Talk me out of getting a Trans Am...

96Firebird

Diamond Member
Nov 8, 2010
5,711
316
126
While I owned my Firebird, I always wanted an LS1 Trans Am. Then it got totaled, and I was stuck with a '95 Cutlass Supreme, so I REALLY wanted to get an LS1 Trans Am. Then I started working part time at New Era Performance while finishing up school, and I got to work on some and at that time started looking for some. Then I realized how much they are still worth, and told myself to wait until this spring. Now that spring is approaching, I have been actively searching for my next summer car. Here is what I want...

LS1 Trans Am ('98-'02)
No Formulas, possibly a Firehawk
Black or NBM (Navy blue metallic)
6-speed (a must)
Mileage isn't a concern, but the lower the better
Want a car that is mostly stock
Looking to spend $12k max, could definitely afford more but I have student loans to pay for...

I have been searching craigslist, ls1tech.com, local car forums, autotrader, cars.com. There really isn't anything in my area, and what is close is outrageously overpriced. Any other places I can look?

Seems as though everything is cheaper down south, and probably in better condition. How would I go about getting a newly purchased car from another state back home? Assuming the seller didn't want to keep their insurance/registration active while I drive it home, what are my options?

Any reason not to get a car that I want while I'm still young? Always wanted one, now I finally have the means to get one...
 

Ferzerp

Diamond Member
Oct 12, 1999
6,438
107
106
I don't think we can have any luck convincing someone named "Firebird" not to buy a Trans Am ;)
 

skyking

Lifer
Nov 21, 2001
22,004
4,760
146
hehe, I am looking at a 3rd gen because I have an interesting engine for it. I sympathize.
 

DirthNader

Senior member
Mar 21, 2005
466
0
0
I had one of the last '02 Z28s built.

Great car. Everyone knows what the LSx engines are capable of in terms of acceleration. On top of that, with a little bit of money in tires and suspension mine handled great. Had Eibach springs w/ Bilstein shocks valved to match the spring rate, some cheap 1LE OEM parts (same metal, just stiffer bushings), 1LE sway bar (SS / WS6 will already have this), and tubular subframe connectors.

Downsides are mostly ergonomic. You're basically sitting on the floor. Visibility is terrible - I felt like I was looking out of the gunport of a WWII bunker. Your passenger has a huge hump in the floor to deal with that's a relic of the LT1's cat placement. T-tops will leak. If you mess with them to attempt to fix the leak, they'll leak more.

Mechanically, the 10 bolt rear end becomes a liability around 400rwhp (basically bolt ons + cam swap). Piston slap is well documented, but mine had a different issue from the factory; if the wrist pin tolerance is at the small end and the con rod tolerance is at the big end, you get what a powertrain engineer at Milford told me was "pin noise". Sounds like you have a collapsed lifter. Gets worse as the engine warms up (reverse of piston slap). Had a piston and rod assembly replaced at 5K miles because of that.

Get an '01-'02... they inherited the LS6 intake, which is good for a few more ponies stock but also eliminates a real bottleneck if you start modding the engine.

Some of the '02 models got LS6 blocks as well (mine did). No real benefit unless you go for big power, as the LS6 block had cast-in windows on the mains to help reduce high RPM windage loss.
 

96Firebird

Diamond Member
Nov 8, 2010
5,711
316
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Downsides are mostly ergonomic. You're basically sitting on the floor. Visibility is terrible - I felt like I was looking out of the gunport of a WWII bunker. Your passenger has a huge hump in the floor to deal with that's a relic of the LT1's cat placement. T-tops will leak. If you mess with them to attempt to fix the leak, they'll leak more.

Mechanically, the 10 bolt rear end becomes a liability around 400rwhp (basically bolt ons + cam swap). Piston slap is well documented, but mine had a different issue from the factory; if the wrist pin tolerance is at the small end and the con rod tolerance is at the big end, you get what a powertrain engineer at Milford told me was "pin noise". Sounds like you have a collapsed lifter. Gets worse as the engine warms up (reverse of piston slap). Had a piston and rod assembly replaced at 5K miles because of that.

I used to have a Firebird, so I know about all of the issues you mentioned. I didn't mind sitting on the ground, and I had 5% tint on my rear window so I rarely used it anyways (mostly used the side mirrors). The hump never bothered me, as I never sat on the passenger side :). And my T-tops leaked a bit, but I've found a few ways to "fix" it, even if only temporarily. I'm sure if I find my new car leaks, I will look more into it.

I'm also not afraid of tearing into the motor, as like I said I used to work at New Era Performance and I'm sure I could get some good deals. They may even have a few LS6 intakes left over from working on other people's cars that went with something else, people tend to just give them the car and the money and say do what you can. It was shocking to me, but these people had money to throw around...

They really are hard to find in my area, and I'm not sure how far I'm willing to travel for the right car... There are a lot of Pewter cars out there, but I hate the color. :(
 

Don Karnage

Platinum Member
Oct 11, 2011
2,865
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I've had a few 3rd gens and as well as LT1 and LS1 F-Bodies and they were utter and completely made like shit. If you can overlook that aspect they're great performers and utterly cheap to modify. I say if thats what you really want buy it. Even look at the LT1's. Everyone knows LT1's sound better then LS1's ;)
 

DirthNader

Senior member
Mar 21, 2005
466
0
0
They really are hard to find in my area, and I'm not sure how far I'm willing to travel for the right car... There are a lot of Pewter cars out there, but I hate the color. :(

The guy that bought mine flew out from Texas with a friend and drove it back.

