The year is 2010, and now that even the newest versions of the fourth generation F-bodies are approaching a decade old, the popularity of these cars has never been higher. Originally favored because the later model years were infused with LS1 power at half of the price of the then-new C5 Corvettes, one can now find ’01-’02 SS Camaros and WS6 Trans Ams for as little as $7,500 if you know how to shop and know where to look. But that’s a story for another time.
With LS1 F-cars more affordable now than ever, gear-heads are buying them up and not hesitating to customize them to their taste in performance and style. In this two-part article we are going to share with you ten of the hottest boosted LS-powered F-bodies we could get our hands on. Though there may be faster and more extreme cars than these out there, these rides represent what the average guy can build in his garage, over time, as budgets allow.
Ray Litz – 2002 Trans Am
We caught up with Ray at this year’s inaugural Holley LS Fest, and he was more than happy to share his story with us. Ray’s story begins in October, 2002, after he purchased his silver Trans Am brand new from a local dealership. Though the car came from the factory as a standard, non-WS6 Trans Am with an automatic transmission, it only took a few weeks for Ray to let the modifications begin. Like most people, he started out with a clear air lid and a catback exhaust system.
- Displacement: 427 CI
- Power Adder: 91mm Turbo
- ET: 8.26 @ 167
- 60-foot: 1.28
Living in the Midwest comes with the inconvenience of having snow on the ground almost 6 months out of the year, and after having it parked for the winter, it became apparent to Ray that his car was not as fast as he wanted it to be. Once spring hit, he added a NOS dry kit and then modified the kit into a two-stage system himself. After this was complete, this began what Ray refers to as “a slippery slope” to its current configuration.
Ray’s Trans Am would inevitably go through numerous different engine and nitrous combinations over the course of the next several years, eventually ending up as the monster it is today. Ray even lays claim to being the first with a trans-braked 4L60E. His T/A is currently packing a Kurt Urban-assembled ERL 427 cubic inch LS1, treated with Weisco pistons, TEA heads, and a custom hydraulic roller camshaft of undisclosed specifications.
However, Ray wasn’t interested in a naturally-aspirated build. Instead, he decided to add a cherry to his cake by fitting Shearer Fabrication’s 91mm tubular turbo kit to his 427, backed with a Rossler-built Powerglide transmission. The boost in this ferocious monster is rated at 20psi and is controlled by an AMS 1000 boost controller. Ray is basically a one-man tuner, builder and race team, as he proudly does everything on his own. Ray is also laying claim to be the quickest and the fastest F-body using the factory PCM.
In July of this year, Ray had his car back up and running after several months of tweaking and tuning and started index racing his Trans Am. He has made five index events; four of them being 8.90, while the fifth being a 9.0. Ray was the number one qualifier four out of the five and was only .004 from being first at the fifth. He has managed to win two of the events, one being Norwalk Raceway’s “Friday Night Chaos Street Assassin,” and the other being the “Motor City Rumble” at Milan, while landing in the semi-finals of the others.
Ray’s silver bullet is super consistent too, as he constantly lays down quarter mile times in the 8.28-8.30 range with trap speeds of 166-167 MPH and short times in the 1.28-1.33 bracket. Keep an out for Ray and his silver Trans Am in the future, as I’m sure he has more in store for everyone!
Jonathan Roberts – 2002 Camaro SS
This next car comes to you straight out of Houston, Texas. It’s owned by Jonathan Roberts, and though its mod list is quite extensive, this car is another example of what this article is all about. Originally an automatic-equipped 2002 Camaro SS, Jonathan was fortunate enough to pick this car up brand new, before GM pulled the plug on the F-bodies. You see, Jonathan was still a full-time college student at Sam Houston State when he purchased his Camaro. It was his daily driver and only mode of transportation for many years, racking up a ton of miles as he drove from Houston to Huntsville every day.
- Displacement: 402CI
- Power Adder: APS Twin Turbo Kit with Snow Performance Methanol/Water Injection
- Horsepower: 666 (Stock LS1 with nitrous), 1004 (402 with turbos)
- Top Speed: 203.2 MPH (Texas Mile, Spring 2010)
Jonathan couldn’t be bothered by his car’s current mileage though, and for good reason. Once he graduated from school with a degree in Construction Management, Jonathan was able to purchase himself a new truck, thus retiring his treasured Camaro from daily driver duties. Once he had done this, he made a vow to never sell the car, and took it upon himself to personalize his Camaro to meet his taste in speed and style.
