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This 1973 Trans Am might just be the Perfect Pontiac

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 2018-05-16 Hot Rod Network Staff

Talk to enough car enthusiasts, and there's one common theme that always presents itself: the car they've built holds some sort of strong emotional attachment, for one reason or another. Sometimes it's their first car they've managed to hold onto for decades and eventually restore. Sometimes it's a model owned by an older gearhead neighbor that's wormed its way into the memory banks. Sometimes, as in the case of Sriyantha Weerasuria, (SW for short) the car is a representation of the glory days of high school, when times were simpler and responsibilities were few.


"In high school, all my buddies had Chevelles and Camaros. I had a '76 455 four-speed, and a '79 6.6-litre four-speed—I had three Trans Ams at one time in high school," he tells us.

SW, who today is the owner of Elite Motorsports in Austin, TX, one of the country's leading used exotic vehicle dealers, has a long and storied history with muscle cars, exotics, racing, and the gearhead life in general. But the Pontiac has always been the object of his affection.

"Right now I have 18 cars. I've been a car guy all my life. I've had Underground Racing twin-turbo Lamborghinis; I've gone 240 mph (386 km/h) in the half-mile (800 metres), and I still hold the record for the fastest manual six-speed Supra in the quarter-mile (400 metres) with a 7.91 at 189 mph (302 km/h). I road-race a lot and have a Viper ACR and a Porsche GT3 RS. Trans Ams are my favourite cars, over my Lamborghinis, Porsches, and Ferraris. I've even bought my son a 1971 blue and white Trans Am; we are going to restore it together," he says.

As you might have gathered, this isn't SW's only TA; he owns one other—a Buccaneer Red 1973 example—in addition to the aforementioned 1971. His 30-plus-year history at the helm of Elite Motorsports has put him in a position to build himself the ultimate example of what he envisions the Trans Am to be. Of course, this particular Trans Am, finished in Brewster Green, is an extremely rare example of the 1973 model year. Brewster Green was a one-year colour, and there were only 146 Brewster Green Trans Ams manufactured in 1973, very few of which remain 43 years later.

035-trans-am-firebird-pontiac.jpg© Grant Cox 035-trans-am-firebird-pontiac.jpg

SW's Brewster Green beast was destined for a complete makeover from the moment he took ownership. The car, purchased for the princely sum of US$13,000 on eBay, was immediately delivered to Detroit Speed, which has been responsible for other builds SW has undertaken in the past.

"Once I bought the car, I talked with Kyle at Detroit Speed about what I wanted to do. I wanted the full catalog—the ultimate Trans Am," says SW.

The 427-cubic-inch engine, developed and built by Mast Motorsports, features Callies' forged crankshaft and H-beam connecting rods with Diamond pistons. Mast's CNC-ported LS7 cylinder heads use 294cc runners and flow 410 cfm at 28 inches of water. The engine is fed by one of Detroit Speed's 1,000-horsepower fuel systems and controlled by Mast's electronic fuel injection system to create a rock-solid-reliable, naturally-aspirated LS engine. Combine these characteristics with the compression ratio and Mast Motorsports-spec hydraulic roller camshaft, and you've got an engine that produces plenty of pop: an engine-dyno-proven 675 horsepower at 6,800 rpm, with 561 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm.

On the chassis dyno the car pushes 585 rwhp and 497 lb-ft of torque through the tires. Drivetrain losses are minimized thanks to the efficient Tremec TR-6060 transmission; the power is put to the ground through a Detroit Speed 9-inch rearend housing equipped with a Detroit Speed limited-slip differential and 3.73:1 ring-and-pinion. Exhaust exits through a set of 2-inch-diameter long-tube headers from Detroit Speed, then travels through a 3-inch stainless-steel X-pipe and dual Borla mufflers to get the perfect muscle car exhaust tone.

The suspension is where the car really shines. By chucking the inefficient, antiquated leaf springs and installing Detroit Speed's QUADRAlink 4-link design complete with Panhard bar and adjustable JRi coil-over shocks, the Trans Am's performance was substantially improved over its original capabilities. The floor needed to be cut into to mount the QUADRAlink's components, and weld-in subframe connectors were also installed at this time. By moving the lower links inboard with the QUADRAlink system, they were able to gain additional tire clearance—and they took advantage of it, installing a set of Fikse Profil 10 billet 19x12.5-inch wheels wearing 345/30/19 Nitto Invo tires into the deep wheel tubs.

042-trans-am-firebird-pontiac.jpg© Grant Cox 042-trans-am-firebird-pontiac.jpg

Up front, Detroit Speed's complete Hydroformed Subframe system was set into place. This kit includes brand-new hydroformed framerails, new crossmember, tubular upper and lower control arms, JRi coilover shocks, and a new power rack-and-pinion steering system. Fikse 18x10.5-inch Profil 10 wheels and 295/35/18 Nitto Invo tires complete the monstrous rolling stock. In effect, SW and the Detroit Speed team were able to make the Trans Am all new underneath and give it modern, heart-stopping performance in the process.

But all of the improvements are not simply performance-oriented; they're designed to provide a true one-of-a-kind Trans Am experience to a car guy who has a deep appreciation for history, nostalgia, and performance.

"The bumpers are moved in, shaved, and shortened. There are so many subtle touches on this car. The gauges look original, but they've been converted to electronic operation to work with the LS engine," SW explains.

The car, which occupied the ARP booth at SEMA in 2013, has had every single fastener down to the fender bolts replaced with ARP hardware—that's the level of detail that SW and the Detroit Speed team engineered into this build.

The Buccaneer Red '73 is the Trans Am that takes him back to his high school days, as his neighbor at that time had a friend who owned a similar car, but the Brewster Green car is the one that turns his head every single day. Even with all of the exotic cars in his stable, SW stops in the garage to look at the Trans Am every night before bed; the domestic hot rods are still the fuel which sets his inner fire aflame.

"The Trans Am—that's my thing. You can have the rest of them. I would sell my Ferrari or anything else before I'd sell my Trans Am," he says.


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