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1981 Pontiac Trans Am - Demonstrator

By , Photography by Robert McGaffin

TECH NOTES
Who: Jeff Schwartz
What: 1981 Pontiac Trans Am
Where: Woodstock, Illinois

Engine: The mill is a highly modified LS3 with a 4.070-inch bore and an Eagle 4.00-inch crank for 416 inches. The compression ratio is 9.0:1 with a set of forged Wiseco pistons and LS3 cylinder heads ported by Precision Engine and Machine. The heads flow 340 cfm at 0.600 lift. Jeff also uses an LS7 dry-sump oiling system and a factory ZO6 computer and MAF to get the combo to work. The MAP is from a Cobalt SS and is referred to as a 2.5 BAR, and the camshaft is a Comp hydraulic roller with 242/248 duration and 0.650 lift. If the engine combo wasn't aggressive enough, Jeff added a pair of 66mm Turbonetics Hurricane Series turbochargers and built the intercooler using cores from Turbonetics. At 20 pounds of boost, the engine made 1,045 hp and 900 lb-ft at the wheel. Watch out for wildlife at the Sand Hills race, Jeff.

Stainless: The headers are hand-fabbed by Schwartz out of stainless steel and feature a 3-inch cross-pipe and polished stainless mufflers from Summit Racing. Consider the Schwartz phone number as the part number for one of these systems.

Fuel: A big Holley Dominator inline billet fuel pump feeds a set of 102 lb/hr fuel injectors. That is a GM 90mm throttle body.

Transmission: To get the power to the ground and move 3,850 pounds of car, Jeff uses a Bowler transmission 4L85-E with a billet 2,800-stall speed converter, controlled by a CompuShift controller.

Chassis: The engine is great, but the real star is the chassis. This car sits on the bolt-in, full-frame G-Machine chassis that isolates the suspension, rearend, steering, and engine from the body, so everything stays aligned in the corners. The claim here is that the chassis slides under the car without cutting the factory floors, welding, or drilling beyond a couple of holes in the rear framerails. The chassis allows for monster front and rear tires. Jeff says, "275s are no problem in the rear. With mini tubs, a 345 fits in there." Aside from big tires and reduced flex, the chassis brings with it the latest single or triple adjustable coilover shocks, 13- or 14-inch brakes on all four corners, and either a four-link or independent rear suspension. The frame under the Trans Am has Ridetech triple adjustable coilovers with remote reservoirs, 550-pound front springs and 300-pound rears, and a 11⁄4 front sway bar. Inside is a Ridetech Tiger Cage.

Brakes: These are 14-inch Baer Extreme Plus disc brakes with 6-piston mono-block calipers. The gigantic system is perfect for panic collision avoidance at the car's 222-mph* top speed.

Rearend: Schwartz Performance Inc. offers three different differential options. Jeff chose the Moser 9-inch with a Wavetrac differential, 31-spline floating axles, and a 3.25:1 gear ratio.

Wheels and Tires: The wheels are huge 19x9- and 19x12.5-inch Forgeline TA3P "snowflake" wheels that became popular during a brief Bandit Trans Am renaissance and, according to Jeff, have since been discontinued. (Our research found a set online for only $6,884, so hurry!) The tires are Michelin Pilot PS2s and, as promised, are 345 in the rear and 265 in front. The wheels are powdercoated red to add a little flash to a white car and have a polished lip.

Inside: The interior is stock-ish, in that it has a lot of the machine-turned highlights and a stock-appearing console. The seats are from Scat with RCI belts and feature bolsters to keep your butt in the seat when flying around cones. The door panels and steering wheel are from Year One, and Jeff built the dash insert with the Stack Instruments street dash display. The stereo is from Polk Audio. Any extra machine-turned tidbits were created from a sheet that Jeff bought from FPM Metal Products in Fairbury, Nebraska. The shifter was modified using parts from Year One to work with the 4L85-E.

Body: There are a lot of subtle touches on the body. The paint is PPG White Lightning because that was the "whitest white PPG had," to use Jeff's words. The fender flares are from Year One and are designed to fit flush against the fender without the gap for welting. The side marker lights have been filled, and the fender vents were enlarged. Jeff rigged the car to have power locks that work with a key fob so the door lock holes are also filled. The bird was created by Sticker Dude Designs and has elements from all four generations of Firebirds, so take a close look at the orientation of the head, the wings, and the flames. The turbo hood is factory steel that had the original sequential boost lights that run off of three factory pressure sensors. The billet hood hinges are from Eddie Motorsports. Jeff needed them for the heavy hood and likes the way they look.

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97 comments
Eric Matthews
Eric Matthews

I use to to have this hotwheel car with same make and paint

Bjorne J Nokleby
Bjorne J Nokleby

I have a 79' that rust and blue. No paint at all on the hood yet the bird remains surrounded by fuzzy surface rust...

Leif Persson
Leif Persson

Cool, sure is faster than a 301 turbo....:D

Jim Harris
Jim Harris

Saw quite a few on Grandpa's farm. From the hen house to the dining room table.

Max Gato
Max Gato

sorry it's gotta be black

Pedro Perez
Pedro Perez

Haven't seen one of those in a long time

Lamont Warren
Lamont Warren

My 1st car... With T-tops... I still miss it.

Dario Cesar Chavez
Dario Cesar Chavez

La capa del santooooo Juan Eliseo Chavez Baez Jovanni Abadia sssss q recuerdosss

motox1974
motox1974

The wheels are Forgeline replicas of the ws6 snowflake wheels, a no cost option on the 81 Turbo TA. Not exactly set-up for a 16 second per lap RSE autocross course with 308 gears. I've built low buck cars in my garage, but it wouldn't help my business to build one now. I already have a stock 455 4spd early TA which won't do 200 mph in a mile

Jim Gillgam
Jim Gillgam

I like the white Turbo wheels much better

Bobby Mahoney
Bobby Mahoney

Almost as cool as the twin turbo 62 impala I've got. #allunderthehood.

Lee Brown
Lee Brown

me likey. the finest ta around.

Brian Ford Ward
Brian Ford Ward

That car goes to my hometown cruise nite in Mchenry,IL. Badass car!!!!

Mark Knight
Mark Knight

Sweet, I've got a few of those cars left. I still got the 70 Ram Air Trans Am and a 79 10th anniversary 400 4 speed car

George Beck
George Beck

Not by a longshot. No matter what you do to an '81,any sane Pontiac man would trade it for a stock '70-'73

Jeff Rhyner
Jeff Rhyner

1000 HP sounds scary. My old 69 GTO has maybe 325 at the wheels and it can melt the tires easy, fun. Your bird needs factory Pontiac style rims/tires. It's turbos spool up and put you in the ditch at 90 mph?

Francis Struyven
Francis Struyven

I own the same nnnnooooo,mine is a '79 esprit,but white too.

Larry Lane
Larry Lane

The paint scheme is far from being "the finest", but it certainly is fast.

Dale Schwartz
Dale Schwartz

1041 rwhp, twin turbo LS9. If you read Car Craft magazine you'd have seen the feature article last month! :)

John Santana
John Santana

Does it have the 4.9L? Maybe you should have kept the Turbo wheels or done those in white or black. The pace care Recaro seats would have been a nice addition. What mods were done to achieve 1000hp with this car? 1 or 2 turbos?

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