About a year after retiring his Camaro from the daily grind, Jonathan decided to swap out the 4L60E and convert to a T56. Shortly after the manual transmission installation was complete, he took it upon himself to upgrade the Camaro with a heads/cam package and a NOS 125hp nitrous kit. This resulted in 666 (nice number, huh?) rear wheel horsepower.
Jonathan had fun with his newfound power for awhile, as he put it on display at sanctioned and unsanctioned drag events, laying waste to imports and other muscle cars alike. The only downer was that the factory 10 bolt wasn’t having as much fun as Jonathan, and after the third one broke, he decided to get serious. A call to Houston’s Late Model Racecraft was made, and the Camaro was in store for rejuvenation.
Starting with the obvious, the broken 10-bolt rear end was replaced with a Moser 12-bolt with 3.42 gears, and the T-56 was fortified with G-Force internal gear set and an RPS twin disc, carbon-on-carbon clutch. Connecting the tranny to the rear axle is a chromoly driveshaft, courtesy of The Driveshaft Shop. After what was in store for this Camaro, the drivetrain was going to need all of the reinforcements it could get.
No longer satisfied with his head/cam/nitrous combo, Jonathan decided to pull the built LS1 in favor of a stroked 402, with a couple of turbos thrown on. Starting with an 8.5:1 compression ratio and a forged bottom end, the guys at LMR installed a set of CNC-ported Trick Flow 245 cylinder heads along with a custom grind camshaft of their own specifications. A FAST 92mm LSX intake was placed on top of the fresh 402, along with an APS twin-turbo kit and intercooler, and a Snow Performance methanol/water injection kit. A Meziere electric water pump and a Ron Davis custom radiator are called upon for cooling duties.
Also on the modification list is a complete APS fuel system, along with two Kenne-Bell Boost-A-Pump harnesses to help fuel the twin-turbocharged mill. Exhaust duties are handled by way of a set of custom turbo manifolds, 3-inch Y-pipe and a Borla tunable exhaust. All exhaust components, including the turbo housings, have been ceramic-coated to help keep temps down.
Jonathan relies on a complete Baer C5 brake upgrade kit with Eradispeed rotors to stop the 4100 pound beast, and suspension components from QA1, Eibach, BMR, and Hotchkis to help keep his car planted to the ground on the drag strip, as well as in the corners.
Jonathan loves entering his car in Texas Mile events, and he also enjoys participating in the annual Houston vs. Dallas shootout street meet and race event held in Dallas and hosted by 701hp.com. This is definitely a multi-purpose car with the great looks to match!
Andy Essary – 2002 WS6 Trans Am
Up next is Andy Essary, who also happens to be the owner of one of the fastest recorded LS cars in existence! Though his car sort of pushes the envelope of a “real world boosted F-body,” we had a hard time ignoring this car when we first saw it at the LS Fest, not to mention the fact that he occasionally drives it on the street!
- Displacement: 427CI
- Power Adder: Twin 76mm Precision Turbo T4
- Horsepower: 2,000 (Estimated)
- ET: 7.97 @ 185.6 MPH
Andy’s story begins not with this Trans Am, but with the five he had owned previously as a young man, including a 1979 10th Anniversary Edition, and two GTA’s. After having sold that last GTA, the responsibilities of life had taken over. But they say that lost loves always stick in the back of your mind. Some 15 years later, Andy found himself mesmerized by the hood of the 4th gen WS6 Trans Am. Trying to avoid the dealerships like the plague for over a year, curiosity got the best of Andy, and after taking a closer look, found himself driving a brand new 6-speed version off of the showroom floor in in the fall of 2001.
Initially, Andy enjoyed his car in the stock format, with the only addition being a K&N filter and an air lid a little later on. After which, Andy swore that those would be the only mods ever going to be done to the car. Right. Soon after, Andy was installing headers, exhaust, and an aftermarket clutch. Eventually Andy added nitrous; first a dry kit, then a fogger system. Then it became a “heads and cam” car.
After he burned up the third clutch, he went with a Rossler-built Turbo 350, then a Rossler Turbo 400 with a Pro Mod and a 2.10 first gear. Then he sleeved the LS1 to make it a 427 stroker, with the fogger system of course. Twin turbos eventually replaced the nitrous with a set of 66mm’s, which was good for 8.20’s in the quarter. Then two 76mm’s replaced the 66’s in the form of Precision T4’s.
