Most guys with really quick rides will tell you that they started only with the intention of throwing a few bolt-ons at their car to wake it up a bit. Ronnie Duke is not one of those guys. The Fenton, Michigan entrepreneur had but one ambition that drove the purchase of his 2001 Trans Am convertible: "I was going to build the fastest LS1 car in the country." True to his word, Duke has spent the past three years doing just that.
Don't think though, that just because his goal was clearly defined that the process was an easy one. The car is currently bearing its fourth powertrain, and even getting that in place was a chore. "I had originally taken the car to a shop in Colorado, but when I got it home, it wouldn't even run. I called up FAST to find out who they had in the area, and that is how I got turned on to Wheel to Wheel."
Once in the Wheel to Wheel shop, the first order of business was sorting out the previously botched modifications. "The car was really trashed. It took a lot of hours for the Wheel to Wheel crew to get the wiring and fabrication straightened out."
Meanwhile, Wheel to Wheel's legendary engine builder Kurt Urban set about the work of building the baddest LS1 yet. Starting with a GM Performance Parts C5-R block bored 4.125 inches, Urban added a 3.625-inch stroke Lunati crank to create a displacement of just 387 cubic inches. Oliver rods were matched to JE forged pistons and Federal Mogul rings to complete the short block. The C5-R cylinder heads were thoroughly ported and treated to 2.18/1.60 valves and Jesel adjustable roller rockers with a Cam Motion solid roller directing operations from below. Urban also fabricated the custom belt drives for the MSD billet distributor and Aeromotive fuel pump.
A Procharger F1R is responsible for pressurizing the incoming air before sending it aft (through the car's cockpit) to the rear mounted aftercooler. From there it is returned to the engine room, through the BBK 90mm throttle body and into the polished sheet metal manifold. At 21 pounds of boost, the engine develops nearly 950 lb.-ft. of torque and over 1180 horsepower at the flywheel. Duke tells us Dave Henniger deserves the credit for massaging the tremendous power out of the engine while maintaining a conservative tune. "The tune is designed to make the engine last a long time," says Duke.
The Turbo 400 slushbox and 5000-rpm stall speed torque converter were prepared by Rosler Automatic. A custom Dynotech driveshaft spins the 3.90 gears inside a 9-inch with gun-drilled 40-spline axles from Strange Engineering. Mini-tubbing was required to contain the 28 by 10.5W Mickey Thompsons, which are mounted on 15 by 10 Weld wheels. Traditional 15 by 3.5s with Moroso front runners keep things on the straight and narrow while a full set of Wilwood binders are employed for speed scrubbing.
Though many will undoubtedly question his judgment for choosing a heavy convertible, it does prove Duke's conviction to maintain the car's street presence. "Yeah, it's heavy, but the factory CD player, power windows and even the power top still work." He tells us this multiple Best-of-Show winner still rolls around town to the tune of 100 miles per week. Safety is always an issue with a 1000 horsepower car, and Duke cut no corners here, either. Jason McNeil and Denny Dera bent, shaped and welded the chro-moly tubes that keep Duke safe and the chassis stiff. To keep creature comforts up to snuff, Duke opted for a pair of Sparco EVO seats and a custom carbon fiber dash by Dera.
Building an eight-second LS1 was certainly no easy chore, but the payoff for Duke came quickly. Autumn of 2003 saw him turn a 8.52 at over 163 mph at the Thunder Racing event in Louisiana. "We think the car has a lot more left. We are adding some boost, going to a 2.25-inch primary header, moving to 30-inch tires and taking some weight out of it. It'll go 7.90s in 2004." Brash talk? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing is certain, if anyone is up to the challenge, it is Duke and the talented team at Wheel to Wheel. Naturally, Duke is quick to credit Urban, Henniger, McNeil and Dera. "These are the guys who made my dream come true!"
|DATA FILE 2001 rans Am |
|Owner: ||Ronnie Duke |
|Block: ||GM Performance Parts C5-R, 387 cubic inches |
|Compression Ratio ||9:1 |
|Heads: ||GM Performance Parts C5-R, 2.18/1.60-inch valves |
|Cam: ||Cam Motion billet roller |
|Rocker arms: ||Jesel |
|Pistons: ||JE forged |
|Crankshaft: ||Lunati |
|Rods: ||Oliver |
|Throttle body: ||BBK 90mm |
|Fuel injectors: ||Bosch 160 lb.-hr. |
|Fuel pump: ||Aeromotive |
|Ignition: ||FAST |
|Supercharger: ||Procharger F1R |
|Boost: ||21 psi |
|Intercooler: ||Custom |
|Headers: ||1.875-inch |
|Exhaust system: ||3-inch with Flowmaster mufflers |
|Transmission: ||Turbo 400 by Rosler Automatic |
|Torque converter: ||Rosler 5000-stall |
|Driveshaft: ||Dynotech custom |
|Front suspension: ||HAL springs and shocks, AJE control arms |
|Rear suspension: ||Custom control arms and swaybar, HAL springs and shocks |
|Rear end: ||9-inch with gun-drilled 40-spline axles |
|Brakes: ||Wilwood |
|Wheels: ||Weld Racing |
|Front tires: ||Moroso |
|Rear tires: ||Mickey Thompson 28x10.5W |
|Fuel octane: ||118 |
|Race weight: ||3692 pounds w/driver |
|Best ET/mph: ||8.52 at 163 |
|Best 60-ft. time: ||1.29 |
|Current mileage: ||4,000 |
|Miles driven weekly: ||10 |
The Procharged engine is based...
The Procharged engine is based on a C5-R block and heads and displaces 387 cubes. It churns out 1181 horsepower at 7000 rpm and 21 psi of boost.
Though still quite nice, the...
Though still quite nice, the interior has the added benefit of the intercooler plumbing running down the center. Not exactly a good date car, is it Ronnie?
When it came to bodywork Duke...
When it came to bodywork Duke chose mostly to leave well enough alone, replacing only the hood with a carbon fiber piece from VFN...we suppose you're not looking at the hood, are you?
Housed in the custom carbon...
Housed in the custom carbon dash is a complete complement of Auto Meter Carbon Fiber series gauges.
"Who needs wheelie bars on...
"Who needs wheelie bars on a street car?" Roll up to Duke and find out.
One last look at Misty At...
One last look at Misty Atkinson