Over the last 15 years or so, the LS1-eqipped F-bodies have slipped into the category of bargain basement performance vehicles and first-time race cars for teenagers and 20-somethings. Since more modern vehicles have taken their place as the affordable every man machine, you can now pick up a clean, ram air-fed Camaro or Firebird from the Clinton era for as low as $4000.
However, it wasn’t always like that, as gearheads from all walks of life and the ability to pick up a then-pricey $32,000 V8 Camaro or Firebird found their way into a Chevy and Pontiac dealership between 1998-2002, your author included. Gas was cheap, low-13 second quarter-mile factory V8 performance was still impressive and we all knew that the end was near for Camaro and Firebird. It was a bittersweet time to be in the LS game, as the only potential replacement for an LS performance car was the much more expensive C5 Corvette. Nobody knew what the future would bring, only that the F-body was to go on hiatus indefinitely.While briefly browsing one of the F-body Facebook groups this morning, we stumbled upon some images of a 2002 CETA assembly process, when Steve Pereira shared his story, video and photos of his 1998 Tarns Am WS6 #2728 being assembled with everyone on the page. Immediately awestruck of what we were seeing, we felt compelled to share it with all of you here. Below is an assertion of Steve’s experience, and the backstory of his beloved 1998 WS6 below:
“I initially assembled an order for a black 1998 6-speed TA, loaded, in late February or very early March. A few days later, I upgraded it to a WS6 upon favourable comments from my mom when she saw the Firebird brochure.
The order kept getting rejected by the “system” and after many attempts I was instead offered an identically-optioned 1997 Trans Am WS6 that was in stock a few hours away. After careful consideration, I decided to stick to the LS1. It was supposed to by my winter car while I stored my 1987 GTA, and based on mailing list readings, I had developed “Opti-phobia,” if you get my meaning.
Beginning of April, the order suddenly went in. While on a business trip, I read in Pontiac Enthusiast (now defunct) that all 2800 (or 2900?) WS6s for 1998 were already sold before the first one was assembled (sometime in February, I think). After some anxious moments, I discovered an additional 300 units had been added to the 1998 run of which only 10 were for Canada (I ended up being 8th of those 10!). Close call.
In regards to the acquiring access to record video and take photos; an online friend in Toronto was also awaiting a WS6 and gave me the name and number to the ASC plant (of which I was previously unaware, since SLP had done the WS6 and Firehawk up until the 1997 model year). I spoke to the site manager, Paul Goddard, a super nice guy who invited me by for a quick tour (as you can see in the video, it wasn’t that big of a site). We had a great morning visit, and Nancy the super helpful administration assistant dug up my production number.
Unrelated, I was super lucky to have ended up with a GM plant tour the exact date my car was built — totally by luck. I spotted two black pre-WS6 cars on the line and only one matched my (fully loaded) option content. Who knows, maybe it was my car? Days later, I got the call from ASC when my car arrived. Paul took me down the row of black TAs and Formulas to my exact car which I got to sit in, fire up, and rev a bit. That was surreal.
I got a call a few days later with a firm date on the conversion. At the allotted time I showed up (see video and web page) and they had parted the sea of black Firebirds right up to my car… and was instructed to bring it down and into the building. There was a bit of a cement lip at the garage door… I stalled it at least once.
Stating there wasn’t anything legally damaging at the site, I was allowed to videotape and photograph the process. Looking back, I should have shot far more footage, but I was overcome by both the excitement of my first brand new car and the disbelief that I was being allowed to actually shoot all this before even paying for the car!
The car was now finished, given an additional once-over (as per request by the plant back when I took the tour, as there was a strike risk and one of the ASC workers was related to a foreman at F-car assembly) and parked against the fence for transport back to GM. The car was delivered to my dealer on my birthday, but sadly, I had just left earlier that day on a 2-week business trip to Chicago. I only got to take possession upon my return (I went straight from the airport to the dealer!).
A few months later I rented a panel van and went back to pick up the “original” non-WS6 hood which they were kind enough to hold for me (I was in the process of buying my first house at the time as well… lots of upheaval in my life at that time).
Of course, the winter car thing never happened… after seeing the assembly line and then enjoying the car for a few months, this car took its place alongside my ’87 GTA for winter storage and I went back to beaters in the short term. I still have the car today, it’s still completely bone stock and it has 119,000 km on the odometer.”
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.