Any 800-plus hp project is a struggle, that's just a fact of life. They are always a fight against part fitment, vendor delays, fuel system upgrades, broken parts, lack of funds and/or that other little thing called life. You know, that 9-to-5 job you need in order to pay for all this stuff, that significant other who wants to “spend time together” while you could be out wrenching on your ride, bills, the list goes on and on. Really, it's amazing any of us get anything built, let alone monsters capable of laying down almost 900 rear-wheel horsepower on 91-octane pump gas. Throw an LT1 engine in the mix and you've got an uphill battle that most people either abandon half way through or just never even attempt, knowing that they can't hack it through the year(s) long struggle that would lie ahead. Michael Wendling of Colorado Springs, Colorado, knows this fight all too well, but unlike those of us too afraid to even try it, Michael also knows the sweet taste of success and the thrill of blasting his 891-rwhp '96 WS6 around the Colorado mountains.
Interestingly, this all started with a '95 Camaro that Michael had built back in the day with a 383 cubic-inch engine and a bolt-on supercharger kit. After an unfortunate “incident” left the Camaro well, let's just say, un-drivable, Michael happened upon a stock '96 Formula WS6 for sale and the allure of the bright red paint and WS6 hood proved too strong for him to pass it up. Early in 2004, after working a deal and purchasing his new ride, the crew at Rocky Mountain Competitive Research (RMCR), the killer shop that Michael co-owns with Mark McCallon, immediately got to work, pulling the stock engine out of the WS6 and installing the old Camaro's 383 and supercharger system in its place. That engine would be one of three different mills that the WS6 would see over the years, the result of Michael's desire to push each combination to its limit and then find out where the combo can be improved. The result of such intense R&D is what you see here, a 383 cubic-inch LT1 that was built by Michael himself, with help from Chad Golen and the machinists at Golen Engine Service in Hudson, New Hampshire.
It begins with a stock LT1 block that the crew at Golen machined to perfection with 4.030-inch bores, splayed main caps, and a plethora of other little tricks and tweaks that the high-performance engine builders are known for. Once machined, Michael got to work on the assembly, dropping a Scat 4340-forged crankshaft in place, which connected to a set of JE pistons via an octet of Scat H-beam forged rods. Induction on an LT1 project is key, so it should come as no surprise that Michael had the crew at Total Engine Airflow build him a serious set of cylinder heads, which actually started life as a set of one-off cast Trick Flow Specialties units that featured a small-block Chevy style intake bolt pattern. These trick heads were then CNC-ported by TEA and massaged to create a significant amount of airflow, which is supported by a pair of 2.020-inch and 1.600-inch intake and exhaust valves stuffed in each combustion chamber. Combined with the JE pistons, Michael ended up with a 9.6:1 compression ratio, which is exactly what he needed to make big power in the thin Colorado air on 91-octane pump gas.