Steve Kessler’s 1986 Grand National
Picking up this ’86 GN back in 1996 as a completely stock example, Steve went to the GS Nationals in Spring of ’97 and, as he puts it, “was ruined.” After all, it’s kind of hard showing off to your Turbo Buick peers in a 14-second stocker. Once back at the shop, he felt compelled to pull the engine, and start doing upgrades.
After 13 years with a low 11-second combo, he decided to build a 9-second TSM class car in 2010. Steve gave his friend Don Cruz a call and asked him to build a stroker based on the stock “109” block for the ’86 Grand National, and spent two years building it to what it is now.
Utilizing a stroker crank, custom roller camshaft, Champion GN1 heads, intake, 3.5-inch downpipe and intercooler, T&D rockers, ATR headers, an MSD distributor, and high-boost custom plug wires the buzzing’ half-dozen is equipped with a solid foundation. A Precision 67/68 billet ball-bearing turbo, 46mm wastegate and 95-lb. injectors, Weldon 2015 fuel pump and a custom 3.5-inch exhaust help it build solid power. Boost is adjusted with an AMS1000 boost controller equipped with CO2.
The Buick is tuned by FAST XFI software and uses an MSD 7AL ignition system. Sitting behind the LC2 is a reverse valve-body TH400 and a PTC converter, shifted by a Cheetah shifter from a Kirkey racing seat. The G-body sits on Weld Racing V-series wheels measuring in at 15×3 on the front and 15×10 in the rear wrapped in Hoosier 275 drag radials and Mickey Thompson front runners.
A 10-point certified moly cage, notched frame, braced 10-bolt with Strange internals, a Strange driveshaft, Aerospace Components brakes, Spohn front A-arms and steering componets, Baseline Suspension rear upper control arm relocation kit, custom adjustable lower A-arms, adjustable spring perches, QA1 coilover shocks up front with double adjustables out back and an HR Parts N’ Stuff rear sway bar round out all of the changes underneath.
With help from Don and Jason White, the first trip to Bowling Green resulted in a 9-second pass on the second trip down the track, and he ran a best of 9.80 with that setup. After fighting ignition problems with the stock CCCI, Steve swapped to a distributor and new PTC converter spec’ed by Chris Hogeland at Twisted 6. At this 2014 GS Nationals he pulled a 9.68 straight off the trailer and ran a best of 9.20 in TSM eliminations. As Steve tells us, “I’ve had lots of great support from Don, Jason, Brad Lay, Craig Kalbfleish, and Bo McDonald.”
Kyle Marske’s 1992 Sonoma GT
Sixteen-year old Kyle Marske comes to us out of Battle Creek, MI. It all started when Kyle’s parents were attending car and truck shows before he was born and kept attending these same shows since. Bringing Kyle into an automotive lifestyle and raising him on custom cars and trucks, Kyle was getting to an age where it was time to start looking for a vehicle that would be affordable, yet suit him. Seeing that his dad was into the S-Series truck scene and now owns a 1991 Syclone (#20). Kyle wanted a truck that would be realistic to drive, knowing the Syclone and Typhoon (his mom owns 1992 #70) are rare and maybe a bit too powerful for a new driver the choice of a Sonoma GT was a perfect fit!
So on Kyle’s 15th birthday he was presented with what some would call a unicorn; a 1992 GMC Sonoma GT. It was found in Pier, Indiana and is #359 of only 806 ever made, and only in that one model year. The Sonoma GT was stock other than an engine rebuild, and came with a 205 horsepower 4.3L VORTEC V6. A couple months after getting the Sonoma GT Kyle bought suspension parts which included 2-inch BellTech drop spindles and 3-inch McGaughy’s drop springs in front, 4-inch McGaughy’s drop leaf springs with a 2-inch lowering block and a set of Bilstein shocks to get the stance and ride right! It rides on 20×8.5 and 22×8.5 Boss 338 wheels shod with Nitto Invo rubber 245/30-20 front and 275/30-22 rear.
In the future Kyle plans to install Accuair suspension to get it closer to earth, an LS swap for a little more power, and a set of bigger billet wheels. Not to bad for a 16-year old and it’s great to see that the passion is still around in young men like Kyle to keep the muscle truck/car scene alive!! Let us know how those upgrades are coming and keep on truckin.’
Charlie Marchant’s 1999 Firebird Formula
Charlie Marchant stems from Norwood, Ontario Canada where he, his best friend and his now wife built this ’99 Formula from the ground up on jackstands. Charlie has owned this Arctic White Firebird since he was 17; twelve years on, and it’s still in his garage during the winter months and on the dragstrip during the racing season.