A few years ago I flew out to Phoenix with my old man and spent two and a half days driving a '66 Nova SS back home.

If it's the right car, it's worth it to make a trip. Besides, it's a hell of a lot more fun. I think we could have had the Nova shipped for what we spent on the trip (even after using FF miles and hotel points for free stuff), but I wouldn't trade that time for anything.
 

skyking

Lifer
Nov 21, 2001
22,004
4,760
146
I've had a few 3rd gens and as well as LT1 and LS1 F-Bodies and they were utter and completely made like shit. If you can overlook that aspect they're great performers and utterly cheap to modify. I say if thats what you really want buy it. Even look at the LT1's. Everyone knows LT1's sound better then LS1's ;)
Thanks Don. I suspected that was true.
 

Fritzo

Lifer
Jan 3, 2001
41,884
2,124
126
As long as you put one of those KITT lights on the front of it, I'm all for it:

tumblr_l828zgacyT1qzlhnio1_500.gif
 

96Firebird

Diamond Member
Nov 8, 2010
5,711
316
126
Ehh, I'm not much for large decals, stripes, or anything like that. What I would love to find is a black Trans Am with the Firehawk hood. I like it better than the WS6 hood because it doesn't have the break in the middle of the ram-air intake, just looks much smoother in my opinion. Something like this...

firehawkhood.jpg


This is actually a Raptor hood, the Firehawk hood isn't as tall and has two small heat extractors on the sides.
 
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7window

Golden Member
Nov 12, 2009
1,533
1
0
I almost bought jamie curtis firehawk I just didn't like where the motor is situated. It only had 32000 miles on it
 

scorp00

Senior member
Mar 21, 2001
994
0
71
I've owned my 00 trans am for 8 years now and I still love it. I miss my 95 formula, a sleeper is so much fun everyone want's to race you. For 12k I would get a corvette but that is what I have always wanted. Try camaroz28.com too.
 

manimal

Lifer
Mar 30, 2007
13,560
8
0
If it makes you happy then go for it.


I am sick of all the haters hating on perfectly good cars.
 

DirthNader

Senior member
Mar 21, 2005
466
0
0
Thanks Don. I suspected that was true.

It's depends... core build quality is good, it's typical 90's GM though - ancillary parts sourced from lowest-bid suppliers are going to fail. Anything made by Valeo during that time (like power window motors) is a ticking time bomb.

It's a lot of car for the money though.

The engine and transmission (Tremec T56) are fantastic. The SLA front suspension design is miles ahead of MacPherson strut configurations that you see in other cars in that price range. The rear end setup is as good as a live rear axle is going to get, and on smooth surfaces it's damn close to as good as IRS (less camber thrust but more unsprung mass).

Subframe connectors help immensely with the biggest liability on the chassis side, which is the lack of a roof structure. Even the hardtop cars don't carry much torsional load through the roof.

A lot of people don't realize the LS1 f-cars dominated SCCA club racing in Touring2 when they ran, and that was with a restrictor plate that cars like the M3 and 350Z didn't have to suffer. They do a lot more than go fast in a straight line.
 
Aug 23, 2000
15,511
1
81
It's depends... core build quality is good, it's typical 90's GM though - ancillary parts sourced from lowest-bid suppliers are going to fail. Anything made by Valeo during that time (like power window motors) is a ticking time bomb.

It's a lot of car for the money though.

The engine and transmission (Tremec T56) are fantastic. The SLA front suspension design is miles ahead of MacPherson strut configurations that you see in other cars in that price range. The rear end setup is as good as a live rear axle is going to get, and on smooth surfaces it's damn close to as good as IRS (less camber thrust but more unsprung mass).

Subframe connectors help immensely with the biggest liability on the chassis side, which is the lack of a roof structure. Even the hardtop cars don't carry much torsional load through the roof.

A lot of people don't realize the LS1 f-cars dominated SCCA club racing in Touring2 when they ran, and that was with a restrictor plate that cars like the M3 and 350Z didn't have to suffer. They do a lot more than go fast in a straight line.

There's a reason there are race series called IROC an Trans Am, and amazingly, there are IROC and Trans Am F-bodies. They are good race cars.
I've had several 3rd Gen Trans Ams, and if I got a 4th Gen it would be a 2002 WS6 Trans Am. Though if money was no object, I'd get a 3rd Gen Firehawk.
 

exdeath

Lifer
Jan 29, 2004
13,679
10
81
No. Get a Firehawk, and throw in a 150 shot with a cam and a Spintech exhaust.
 

Don Karnage

Platinum Member
Oct 11, 2011
2,865
0
0
Thanks Don. I suspected that was true.

When i was young i could handle the terrible build quality and the rattling of the front dash but now looking back i ask myself WTF was i ever thinking. I'd never buy an LS1 F-body again but if the price was right on an LT1 SS i would in a heartbeat
 

96Firebird

Diamond Member
Nov 8, 2010
5,711
316
126
Your wallet will hate you, but your local gas station owner will propose marriage.

Ehh, I'm sure it won't get any worse mileage than what I drive now ('95 Cutlass Supreme, ~22mpg). I used to average 27mpg in my Firebird, although that was a V6. I'm fairly light-footed though, and this is one of the reasons I want a manual. I miss being able to control the car.
 

Throckmorton

Lifer
Aug 23, 2007
16,830
3
0
Maybe it's because I've been watching Knight Rider on Netflix for the past few days but getting a Trans Am sounds like an awesome idea.

kitt-315-b-1207.jpg



Or how about one of these?

images


Maybe this one...
knight-rider2000movie.jpg

dr77se10.JPG
 
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