Photography by: Tim Robinson
In the past, General Motors has cooked up some truly unique vehicles that never really caught on. Cars like the Corvair, Vega, and more recently, the Cobalt SS. Each has their cult following, but none of them really took the hobby by storm.
Maybe it had something to do with their quirkiness, or maybe they didn’t fit into the same mold as the Camaros and Corvettes of their time. But if you took the time to look closer, there was an underlying sense of potential underneath that the most enthusiasts have never seen.
One such enthusiast, Steve Hanes, did see potential with his cult car. No stranger to the Delta platform, Steve has owned a total of three Cobalt SS’ – including this 2007 example that he bought brand new in the Fall of 2006.
Initially satisfied with the performance of the supercharged 205 hp LSJ Ecotec, Steve was quick to take his Cobalt to the next level. First came a slew of cosmetic updates; like switching the factory-installed low-rise rear spoiler for a tall deck piece, an Air Lift air ride suspension kit, Rennen 20-inch RC2 wheels, a Rockford Fosgate sound system, AIT Racing carbon fiber hood, and HID projector headlights.
Content that he had the cosmetics nailed down, he pulled the blower in exchange for a turbo system that included a Garrett GT3071R snail. Steve, being the engineer that he his, fabricated his own exhaust manifold and charge piping.
A tune and a Turbosmart boost controller produced wheel-horsepower numbers in the mid-300 range, and this kept Steve happy for a little while longer in his home town of Delhi, Ontario.
Unfortunately, the tune was never perfected, and he started getting oil bypass in the cylinders – ultimately getting to the point that he was actually burning more oil than fuel. Steve now had an important decision to make, and quickly.
He decided it was time to seriously switch it up again, and instead of rebuilding the LSJ and taking it to a higher level, he decided to pull it, set it aside, and stick another LS in it – an LS2, that is! Taking a page from the past, where hot-rodders would toss a much larger, more powerful V8 engine from a mid-size or full-sized musclecar into a much smaller compact car, Steve would do the same with his Cobalt.
Sourcing a wrecked 2005 GTO donor car from St. Catherines, Ontario that was imported from the US as a parts car (GTOs were never sold in Canada), Steve pulled every remaining good part he could from it. This included the seats, gauge cluster, engine, transmission, ECU, wiring harness, and… the driveshaft, rear brakes, and rear axle!
That’s right, no longer content with the torque steer typically associated with FWD cars making even a hint of power, Steve had come the realization that he was ready to turn his Cobalt into a Gobalt. At this point, we just had to ask Steve how the heck he pulled it off. After all, anyone can botch it together, but to do something like this correctly, you really need to do your homework. So we asked Steve for his insight. Here’s what he had to say:
“After 2000-plus hours of researching, fabricating a driveshaft tunnel, test fitting all drivetrain components, adjusting, disassembling, reassembling, more fabrication, wiring, trouble-shooting wiring, rewiring, buying components, painting, body modifying, wheel selecting, and beer drinking, I had a one-of-a-kind, 2007 Cobalt with a 405hp 6.0L LS2 V8 RWD conversion – that still had traction!”
“With the LS2 rear-wheel drive conversion I was expecting traction to be a rare occasion. But with the independent rear suspension I was able to actually get some decent traction in a straight-line WOT pull! But, a typical drive usually consists of some 6k rpm pulls, a few fish-tails, a bit of bump steer from the steering rack being low to the ground, and some sideways action in second. There is never a shortage of adrenalin-pumping when driving the Gobalt!”
He continued, “the car made it on the road in the Spring of 2014, and a few kinks needed to be ironed out with the steering and shifting. But now, nearing the end of the season, I am confident to drive the car and am looking forward to tracking it in the Spring of 2015!”
Now if the rear end of the car looks a little odd to you, that’s because the GTO’s rear axle track was considerably wider than the body of the Cobalt. As such, Steve had Ash Pratt over at Ground’d Kustoms perform the widebody-work, while Calvin at Colour Code Collision Center handled paint and the dual exhaust cutout in the rear bumper cover.
Admittingly, the amount of LS2-themed modifications that have been swapped into the Delta car are few and far in-between, but don’t expect things to stay that way. He goes on to tell us that the car is far from completed (are they ever?), and plans to take this modern-day V8 Vega to the next level.
Steve mentions that next on his list are suspension and brake upgrades, interior upholstery work, modifications to the GTO gauges, updates to the audio equipment, and inevitably, more power. Although he won’t delve too deep into his plans with us, we can only assume that his “PUREPSI” plates from his previous build will carry on to the next one.
He also wanted to take a moment to thank a few people that helped make this unique happen, such as Ash at Ground’d, Calvin at Color Code Collision Center, Greg Vero for his mechanical expertise and the use of his unlimited supply of tools. He would also like to thank Tim Robinson at Robinson Photography for these shots, and your author for allowing him this opportunity.
Last but certainly not least, is Steve’s wife, for not divorcing him throughout the course of this insanity. In the meantime, you can head over to Steve’s website to keep up with the progress on the build, and don’t forget to check out his YouTube channel to see this thing in action, too!
- CAR: 2007 Cobalt SS
- OWNER: Steve Hanes
- ENGINE BLOCK: LS2; Stock, 2005 GTO-spec
- CRANKSHAFT: LS2; Stock, 2005 GTO-spec
- PISTONS: LS2; Stock, 2005 GTO-spec
- CAMSHAFT: LS2; Stock, 2005 GTO-spec
- CYLINDER HEADS: LS2; Stock, 2005 GTO-spec
- COMPRESSION RATIO: 10.9:1
- INDUCTION: Homemade “warm-air” intake
- IGNITION: Stock coil packs and plug wires
- EXHAUST: Stock manifolds Corvette LS2 manifolds; 2.5-inch diameter piping, Flowmaster Super 44 mufflers
- FUEL DELIVERY: Stock GTO fuel system
- OILING: Stock GTO/LS2
- TRANSMISSION: T-56; 2005 GTO
- CLUTCH: Stock; T-56
- DRIVESHAFT: Stock GTO
- REAREND: 2005 GTO
- SUSPENSION: Air ride; Air Lift bellows air struts, (front/rear)
- BRAKES: Stock (front), GTO discs (rear)
- WHEELS: Rennen 20×8.5 (front) 20×10 (rear)
- TIRES: Falken FK453
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of GMEFI Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.