Powered by a 402 ci. stroker LS2 with Trick Flow 235 heads, LS6 intake and a Vortech YSi supercharger. What makes this car’s combination stand out in particular is it has A&A ‘Vette brackets with a modified 10-rib setup and tensionor by Arun. “A&A couldn’t believe that this setup could fit on a F-body and it does perfectly, with front mount intercooler and all home made designed piping, I had a build thread on LS1tech that caught a lot of peoples attention,” claims Charlie.
Keeping engine temps low is a custom-designed front-mount CX 31x12x4 intercooler, an enclosed Big Red BOV and intake piping measuring 4 inches. The YSI is producing 19-psi., while a dual-nozzle Alky Control meth kit with 16-degrees of timing and 94-octane pump gas gets the car to its current 957 rwhp and 812 lb-ft. with a safe, speed-density tune. To fuel the car is a pair of in-tank twin 255 Walbro fuel pumps with lonnies hot wire kit, MagnaFuel regulator and FIC 1000 injectors.
Aiding in the intercooler system in engine cooling is a Corvette water pump with 160-degree thermostat, custom radiator from DeWitts and twin SPAL fans that keep the car running cool in all conditions. The exhaust is Kooks long-tube headers and off road Y-pipe followed by 3.5 inch Stainless Works cat back and muffler to single tips.
The car is putting the power through a Monster twin disk clutch and a built T-56 gearbox by RPM Transmissions. A Quick Time SFI bellhousing brings it all together. The car is equipped with a BMR extreme torque arm, lower control arms, and Panhard bar. Backed by a Moser 12-bolt rearend with 3.73 gear and has adjustable shocks on all four corners.
Putting the power to the ground is a set of Mickey Thompson 325/50/15 drag radials on Weld Pro-Stars. This car is a full-weight street machine that weighs in at 3,680-lbs. with driver, a full interior, but no cage (yet). It still has its original paint with its (mostly) stock-looking appearance; thus nobody suspects its makes near 1000 hp to the tires. A sleeper? We wouldn’t go that far, but it’s definitely stealthy.
Andrew Wahle’s 2006 Monte Carlo SS
Back in 2011, while in the market for a 2002 Camaro SS, Andrew Wahle happened to find the perfect example to suit his needs and tastes. However, before he could make an offer on the car, it was sold out from under him. Quickly looking to rebound, he stumbled upon a 2006 GTO. Unfortunately, the dealership in Woodriver, Illinois want too much for the Goat but at the end of the line was a car that Andrew had never seen before; an LS4-powered Monte Carlo SS.
Having no idea it even had a V8 on the face of things, Andrew test drove it and instantly fell in love. Being stuck with a front-drive layout, Andrew took it as challenge to build the W-body Monte into a car that could keep up with the more common LS-powered vehicles. The fact that it was rather unusual further peaked his interest as well. After almost four years, two engines and several transmissions it’s finally a solid build and can hold its own on the streets, and Mr. Wahle admits that it’s been an uphill battle modifying a car that has little following or aftermarket support.
The engine itself is completely stock except for plugs, wires, and injectors – apart from the Cartuning Performance turbo kit. I have their base level kit. Which comes with a T66 Turbonetics turbo, wastegate, and blow off valve – are both 50mm and and manufactured by Turbonetics as well.
Andrew tells us, “In the end you’re better off building the transmission first before you do anything. That’s the one thing I’ve really concentrated on – now its a fully-built 4T65E-HD.” The gearbox utilizes billet Sonnax valve body components and clutch pistons, Borg Warner high energy clutches, a selection of hard parts from Borg Warner and ZZP, along with a TransGo shift kit. The 4T65E-HD also uses a Cartuning spacer to increase the amount of fluid in the transmission and it lowers the filter into the pan further. That, combined with the ZZPerformance aluminum trans pan, the fluid count has been increased to 17 quarts and that solved every issue that the transmission was going to have. Sitting between it and the LS4, is a Precision 3000-stall torque converter.
Andrew takes great pride in the fact that he installed the turbo kit himself, while a local shop in Palm Springs, California called Paul’s Transmissions built the transmission for the Monte. In the end we were able to get 420 fwhp on 7-psi., and close to 500 fwtrq. Andrew credits Josh at JEP Autoworks in Hemet, California for tuning duties.
*If you want your car featured in Reader’s Rides, send Editor Rick Seitz an email at email@example.com for more details!
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.