Both Kevin King and John Cunningham are big, burly dudes. You know, the kind you wouldn't want to tangle with at the local bar. While you wouldn't mistake the two of them for twins—at least not the identical kind—the parallel paths of their lives, the similarity of their interests, and the uncanny resemblance of the muscle cars each men chose to build suggests that DNA testing is the only way to conclusively determine whether or not the two are related.

Let's examine the facts, shall we? Both are 46 years old. Both hail from the South. Both love muscle cars. And both dreamed of someday building a '73 Trans Am after watching the '70s John Wayne flick McQ as kids. "I was a huge John Wayne fan growing up, and after watching McQ I always wanted a Brewster Green '73 Trans Am just like the one in the movie," Kevin says. Not surprisingly, John echoes those remarks. "I saw McQ at the drive-in with my dad when I was 10 years old, and I immediately fell in love with the body lines of the '73 Trans Am. Since that day, I have always wanted to build one," he says.

As is often the case for twins separated at birth, Kevin and John formulated identical plans while remaining completely oblivious to the other person's motives. "It's really weird how this all came together," John says. "Kevin and I have been friends for many years. When he stopped by my house a few years ago and saw my Trans Am sitting on a rotisserie, he mentioned that he had also just recently purchased a '73 Trans Am of his own. It was crazy that we just happened to be working on the same car at the same time."

From there, the two bounced ideas off of each other and realized that they had similar goals for their respective machines. Both men dreamed of wheeling full-tilt Pro Touring Ponchos boasting force-fed LS small-blocks, Detroit Speed and Engineering suspensions, overdrive transmissions, massive brakes, and comfy cabins. Nevertheless, since these Trans Ams are fraternal—not identical—twins, there are some obvious differences between them. Kevin's green machine gets the job done with twin turbos while John's red sled relies on an Edelbrock supercharger. Between the two of them, they put down a combined 1,350 hp, at the rear wheels, with the boost turned way down. Not surprisingly, both Trans Ams more than held their own at PHR's 2012 Muscle Car of the Year competition. Needless to say, any smug wanker who comes across either of these McQ-inspired machines in an overpriced exotic car is in for a serious surprise.

The Green Hornet

As President of YearOne, Kevin King has seen a hot muscle car or two in his day. In fact, YearOne's in-house hot rod shop, Ghostworks Garage, has been building high-profile street machines for the better part of a decade. Although the shop cranks out the usual suspects for customers—like '69 Camaros, Chevelles, and fastback Mustangs—when his own money was on the line, Kevin had to have a '73 Trans Am. "YearOne builds a lot of mainstream cars, but the company was actually conceived from Pontiac enthusiasts. When company founder Len Athanasiades was building a '69 Trans Am clone back in the late '70s, he started a parts business specializing in first-year Trans Ams, hence the name YearOne," Kevin says. "I had been looking for a '73 Trans Am to build a McQ tribute car from for the last 20 years, but it was one of those situations where I couldn't find the right car or I just didn't have the money. Then my business partner surprised me one day by buying me a Brewster Green Trans Am as a gift."

Interestingly, although Pontiac has always distinguished itself from its corporate GM cousins by way of gaudy graphics and peculiar body embellishments, it was the movie car's simplicity that struck a chord with Kevin. "The Green Hornet car in McQ was so elegant and understated with a small Firebird graphic on its nose, and a subdued color combination. That's what I loved about it," he says. Outward appearances notwithstanding, there's nothing subdued about the Trans Am's performance. Kevin's Poncho posted the quickest quarter-mile time at PHR's 2012 Muscle Car of the Year competition by a large margin, running a best e.t. of 11.50 at 131 mph on street tires. The wicked engine combo responsible for that blazing performance is a Chevrolet Performance LS7 crate motor packing twin 67mm turbochargers. "This car puts down 780 rear-wheel horsepower on pump gas, and dumping in some race gas and turning up the boost bumps that figure to 1,200. The first time I laid into it on the freeway, it scared me silly, which doesn't happen to me very often."

