Here at Dragzine we’ve built a pretty wide array of project cars in the past that have produced solid power to a lot of power, but like the name of our publication implies, each of them have been all-out racecars that didn’t see any street duty. Since a majority of our readers are still driving their cars to and from the track and hitting up their local cruise nights, we felt it was time to present a project that was close to what many of you are building in your own garages. Our new project car, “Red Dragon”, is a 2000 Pontiac Trans Am that will see plenty of time on the street, but has the goal of cracking into the nine-second range with a cam, nitrous, and some supporting modifications.
When I originally purchased the Trans Am in 2009 it was 100 percent stock and that made it a perfect candidate to be turned into a fun street and strip car. Soon, parts began to fly at the Pontiac, like BMR subframe connectors, UMI lower control arms, UMI adjustable pan hard rod, BMR torque arm, Magnaflow catback exhaust, Pacesetter headers, a TCI torque converter, and the other standard F-body upgrades a new owner will add to their car. With these upgrades, the Trans Am was running well into the 12-second zone on with regularity.
The next batch of changes included a Circle D torque converter, a built 4L60e transmission, Moser Engineering 9-inch rearend with a spool, LS6 intake, a wet shot of giggle juice from Nitrous Outlet, a Brian Tooley Racing Stage 4 camshaft kit, and DeatschWerks 42-pound injectors. All of these items were added to the foundation of suspension parts to help the car make more power, and be able to put that power down without fear of the weak stock transmission or rearend failing at the track.
These new changes pushed the Trans Am to a respectable 10.90 at 122 mph best, but there was a whole lot more left in the car since the parts were not working as good as they could together. The writing was on the wall–it was time for some changes to make the car more street friendly and go even faster at the track by refining the combination.
Taking The Restrictor Plate Off The Red Dragon
The Red Dragon is very much a real world build that virtually anyone can do at home. With the price of fourth-generation F-bodies getting cheaper by the day, gearheads who purchased these cars are looking for ways to make their rides faster without creating a total racecar. Most of what you see done to the Red Dragon will be performed in your standard two car garage, or on a lift that someone is generous enough to allow us to use. Not everybody has enough cash to just drop a car off and let a shop do everything, so if you want to see just how to do a home-built street and strip car, then this is the project for you.
A majority of the modifications and some of the driving will be done by Scott Cordell, a GM tech who is ASE certified and knows a thing or two about the LS powerplant. Cordell has a wicked 10-second Camaro of his own and a C5 Corvette that sees its fair share of autocross racing. With his knowledge and insight, the Red Dragon should be able to fly into the nine-second zone with ease.
To help make the Dragon reach its full potential, we’re going to be maximizing the combination of the car and adding some new items along the way. The changes are going to be made to the car from front to back, so we can get that nine-second time slip and not leave anything on the table. Since this car is still street driven to Cars & Coffee and other events, there will be a few compromises made to help keep it street friendly that will cost us some elapsed time at the track.
The main goal of this project is to be able to record a 9.99 pass with the only major changes to the engine being the cam swap and nitrous kit, while still driving the car on the street.
Currently, the Red Dragon has a roll bar and racing harness in it for track use to keep it legal and the NHRA off our backs. Now, we know that there are a lot of other items added to the car, and depending on who you talk to, those are all considered “bolt-on” modifications still. The changes made to the car have been done to support each other and keep that are as reliable as possible. Hopefully, others will be able to use this project car as a blueprint for their car that sees both street and track duty on a regular basis.
Future Plans For The Car
The Red Dragon won’t be just a one trick pony, we will be entering the car into Cash Days heads-up races, bracket racing, index racing, and pretty much any other type of track racing where it fits in. You will be able to see this car at the track, ask questions, and let us know what you think of the project, so it will be fun for all our readers!
We have already added a new 4L65E transmission from Monster Transmission to the car, along with an ATI Performance Products torque converter to replace the inefficient unit that was in the car. These will be the first two items that you will see upcoming articles on after some more testing is completed. Those changes won’t be enough to get the car into the ET range we need, and there will be more great parts added to this project car soon.
After we get the transmission and converter squared away, the spool will be coming out of the rearend along with the current 3.70 gear set. In their place will be a more street-friendly posi-traction unit and better gear ratio for the combination to help drop the ETs at the track. Since the car is still on the heavy side with the stock front suspension, those parts will be getting removed for lighter aftermarket parts. The Red Dragon will be getting a tubular k-member, control arms, and upgraded shocks to drop pounds and assist with weight transfer at the track. The rear suspension will also be getting some attention with a better set of control arms, panhard rod, shocks, and maybe some other goodies.
To help cut additional weight we will be going to a drag pack style wheel package, removing weight from the car, along with a more drag racing friendly type of brake setup at all four corners. Finally, a standalone fuel cell will be added to the nitrous system so we can really lean on the car and see what it will do. Who knows, there might be some other tricks and changes done, as well!
We have a lot planned for the Red Dragon and we plan on making a ton of passes on it at the tack throughout this process. This build will hopefully inspire others to get to wrenching on their street car and head to the track and have some fun. Stay tuned to Dragzine for the first installment of this exciting series of articles on our newest project car!