While the car still retains its factory body, paint, and glass, just about everything on the car has been modified in one form or another. The T/A now sports a solid roller 427ci LSX block that was built by AES of Elk Grove Village, Illinois. It features a Jesel valve train, 16 stage 96lb/hr injectors, ET LS7 heads, a Beck Mechanical sheet metal intake, a MagnaFuel EFI 750 pump, and an air-to-water intercooler. It was tuned by Jim Moran of Speed Inc.
The car has gone through a total of three 10-bolt rear ends, not including the original that was pulled at 1200 miles – a Moser 12-bolt, a Currie 9-inch, and it now has a Moser M9 that has been narrowed and the rear wheel wells have been mini-tubbed. The stock-location BMR suspension was tuned by “MADMAN” and he also installed one of his steering racks as well, along with supplying the valving for the rear AFCO shocks. QA1 shocks were called upon to handle front strut duty. The car is also sporting a 25.5-certification roll cage, and oh yeah, approximately 2,000 horsepower.
The Holley LS Fest wasthe first big event the car has been to, and when we caught up with Andy and his Trans Am there, he was running 8.20’s all day. He qualified third but went out early in eliminations as he red lit the staging lights in the first round. He’s enjoyed taking it to a few grudge races in the past and since we have last spoke with him, managed to set a new personal best time of 7.97 @ 185.6 MPH. The car now remains a 7,800-mile Trans Am that I don’t think Mr. Essary will ever part with. Whether you want to argue that this as a “real world” F-body or not, there’s no arguing the brutal power this thing makes!
Tim Habel – 2000 Camaro SS / 2002 Formula Firehawk
This next car comes from an owner of not one, but two F-bodies, Tim Habel. Tim, a resident of St. Louis, Missouri, is an automotive instructor for a large automotive company, a licensed NHRA driver, and has been an “avid gearhead” for over 20 years. Being no stranger to high performance, Tim has previously owned many street and race cars. Among the list is a 1966 Chevy II that started out as a stock daily driver that took him through high school, which later became a 1,600 hp Outlaw 10.5 car that would eventually run 8.0’s @ 174mph in the quarter mile back in 1999.
- Displacement (Camaro): 403CI
- Power Adder (Camaro): None
- Displacement (Firehawk): 347CI
- Power Adder (Firehawk): D-1SC ProCharger @ 17 PSI
Tim temporarily hung up his racing jacket, sold the Nova, got married, and decided to raise a family. Tim now owns two LS-powered 4th-gens. The first is a 2000 Camaro SS sprayed in the original factory Pewter Metallic, the second, a rare 2002 Formula Firehawk, painted in the highly desirable Navy Blue Metallic.
Starting with the Camaro, it has been through a total of three different engine combinations in the past, while only showing a scant 6,000 miles on the clock. While being 100% stock in its outward appearance, a look under the hood tells a completely different story. Formerly a 9-second, blown LS2 403 car, Tim has since removed the blower and had the car re-tuned to run in the high 10′s naturally aspirated. Tim did this so that he wouldn’t have to install a cage and cut up such a precious, low-mileage car.
Enter the Firehawk. Sticking with the stock outside appearance theme like he had on the Camaro, Tim decided to pull the LS1 in favor of a built 347-inch LS6. The new engine sports AFR 225 heads, 9.2:1 compression, an LS6 intake, a 224/227 114 LSA Comp cam, and last but certainly not least, a D-1SC ProCharger with a front-mounted intercooler. The aforementioned ProCharger pumps 17 pounds per square inch of boost into the 347, with the aid of C16 race gas to prevent “the heads from lifting”, as Tim puts it.
Though the dyno numbers are undisclosed, this thing definitely rips, as Tim consistently lays down low 9-second passes in the 1320. Of course, Tim doesn’t rely on a factory running gear to get this 3400-pound car down the track, so the appropriate measures had to be taken. Starting with one of the weakest links in the entire F-body structure, the factory rear axle had to go. In its place lives a Moser M9, complimented by one of Moser’s heavy duty torque arms, an aluminum center section, 35-spline gun-drilled and star-flanged axles, and a set of 3.70 gears spin the rear wheels.
