photos by: Joe DiDario
Brian DeLuca’s Boosted Trans Am Waves the LT1 Flag Long After Many have Abandoned it
It’s almost been two decades since the last ’97 F-body rolled off of the Ste. Therese assembly-line, and yet, the admiration for the powerplant in which they held, still has its dedicated following. Call it nostalgia, call it a desire to not jump on the continually thriving LS bandwagon but whatever it is, these GEN-II V-8 loyalists aren’t abandoning their Opti-equipped engines any time soon – just evolving them.
Brian DeLuca’s LT1 Trans Am is just such a case. A legit WS6 convertible from the final year of LT1 production, it’s one example that has not only grew substantially out of its cookie-cutter OEM shoes, but has maintained its reverse-flow cooled engine. That’s right, unlike many who have ditched the LT1 altogether, be it by upgrading to a newer model of performance machine or swapping the engine, DeLuca’s car has stayed true to its roots and has been a fan of Trans Ams ever since!
But maybe that’s because Brian himself has stayed true to its roots, being not only the second owner the car has ever seen, but the son of the first, being his own father. As Brian tells us, he was only thirteen when his father ordered and picked the Trans Am up at a local Pontiac dealer, as his earliest memories include helping his father order the car… plus having to wash the car when he got home from school and watching his father row the gears, “while talking on his cell phone, smoking a cigarette and eating a hamburger at the same time.”
Inevitably, Brian would end up with the car about four years later; and almost immediately installed a K&N air filter, low-restriction muffler and a Hurst short-throw shifter. The younger DeLuca, however, would raise the bar significantly over the years; first with a TNT 100-shot nitrous kit, then a little later, a head/cam/intake upgrade. On motor, this combination was good for around 360 horsepower to the tires, on spray, 480 was the norm with 500 lb-ft. of twist motivating the Trans Am forward.
Once this happened, the rest of the drivetrain needed some work. First, the old 10-bolt made way for a Strange S60, then next, a SPEC clutch upgrade was called upon to handle the torque the car was now dispersing. With these mods alone, Brian was running high 11s at 121 on the bottle, while maintaining a full curb weight. These numbers satisfied DeLuca for a while, but he was tired of relying on the bottle to achieve this performance. After much thought, he decided a supercharger was in the car’s future.
His plan included good drivability, but with 650+ horsepower – something certainly achievable with the right combination of parts. Unfortunately, Brian’s wife, though supportive of him and his hobby, suggested that their then current income shouldn’t go towards such an expensive hobby, and that perhaps he should start a side business to fund his project. Ouch!
Having created his own bi-xenon projector beam headlights for his car a few years earlier, Brian decided he would not only put these on the market as a kit for the ’93-97 Firebird, but he would also make a version for the ’98-02 cars as well, being as how they were immensely popular at the time. Thus, Blackbird Lighting Solutions was born and have since sold hundreds of kits to 4th-gen Firebird owners all over North America.
Knowing how much of a job lie ahead of him, Brian enlisted the help of three local New Jersey F-body owners to help with the build, starting form the ground up and progressing from there. As DeLuca tells us, the sight of seeing his car torn apart in a million pieces was both exciting and overwhelming at the same time, knowing the end result would be more than worth it.
Starting with the engine, the block was bored, stroked and machined by Ellwein Racing Engines, utilizing a rotating assembly featuring hardware from Callies and Diamond. A pair of CNC-ported Trick Flow 21-degree LT1 GEN-X heads sit atop of the iron block, with a Lloyd Elliot-ported OEM LT1 intake and AS&M 58mm throttle body sitting smack dab between the two.
Oxygen is forced through a K&N filter, and through a F1-A ProCharger into the now 383 cubic-inch powerplant. The spent fumes, meanwhile, are expelled through a combination of LPP “stepped” 1-3/4 to 1-7/8-inch long-tube headers, a custom Mufflex Y-pipe, Magnaflow mufflers and 4-inch diameter tubing. The soundtrack to this thing is sick!
Rounding out the details on the engine side is an LS coil pack conversion – no mo’ Opti! The coils are of the OEM LS-style truck variety, working in harmony with NGK plugs and universal MSD wires that were cut by DeLuca himself. Oiling is left to a Melling pump, Moroso pan and a modified OEM windage tray, and the stroker motor sources its fuel from a set of 80-lb. Siemens Deka high impedence injectors, Lonnies twin 255 fuel pumps, a Snow Perfomance Stage 2 methanol kit and an Aeromotive regulator.
DeLuca has also added a CX Racing intercooler, measuring in at 31x12x4-inch diameter. With 17-psi. of boost in action, the WS6 was good for 777 hp and 662 lb-ft. to the rear tires, utilizing a 7.65-inch crank pulley/3.7-inch blower pulley setup. Brian has since installed larger 16W Fabworks intercooler tubing, but hasn’t went back for new numbers. It should be noted that Tune Time Performance handled all tuning duties.
