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Cruising Altitude - 2004 Pontiac GTO

Seatbelts Fastened as We Delve Deep into Alek Zvonaryov’s Twin-Turbo, Matte White ’04 GTO

Justin Cesler Dec 12, 2012
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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.

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“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.”

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“It is extremely fast. I have yet to get used to the power.”

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?

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Twin Turbos. Yep, that’s how Alek decided to solve his noise problem and, truth be told, his boredom too. “I happened to run across a great deal on a slightly used APS kit. I purchased it and sold off all of my performance parts and bought all new stock parts. Money wise, it ended up being a wash.” Those stock parts included a set of LS9 head gaskets, fresh LS3 cylinder heads, and an LS9 camshaft to round out the combination, which all work together perfectly on the now boosted mill. Long gone are the long-tube headers, replaced instead with a set of APS cast iron turbo manifolds that feed exhaust to the Mitsubishi 20G turbochargers. It’s a relatively simple combination, but thanks to a well thought out plan and some quality tuning from Mike Carnahan at Vengeance PCM, the GTO lays down 610-rwhp and 578 lb-ft of torque, which is stout for an essentially stock LS3 with 5 pounds of boost on top of it. “Now the car is fairly quiet with a deep rumble. It is extremely fast. I have yet to get used to the power.” And here you thought Alek would never find a combination he liked!

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With the engine complete, it was time to turn his attention to other things, mainly getting people to turn their attention to him. “Six years of yellow was too long.” That’s right, this GTO used to rock out with a bright Yellow Jacket paint job, which was just too much for Alek after all of this time. “I almost went Army Green, but changed my mind at the last minute.” What you see instead is three glorious coats of PPG Audi white covered in PPG Matte clear, which was meticulously sprayed on by the pros at Jenkins Auto Body in Atlanta, Georgia. And if you can’t tell from the pictures, the job was performed almost flawlessly. The color covers the Banshee hood and stock front fenders perfectly and is offset with just the right amount of black accents found throughout the GTO. Out back, the Porsche exhaust tips catch just enough attention and mix perfectly with the custom Porsche inspired “Twin Turbo” emblem and Monaro VX taillights. Over the blacked out 19-inch BMW M6 replica wheels, there is no mistaking this GTO for any other. It is, after years of hard work, a truly gorgeous machine. And for a guy who managed to build this steller GTO while working his way to flying commercial airliners from nothing, you better believe we’re impressed by what Alek has accomplished. It’s not every day you see a killer GTO like this, let alone one that was built by the owner, learning how to make everything work as he went. Think about that the next time you’re flying across the country, your pilot may be a GMHTP reader too, and then you will know you’re in good hands.

Data File

Car: 2004 Pontiac GTO
Owner: Alek Zvonaryov
Block: LS3, 376cid
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Heads: LS3, 2.16 intake, 1.60 exhaust valves
Cam: GM LS9, 211/230 duration at .050, .562/.558 lift, 122.5 LSA
Rocker arms: Stock GM LS3, 1.7:1-ratio
Pistons: Stock, hypereutectic
Rings: Stock
Crankshaft: Stock, nodular iron
Rods: Stock, powdered metal
Throttle body: Nick Williams 90mm
Fuel injectors: 60 lb/hr
Fuel pump: Stock in-tank, Deutschwerks DW300 in-line
Ignition: Stock, coil-near-plug
Engine management: Stock, tuned by Mike Carnahan at Vengeance PCM
Exhaust system: APS cast turbo manifolds, dual 3-inch downpipes, 2.5-inch Magnaflow mufflers
Turbocharger: Twin Mitsubishi TD-06 20G
Wastegate: Tial 44mm
Blow Off Valve: APS
Transmission: T56, built by Rockland Standard Gear
Clutch: Monster Stage 2
Driveshaft: Stock 2-piece
Front suspension: BC Racing coilovers, Lovells radius rod bushings, stock upper and lower control arms
Rear suspension: BC Racing shocks, springs, SLP Performance sway bar, stock upper and lower control arms
Rear end: Stock IRS, axles, 3.46 gear, posi
Brakes: Brembo 4-piston front, stock rear
Wheels: BMW M6 replica 19x8.5 front, 19x9.5 rear
Front tires: Nitto Invo 245/35/19
Rear tires: Nitto Invo 275/30/19
Fuel: 93-octane
Mileage: 85,000
HP/TQ: 610/578



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