photos by: the author
This Craigslist-find GTO went from Showroom Stocker to Drifting Badass!
The late-model GTO was always the redheaded stepchild of the GM EFI world. Although equipped with an LS1 or LS2 (depending on year), a higher-level of technology, refinement and build quality over other GM vehicles of the era as well an an iconic name attached, it never got much love.
Purists hated it, import guys didn’t like it because it was a “domestic” and F-body enthusiasts couldn’t wrap their head around a heavier, more expensive and generally wheel-hop happy car. It short, it was a total sales flop, never selling close to what GM had hoped for… but it wasn’t a total loss. The real intentions of the GTO was to open the gates for automotive globalization, paving the way for the G8, Caprice PPV, Chevy SS and even the 5th-gen Camaro to a certain extent.
The great thing about these cars, these days, is that not only are they still relatively plentiful, but they offer tremendous value for those looking for a perfect starting point to build a well-performing, competitive piece of machinery. Whether you’re into drag- or road-racing, the autocross course or even the drift circuit, the GTO potentially has what you’re looking for.
“The great thing about these cars, is that not only are they still relatively plentiful, but they offer tremendous value for those looking for a perfect starting point…”
If you need further proof, then look no further than Ashley Hardman’s 2004 example. Nicknamed, “Pipsqueak the Goat,” Ashley’s GTO is certainly the latter of that group, not only giving a nod to the yellow GTO that Rhys Millen piloted in Formula-D back in the day, but carrying on the the hobby Ashley has been pursuing for years.
You see, this isn’t her first rodeo; she’s been seen behind the wheel of a couple of Nissan 240s, a turbo Miata and an RX7, and while looking on Craigslist for her third 240 to turn into an LS-swapped drift car, she happened to run across this 2004 Yellow Jacket Goat. For those unfamiliar, the Monaro/GTO is probably the best (and worst) kept secret around the drift courses all over the world.
If you were to rewind the clocks back to 2004-2007, Formula-D drift champ and movie stunt driver, Rhys Millen, was notorious for his tuned yellow (and later, blue) Pontiac GTO all over ‘Strailia, the States and pretty much everywhere else Formula-D took hold of its captive audience. The car continued to evolve over time and become much more competitive amongst its peers, but with the Solstice taking its place and the untimely death of Pontiac sealing its fate, the glory would be short-lived.
Ashley is reclaiming Rhys’ glory with her own yellow GTO, and has taken small, subtle strides to transform it from an ordinary daily-driver into the budding drift champion you see here. You may be surprised to know that under the hood and throughout the entire car, the modifications have been minimal.
Starting up front, the only changes to the factory-installed LS1 consist of a K&N cold-air induction kit, Pace Setter long-tube headers, a Texas Speed camshaft and pushrods, and a set of COMP Cams trunnion upgrades in the OEM rocker arms. Apart from a Melling oil pump, Improved Racing pan baffle and Canton Racing 3-qt. AccuSump system, no other changes have been made to the alloy mill, however, an SLP Loudmouth II catback with 3-inch tubing expels the spent fumes.
Sitting behind the OG of the LS-series engines, is a manually-shifted T-56 transmission that’s been upgraded with an aftermarket 6-puck clutch. Connecting it to the independent rear suspension out back, is a Driveshaft Shop 4-inch aluminum one-piece ‘shaft.
The original rearend has since been replaced from a 2005-spec GTO unit; with a welded differential and factory 3.46 gears. This provides the perfect compliment to Ashley’s drift GTO, and only makes prolonged, sliding smoke shows so much easier. Of course, there’s a lot of suspension/chassis modifications that comes with building a drift car…
In short, it’s been completely overhauled; with Shane Whalley fully-adjustable tubular lower arms and radius rods, end link relocators, cut steering knuckles, adjustable tie rod ends, adjustable caster bushings and adjustable toe rods aiding a set of Hotchkis front and rear sway bars, and BC Racing ER-Series coil overs at all four corners.
Even with the Kosei K1 17x8s at all four corners providing entertainment for onlookers and Ashley alike, Pipsqueak eventually needs to stop – and that’s where Hawk HP Plus pads come in, with the help of a quadrant of dimpled rotors.
“Ashley had the crew at 510 Race Calibrations handle the ECU calibrations, and the result was a respectable 397 horsepower and 388 lb-ft of torque hitting the pavement through the rear tires.”
Ashley had the crew at 510 Race Calibrations handle the ECU calibrations, and the result was a respectable 397 horsepower and 388 lb-ft of torque hitting the pavement through the rear tires. For just a mild cam swap and basic bolt-ons, it’s more than enough to get the skinny 245mm Federal tires to light up! The GTO has been put on a diet, too, thanks to a BiMarco racing seats, steering wheel and the removal of unnecessary interior trim components; such as the door panels, carpeting and rear seat. The trunk has been gutted too, revealing only the US-spec fuel tank.
We recently caught up with Ashley at a drift competition in Houston, Texas, and she had nothing but great things to say about her ever-evolving Pontiac. With the right selection of parts and an already-excellent platform to start with, she’ll be making her rounds with Pipsqueak for quite some time.
- CAR: 2004 Pontiac GTO
- OWNER: Ashley Hardman
- ENGINE BLOCK: GM LS1
- DISPLACEMENT: 346 cubic inches (5.7L)
- CRANKSHAFT: GM; stock
- PISTONS: GM; stock
- CAMSHAFT: Texas Speed; .595/.603 lift, 233/239 duration, 112 LSA
- CYLINDER HEADS: 241 casting; TSP hardened pushrods, LS2 lifter trays, hydraulic LS7 lifters, stock valves, COMP dual valvesprings with titanium retainers
- ROCKER ARMS: Stock; COMP Cams trunnion upgrade
- COMPRESSION RATIO:
- INDUCTION: GM LS1 composite, K&N cold-air kit
- OILING: Stock pan; Improved Racing pan baffle, Canton Racing 3-qt. AccuSump system, Melling pump
- EXHAUST: Pace Setter long-tubes, SLP Loudmouth II w/ 3-inch diameter tubing
- FUEL DELIVERY: Stock
- TUNING: 510 Race Calibrations
- TRANSMISSION: T-56
- CLUTCH: 6-puck, with stock flywheel
- DRIVESHAFT: Driveshaft Shop; 4-inch aluminum 1-piece
- REAREND: 2005 GTO; welded differential, 3.46 gears
- SUSPENSION: Hotchkis adjustable sway bars (front/rear), BC ER Series coil overs (front/ rear), Shane Whalley fully-adjustable tubular lower arms and radius rods, end link relocators, cut steering knuckles, adjustable tie rod ends, adjustable caster bushings, adjustable toe rods
- CHASSIS MODS: None
- BRAKES: Hawk HP Plus pads, ceramic-painted yellow rotors, dimpled rotors
- WHEELS: OEM 17×8 (street)/ Kosei K1 17×8 (competition)
- TIRES: Federal 595 245/40/17 (street), Federal 595 245/40/17 (rear) (street/competition)
- HP/TQ.: 397/388
- BEST 1/4-MILE ET: N/A
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.