CAR FEATURE: LT1 Trans Am Done Right

LT1WS6-10

photos by: Grant Cox

A Battle-Scarred T/A Left for Dead, Has Come back Better than Ever!

By the time 1996 rolled around, the LT1 had been powering the Trans Am for three years. It’s hard to believe, but that was two decades ago now. That’s two decades of season changes, commutes to work, kids growing up, and life happening. For those reasons, and thanks to the LS craze, there aren’t a lot of people who have a strong interest in restoring the LT ‘Birds.

This Trans Am was not immune to effects of time, but someone saw the potential in it. A new owner would come along to give it the facelift it so badly needed. It’s this Trans Am’s restoration that gives us hope that there’s still plenty of people out there who are willing to show the LT1s a little love, even the ones that have been through a hard life.

Mark Little had his eye on his friend’s 1996 Trans Am WS6 for a while, and knew he would be able to give it a good home, and freshen it up. He worked him down and finally convinced his friend to sell the car so Mark could give it a bit of a makeover and a new life. As it turns out, this Trans Am is pretty rare; since it’s a WS6, that makes it one of only 2,500 made during 1996 (#569 to be exact!), and it’s even less common since its a hardtop car.

“This Trans Am WS6 is not only one of the only 2,500 models made in 1996, it’s also a hardtop car. Plus, it has a less common graphite interior, so the car is a very rare combination at the end of the day.” -Mark Little

It was bought by Mark in 2012, but by 2013 the 1996 Trans Am would be ready to hit the track! That meant a lot of work to get it ready to compete, so Mark wasted no time at all with his new purchase.

LT1WS6-6

The owner who had it before Mark bought it had driven the 1996 Trans Am to worked daily for almost a decade. Between those miles and the ones already on the car, the LT1 engine and Trans Am body had a hefty 205,000 miles on the clock. It was time for some serious refreshing, that was obvious. While the car was still alive and kicking, it had issues that needed to be addressed right away.

When it changed hands, the head gaskets were in need of replacement. The engine is still largely stock, with Scorpion Performance 1.7 rocker arms. A set of Hooker headers lead into a Hooker exhaust. It has a little boost from a custom tune by Casey Kollhoff at Auto-Motion in Derby, KS.

“I wanted to do it once, so that meant the restoration and modifications had to be right the first time.” -Mark Little

The transmission was also broken, having no 5th or 6th gear. The transmission was replaced right away, and a Spec Stage 3+ clutch was used — it also has a Spec billet flywheel. Mark decided to go with a Hurst Billet-Plus shifter.

Mark then beefed up the rear with a Strange Engineering S60 rearend. The rear is equipped with Strange 4.30:1 gears and Strange axles. This kind of setup can really take some power, while providing a snappy driving feel.

After the first few modifications, the attention was shifted to the worn out suspension and brakes. Mark decided to use KYB adjustable shocks on all four corners, with Eibach springs to compliment the shocks, giving it a much smoother ride than stock. To improve traction, the car was given UMI upper/lower control arms, a BMR torque arm, UMI adjustable panhard bar, and UMI subframe connectors. He decided to leave the WS6 sway bars in the front and rear. The brakes were were upgraded to slotted and drilled rotors, with Hawk Performance brake pads.

“The car now handles like it’s on rails.” -Mark Little

The WS6 Trans Am now rolls on C5 deep dish wheels, staggered at 18×9.5” in the front, and 18×10.5” wheels in the back. Wrapped around the wheels are BFGoodrich KDW2 tires to further improve traction.

While the original white paint needed some love, it’s still the original coat, and very few appearance modifications have been done to make it look like a champ again. The underside of the OEM WS6 hood has been repainted, and the engine bay wiring has been tucked. BCS Fabrications in Wichita, KS did powder coating and hydro-dipping to certain parts of the engine. Otherwise, only the moldings have been shaved, which we’d hardly consider to be major.

Inside, you’ll find a largely stock graphite interior. At the time of the photoshoot, Mark had Cipher Auto racing seats installed, which have since been changed out to Corbeau A4 seats with Corbeau racing harnesses.

When it was all put together, again in less than a year, Mark took it to the 2013 LTX Shootout to compete in the stock class. While it didn’t place, the fact that it made so much progress in such little time is incredible. The Trans Am went from being on the verge of a junked-out car, to hitting the track, and that’s because Mark accomplished his goals with the car without distraction. Even though it didn’t place, the car still runs an impressive 13-second 1/4-mile, which is pretty quick considering how few performance modifications were done to the car.

“This is a just an all-around fun car to drive!” -Mark Little

Mark Little would like to thank Colm Miller, Casey Kollhoff, Brett Ammerman, Bent Ottawa of BCA Fabrication, Brittni Miller, Ninja, Riaan Miller, and Timmy Critchfield.

TECH SHEET:

  • CAR:  1996 Trans Am WS6 LT1 5.7L (#569 of 2,500 made in 1996)
  •  OWNER: Mark Little
  • ENGINE BLOCK: Stock LT1 350
  • CRANKSHAFT: Stock
  • PISTONS: Stock
  • CAMSHAFT: Stock
  • CYLINDER HEADS: Stock
  • COMPRESSION RATIO: Stock
  • IGNITION: AC Delco spark plug wires and NGK spark plugs
  • EXHAUST: Hooker headers, custom Hooker H-pipe, and Hooker mufflers
  • FUEL DELIVERY: 24 lbs. fuel injectors and Aeromotive regulator
  • OILING: Stock
  • TUNING: Casey Kollhoff at Auto-Motion in Derby, KS
  • TRANSMISSION: T-56 6-speed manual
  • CLUTCH: Spec Stage 3+ Clutch
  • FLYWHEEL: Spec billet
  • DRIVESHAFT: Stock
  • REAREND: Strange; S60, 4.30 gears, Spec axles TrueTrac
  • SUSPENSION: KYB adjustable shocks on all four corners, Eibach springs on front and rear, UMI upper/lower control arms, a BMR torque arm, UMI adjustable panhard bar, and UMI subframe connectors. Stock WS6 sway bars in the front and rear.
  • BRAKES: Drilled and slotted brake rotors with Hawks Performance brake pads.
  • WHEELS: C5 deep dish wheels, staggered at 18×9.5” in the front, and 18×10.5” wheels in the back
  • TIRES: BFGoodrich KDW2 275/35/18 (front), 295/35/18 (rear)
  • HP/TQ.: Estimated 300 RWHP/Estimated 310 RWTQ
  • BEST 1/4-MILE ET: 13.0 @ 105 mph
  • BEST 60-FT.: 1.89

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