daytona Beach.” And you know what happened next. “I joined up with the college’s muscle car club soon after. Modding began very soon after that.” And while it began slow, just a set of wheels here and a bolt-on there, it didn’t take long for Alek to start tearing into the engine, even though he had never worked on an LS engine, or any engine for that matter, before. “My first real mod was a Thunder Racing TR224 camshaft and Stainless Works long-tube headers. The first start-up was nerve wracking and successful.” To say Alek jumped in headfirst would be an understatement. Of course, like everything else in this game, the power eventually wasn’t enough and Alek started to get bored with his dream ride. So bored, in fact, that he actually took the GTO completely back to stock and tried to sell it. Only, his dad (best dad ever!) talked him out of it and, as Alek tells it, “I’m glad I listened.”
Now it was time to dig deep, and Alek began with a supercharger and a new camshaft, only to regret that decision and attempt to sell the GTO again. Enter dad, problem solved, and Alek was back to the drawing board, this time attempting to go “all motor” with his Goat. In a twist of fate, Alek located a 2011 GM LS3 engine, which had been assembled by the crew at Scoggin Dickey Parts Center for an employee of the shop. While the internals were essentially all stock LS3 pieces, the block had been line honed and machined on a torque plate before being put together. So, Alek bought the engine, sold his stock LS1 and supercharger, and dropped it in the Goat. The extra cubes were complimented by a set of AFR cylinder heads, another new camshaft and a Vengeance Racing ported FAST LSXR intake manifold. “The car made 501-rwhp and 462 lb-ft of torque. I drove it that way for about 6 months and started to get bored and annoyed with how loud it was.” Interested in the best way to quite down a loud GTO?