Since the car was already torn apart, the F-body crew installed a McLeod street twin-disc clutch behind the small-block, housed inside the bellhousing of the T-56. The Strange driveshaft and S60 rearend remain in place, however, a Strange chromoly driveshaft loop has been installed, while a 3.73 gear set and Eaton TruTrac are housed inside. Keeping the Trans Am planted to the pavement is a whole host of suspension and chassis upgrades, and those factory 17-inch wheels are long gone!
Among those upgrades are Strange 275 coil-over springs with QA1 DA shocks up front, a stock front sway bar and a BMR drag-oriented rear sway bar, UMI upper and lower control arms (front and rear) and stock rear springs out back with QA1 shocks. A set of Kenny Brown Double-Diamond subframe connectors, a UMI chromoly adjustable Panhard bar and adjustable torque arm help tie everything together. Bringing the entire build to the pavement, literally, is a set of Weld Racing RT-S wheels, wrapped in Hoosier racing rubber for the track, while Brian has the option of switching to Weld’s sister brand, CCW, for the street – rolling on 19-inch 505As with Nitto Inovs up front and Toyo R888s out back.
Since completing the Trans Am, Brian has managed a best of 10.60 at 139 mph in the quarter-mile, at Atco Raceway. Of course, that was only at 17-psi. and with his smaller intercooler piping. We think that with his current setup, his times can certainly be bested. In the meantime, we can fully appreciate what Brian has done with his car and it makes us almost want to buy an LT1 car for ourselves!
Brian wants to thank his friends, family and his industry pals at Tune Time and 16W for their dedication to the project, and Paul at CTW Motorsports for the excellent detail job, just prior to our shoot. Without any of whom, Brian says the completion of this car wouldn’t have been possible. What are friends for?
- CAR: 1997 Trans Am WS6
- OWNER: Brian DeLuca
- ENGINE BLOCK: LT1; 4.032/3.75 – bore/stroke
- CRANKSHAFT: Callies Dragonslayer
- PISTONS: Diamond; custom forged, 2618, double diamond-coated
- CAMSHAFT: Lunati; hydraulic, 226/239 duration, .565/.587 lift, 12 LSA
- CYLINDER HEADS: Trick Flow LT1 21-degree Gen-X
- COMPRESSION RATIO: 9.53:1
- INDUCTION: Lloyd Elliot ported LT1 intake manifold, AS&M 58mm throttle body, K&N filter,
- POWER ADDER: ProCharger; F1-A, 7.65-inch crank pulley, 3.7-inch blower pulley
- INTERCOOLER: CX Racing; 31x12x4-inch
- BOOST: 19-lbs.
- IGNITION: LS coil pack conversion (truck coils), MSD wires, NGK BR7EF spark plugs
- EXHAUST: LPP headers; stepped, 1-3/4 inch to 1-7/8, Mufflex Y-pipe, Magnaflow mufflers and 4-inch piping
- FUEL DELIVERY: 80-lb. Siemens Deka High Impedence injectors, Lonnies twin 255 fuel pumps, Snow Perfomrnce Stage 2 methanol kit, Aeromotive regulator
- OILING: Melling 10552 pump with HP spring, modified windage tray, Moroso pan
- TUNING: Tune Time Performance
- TRANSMISSION: T-56
- CLUTCH: McLeod; Street twin-disc
- FLYWHEEL: McLeod steel
- DRIVESHAFT: Strange 3-inch chromoly
- REAREND: Strange; S60, 3.73 gears, S/T axles TrueTrac
- SUSPENSION: Strange coil-overs and QA1 DA shocks (front/rear), stock front sway bar, BMR (drag) rear sway bar, UMI upper and lower control arms (front/rear), Strange 275 front springs, stock rear springs
- CHASSIS MODS: Kenny Brown Double-Diamond subframe connectors, UMI chromoly adjustable Panhard bar and adjustable torque arm
- BRAKES: LS F-body (front); Brakemotive slotted/drilled rotors w/ceramic pads (front/rear)
- WHEELS (strip): Weld RT-S 15×4 (front)/15×10 (rear)
- TIRES (strip): Hoosier 26×4.5×15 (front), Hoosier 27×10.5×15 QTP
- WHEELS (street): CCW 505A 19×10 (front)/ 19×11 (rear)
- TIRES (street): Nitto Invo 285/30/19 (front)/ Toyo R888 305/30/19 (rear)
- HP/TQ.: 777/662 (17-psi.)
- BEST 1/4-MILE ET: 10.60 at 139
- BEST 60-FT.: 1.68
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.