Rolling stock consists of Billet Specialties wheels; skinnies on the front, with wider, Hoosier 275/60R15 stickies on the rear, aiding Tim’s ‘Hawk to 1.33 short times. Helping the Hoosiers plant that power are a set of stock rear springs, Chassis Engineering adjustable shocks, and BMR rear lower control arms, while a Strange Engineering front coil springs and shocks, and a UMI cross member and lower control arms help shed a few pounds off of the front. Tim relies on bringing all of this to a halt with Aerospace front brakes and Strange stoppers in the rear.
Tim, though short on time these days, still manages to make it out to his local track, Gateway, as often as possible. He enjoys index and bracket racing the most, and has full support of his wife and children – if not for them, Tim says none of this would be possible!
Tim Akers – 1999 Trans Am
Our second Tim on the list is a happily married father of one and an avid drag racer. He’s been racing his ’99 Trans Am since 2000, and has been heavily involved with the “LS Scene” ever since. Tim has also owned a 2000 Camaro SS in the past and currently owns a ’98 Z/28 hardtop for a daily driver, and his wife currently drives a 2006 CTS-V every day. Tim likes to consider his family an “LS family” and has no plans to change that anytime soon! But what started this sick addiction for Ray and his family was the purchase of the aforementioned ’99 T/A.
- Displacement: 408CI
- Power Adder: 80mm T6 turbo
- Horsepower: 640 (at the wheels)
- Boost: 7 PSI
It started out as a completely bone-stock, slightly used car that Tim bought from a local dealer, and it served him well with the basic bolt-ons as it took him through college and to his day-to-day grind. Once the car was paid off however, it was transformed from a college-kid-mobile into the weekend warrior that Tim always wanted.
But his bolt-on experience was short lived, as a hydro-locked motor resulted in Tim pulling the original LS1 and having it rebuilt with a .010 overbore, LS6 heads, a T-Rex cam and a 200-shot of the giggle gas. With aid of a TH350 tranny, this resulted in short times in the 1.35 range, but the TH350 wasn’t having any of it, as it went caput at the Second Annual LSX Shootout. On the way home from the event, Tim turned to his best friend, Josh “Tater” Angley, and muttered, “If they could do it, WE could do it!”
This began the transformation into what the car is today. In October of 2008, Tim and Josh began tearing the car apart in Josh’s shop in his backyard. Out went the LS1, and in went an iron-blocked, truck-sourced 408 with stock “317” heads with ARP head studs and LS9 gaskets, a 224/224 .565/.565 114 LSA camshaft, a custom exhaust that includes a set of truck-sourced 6.0 manifolds, and a massive 80mm T6 turbo. Running the car with only 7 psi of boost, Tim’s Trans Am is putting down 640 to the rear wheels, and that’s on a conservative E85 tune.
That is enough to produce a collection of 9-second time slips in his pocket. Tim hopes to push it to 15-16 psi in the very near future and to hopefully attain 25 psi eventually. Tim’s car currently utilizes an RMVB TH400 transmission, a spooled Moser 9-inch with 3.90 gears and 31 spline-axles, along with a full aftermarket, stock-location suspension.
The car also features a killer, custom paint job along with a Formula bumper, just to further differentiate his T/A from all of the others. Though we can’t do a car like this justice in just a few hundred words, Tim was more than anxious to thank the people that helped him get his car to where it is today, then share every detail on every nut and bolt! In this game, isn’t that what it’s all about; giving credit where it’s due?
Tim has done 99% of the work himself with the help of his buddies, Josh “Tater” Angley, Dave “Blue” Willover, Quint Dullworth, and Brian “No Show” Liles, all of whom he thanks for their dedication and willingness to help fabricate and lend a hand whenever needed. Tim also wants to thank his sponsors, who provided the only outsourcing on the car: Brad Mayo of Carma Performance for his fantastic tuning abilities, as well as Bob Ette, of AEIcnc.com, for his fabrication of the motor plate/mid plate that he has made for Tim’s car.
And last, but definitely not ever least, is Tim’s wife, Amanda, for putting up with Tim’s late nights at the shop and all of the money that she let him spend on his passion. Who wouldn’t be happy with a home-built, 9-second Trans Am that was built with the help and support of family and friends?
Stay tuned for next month’s installment of our “Ten Real World Boosted F-body’s” story, as we’ll have five more great cars coming your way!