photos by: the author
We Introduce our First Long-Term Project Third-Gen; Project Redrum, our Full-On Track Assassin!
It was bound to happen, sooner or later. With Hawks Third Generation working with us, a huge resurgence of third-generation popularity brewing and your author being a closet Knight Rider geek, an ’82-92 F-body project car only seemed inevitable. More specifically, a 1984 Trans Am. It’s the precursor to TPI, Turbo Buick-power, the first Firehawks, Pontiac’s excessive body-cladding and pretty much everything else that made this body style remotely relevant. Although it’s not the black and gold ’82 example my parents owned as a kid, in my eyes, it’s still reminiscent to that car with its subtle styling.
I’ll be honest, there’s no denying that the ’82-84 Camaros and Firebirds weren’t particularly impressive in factory spec, especially by today’s standards, however that’s exactly why we’re drawn to them so much. They’re the automotive equivalent to Rocky Balboa, circa 1976. They’re the 10:1 underdog in a world filled with 300-plus horsepower V6 pony cars and top-tier V8 muscle now surpassing that magical 700 hp number. This car certainly has its work cut out for it.
“[Early third-gens] were the automotive equivalent to Rocky Balboa, circa 1976.”
No this one isn’t packing EFI power or even a Cross-Fire engine, but what we have in store for this bucket will definitely change the way you feel about third-gens. We’re sure you’ve heard it elsewhere before, but it’s entirely 100% true in this instance. We can delve into all of that right now, but we’d prefer it if you read further… you’re going to love what we have in store!
OK, we’ll just come out and say that this ’84 isn’t exactly the nicest Trans Am on the planet. It’s got dents, dings and faded paint. The interior could use some serious love as well and although it does move under its own power, we’re not entirely sold on the thought that the 5-liter V8 is actually a “high-output” engine. Not because the RPO L69 powerplant was replaced, but rather, it’s performance is completely underwhelming. The 190 hp L69 is apparently in dire need of a tune-up and the factory T-5 manual is grinding. The car is completely stock, save for some rusted auto parts store chrome exhaust tips and and a Circuit City stereo system… from the early ’90s. That’s the bad…
The good? Apart from its apparent and minor cosmetic issues, this car is clean… really clean! It’s probably one of the most solid examples of its vintage that we’ve seen in awhile. Keep in mind that this Trans Am was never a garage queen, but was a well-used example sourced from Las Vegas – Sin City!
We put this thing on our shop’s lift just the other day, and apart from some obvious Vegas dust remnants attached to the undercarriage and the inevitable rusting of the rearend and suspension components, the floor was about as solid as it was when it left the factory some 31 years ago! Your author scored it super cheap on eBay a few months back, with the sole intention of completely rebuilding it from the ground-up.
“…we simply wanted a solid, rust-free early 3rd-generation Trans Am [body] for the sake of our build.”
Yeah, there are cleaner, faster and arguably better-looking Firebirds from this particular generation out there. But we simply wanted a solid, rust-free early 3rd-generation Trans Am [body] for the sake of our build. We didn’t want to start out with a mint, low-mileage GTA, Turbo Trans Am or even a TPI Formula 350 if we’re just going to tear into it, regardless. These cars are becoming increasingly harder to find, so “hacking up” a perfect, all-original car just didn’t make much sense to us. Plus, we didn’t have the disposable $15-20k those examples are pulling these days, anyway.
We were fairly adamant with our projected plan from the get go, so the fact that this was a factory solid-roof and manual transmission car without power windows or door locks made it even more appealing to us. It’s the perfect platform for our plan…
“…we’re focused on building an all-out, hardcore, badass, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners track assassin that’s going to go toe-to-toe with some of the biggest names in the game!”
We’re taking this forgotten hero from the Southwest and turning into a corner carver. We’re not talking a casual autocross car, either; we’re focused on building an all-out, hardcore, badass, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners track assassin that’s going to go toe-to-toe with some of the biggest names in the game!
That factory drivetrain? Getting ripped out – all of it! See ya’ 305, goodbye T-5 and sayonara GM 10-bolt. You can keep your rear drum brakes, too, thanks. In their place, respectively, will be a Magnuson Heartbeat-blown LS3 backed by built T-56, a Strange driveshaft and S60 rearend with Baer 13-inch binders at all, count ’em, four corners!
Everything pertaining to the chassis, drivetrain and overall functionality of the Trans Am will be getting seriously overhauled, too. We’re thinking a set of Hawks long-tube headers, Holley true-dual exhaust system, and an upgraded fuel system which will include a new Holley Hydramat kit.
The ugly OEM rolling stock is outta’ there as well and will be getting updated with CTW Motorsports 17-inch rollers in 17×9.5-inch dimensions. They’ll be wrapped in Falken Azenis rubber, which will provide us with the grip we’re looking for from our Trans Am. We should also point out that those CTWs are designed specifically for autocross/road racing, along with the fitment of much larger braking systems, such as the Baer 13-inch rotors that we’re putting on this [future] beast!
The ratty interior will be getting a serious makeover; we’ve already ordered replacement trim pieces from Hawks and OER that will replace the sagging headliner, cracked dash pad and various other trim bits that are either broken or missing completely. The seats are getting pulled; the rear entirely, while the driver and passenger seats will be swapped with something from either Corbeau, Recaro or Sparco. A roll bar and a pair safety harnesses will be installed to not only do their intended jobs of keeping occupants safe, but to meet certain requirements that are needed to compete in sanctioned SCCA events.
“Oh, and that body work? We’re leaving it as is…”
Oh, and that body work? We’re leaving it as is. Yup… dents, dings, scratches, swirl marks and paint fade – they’re all going to be there for the long haul! The only changes we’ll make between now and completion is a coat of clear, to preserve the patina obviously, and more than likely remove the ugly side moldings. You can expect some sponsors logos and improved aero as well. We’re going for the battered, battle-scarred rat rod look with this gem, and this is going to be one project car you won’t forget anytime soon! So stick around, Project Redrum going to be awesome!
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.