Rick Seitz – Life With My Trans Am
As I sit here, late at night typing this four days before Christmas, I come to realize that next month will be nine years that my Trans Am and I have been together. She’s a 2002 WS6 that I ordered and purchased new, and though we’ve had our ups and downs together, I don’t ever regret my purchase. Looking back, I now of course realize that ordering a common color like Bright Red Metallic and dare I say, an automatic transmission with traction control, may be a little lame, but what do I care what anybody thinks about my choice? Besides, I was only 21 at the time of purchase, and this was prior to any kind racing experience, sanctioned or otherwise. My thinking at the time was that having a factory low-13-second car with 325 horsepower, T-tops, and a 500 watt Monsoon stereo was all the fun I needed.
I preferred to avoid purchasing a Firehawk or a Collector’s Edition T/A for the simple fact that I planned on driving my T/A, and I stuck with the T-top version because frankly, I liked the way the hatch-style body and the rear spoiler looked as compared to the ‘vert, plus it helped keep my payments in check. But the WS6 package was a must have for me!
To me, the hood alone was worth the $3500 premium over a standard Trans Am, and there was no way I was going to buy one without it! The bigger wheels and tires, beefed up suspension, better final drive gearing, increased performance, and the famous “WS6” badge on the rear bumper was all just icing on the cake.
Originally, I planned on leaving it stock and enjoying it as it came delivered from its Canadian factory, but the mod bug was starting to nibble on my ankles. But before any mods began, I took it to the local track to see what she would do. Being my first time racing, not knowing what I was doing, and having to cope with a track that just opened for the season, my first runs were all 13.42 at 102-103. My car was unbelievably consistent. I got more practice as the season went on, and as the car started “breaking in,” the times dropped over a full tenth and I picked up another 2 MPH with a 13.30 at 105 being the norm.
The first modification I made was a cosmetic one, with 20% window tint applied to the side and rear windows, in an attempt to mimic the red WS6 shown in the brochure. Then came the inevitable air lid/K&N/catback upgrades, and though I was initially happy with the increased sound and performance of the new mods resulting in consistent times of 13.21 at 106, I soon became bored.
From a financial standpoint, in hindsight, I should’ve stopped there. But no, not me. With local competition consisting of everything from Mustangs to imports, rocking a mostly-stock 13-second ride just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. I needed a healthy performance increase, and at the time, I was somewhat mesmerized by the LS1 heads/cam cars that were popping up everywhere back then.
Running mid-11’s while looking stock was the big thing back in those days. I also realized how much my car sat like a truck, thanks to its factory ride height. So before I tore into the engine, I ended up doing the suspension by throwing on a set of Eibach Pro-Kit springs, KYB adjustable shocks, and a few bits from BMR. The car now handled like it was on rails. This was in 2004.
The following year became 12 months of trials and tribulations for me. It started with what I thought was a motor seizure, which turned out to be a bent and cracked flex-plate (I have no idea, so don’t ask) after a late winter/early spring unsanctioned jaunt on the freeway against a friend in his LS1 T/A. At the time I was working an insane amount of hours and had no time to repair the car myself. However, I saw this as an opportunity to finally build my car the way I wanted since it would be torn apart anyway.
I enlisted the help of a now defunct local LS-based tuning shop to complete the task at hand. My car was to have CNC-ported LS6 heads, a wild street cam, built tranny, converter, Moser 12-bolt, – the works. Unfortunately, the shop went belly-up while the car was tore apart, and I’m sure that you guys can guess the rest of the story.
So after having to haul my car back home on a trailer, minus a drivetrain, I set about putting the car back together piece by piece with the help of friends in a small two-car garage. Having to build my car literally from scratch was not how I envisioned spending the next two years of my life. But little by little, she slowly started coming together, and by summer of ’08 she was back on the road.
It’s been over two years since I started my Trans Am again for the first time, but I’m still not fully satisfied with it. The car ended up being powered by a stock bottom end LS1 with ported 5.3 heads, a Thunder Racing “TRAK” cam, 3500 stall converter, the factory 10-bolt with 3.73 gears, a factory LS6 intake, ported TB, and a few other miscellaneous parts not even worth mentioning.
I never had it dyno-tuned, only base-tuned. I’ve only driven it a few times, and I haven’t even driven it since that summer, it just sits in the garage. With fine tuning, there’s a lot more in it, but I want something a little more exotic now, but yet more streetable if that makes sense.
Obviously, a proper tune will help the drivability issue, but the cam is a little too much for the street anyway, and a lot of better upgrades have been released since this car was put together, not to mention it was put together on a shoestring budget.
I’m also kind of over drag racing as well, as I’d like to pursue autocrossing more and maybe a little amateur road racing, so the 3500-stalled automatic won’t exactly be ideal for that either. Plus, I just miss driving the car in general. I honestly don’t know where to take this project at this point, as I’ve also been side-tracked by my GN as of late too.
Having to be the one to handle the task of writing the recent “Real World Boosted F-bodies” story has got me thinking about my Trans Am again, and boost may very well be in this car’s future. All I know is that this car and I are never parting ways, because never again will I have the opportunity to purchase a brand new, Pontiac-produced (read; “real”) Trans Am. That’s something you just can’t put a price on.