Since cornering and braking competence are essential to any car inspired by an epic Hollywood chase scene, Kevin's Trans Am is loaded up with chassis goodies as well. Up front is a complete Detroit Speed and Engineering front subframe and suspension assembly, which is matched with a DSE four-link out back. Big six-piston Baer brakes scrub off speed in a hurry, validated by the car's second-best finish in the Speed/Stop portion of the MCOTY competition.

Sure, John Wayne was always a tough guy, but if he was still around today, he'd need a box of Huggies to manhandle Kevin's modern rendition of the fabled Green Hornet.

By The Numbers
1973 Pontiac Trans Am

Kevin King, 46 • Braselton, GA

Engine

Type: GM LS7 small-block
Block: factory 4.125-inch bore aluminum
Oiling: stock dry-sump system
Rotating assembly: GM forged-steel 4.000-inch crankshaft and titanium connecting rods; Mahle forged 8.5:1 pistons
Cylinder heads: stock LS7
Camshaft: factory 211/230-at-.050 hydraulic roller; .591/.591-inch lift; 120.5-degree LSA
Valvetrain: stock
Induction: GM LS7 intake manifold and throttle body
Power adder: twin Turbonetics 67mm turbochargers and wastegates; custom air-to-air intercooler
Ignition: GM coil packs and wires
Exhaust: custom YearOne turbo headers, dual MagnaFlow mufflers
Cooling: GM water pump; Be Cool aluminum radiator and dual electric fans
Output: 780 rear-wheel horsepower

Drivetrain

Transmission: Bowler 4L80E trans and 3,200-stall converter
Rear axle: Moser 9-inch rearend with 3.73 gears and limited-slip differential

Chassis

Front suspension: Detroit Speed and Engineering subframe assembly, control arms, spindles, and sway bar; Eibach springs, Koni shocks
Rear suspension: Detroit Speed and Engineering QuadraLink four-link, Eibach springs, Koni shocks
Brakes: Baer 14-inch discs with 6-piston calipers, front and rear

Wheels & Tires

Wheels: YearOne billet Honeycomb; 18x10, front; 18x12, rear
Tires: BFGoodrich 295/35R18, front; 335/30R18, rear

The Red Dragon

Duck and cover! It's a self-preservation strategy that's becoming a familiar ritual for John Cunningham whenever he rolls up to a crowd full of muscle car traditionalists. That's because his '73 Trans Am used to be an original, 74,000-mile, factory 455 car with a four-speed and A/C. Not surprisingly, transforming it into a g-Machine wasn't part of the original plan. "I was going to just repaint it, replace the carpet, and restore it back to its original numbers-matching condition, but I didn't want to put a bunch of money into a car I could never drive. It would have only gotten 6 mpg anyway," he quips. "After I started talking to Kevin King about our Trans Am projects, he suggested building something that I could actually drive. I've always wanted a '73 Trans Am since I was 10 years old, so I definitely wanted to be able to enjoy the car after finishing it."

Like Kevin, John had also been on the lookout for a Trans Am for a very long time. "These cars used to be everywhere in the late '80s. I remember passing up on an opportunity to buy a '71 Trans Am for $700 just because it had a little bit of rust on the fenders," he laments. When he started searching for an early second-gen Trans Am once again, the task proved unfruitful. After spotting what he figured was a Camaro sitting under a car cover, he finally stopped to check it out after having driven right past it for three years. "I walked up to this old lady's front yard, picked up the car cover, and saw this perfect Buccaneer Red '73 Trans Am sitting there. It was her son's car, and I convinced them that they needed to sell it."

After deciding to take the Pro Touring plunge, John yanked out the 455 and replaced it with a Chevrolet Performance LS7 crate motor. Thanks to an Edelbrock supercharger, the motor kicks out 570 hp and 550 lb-ft at the rear wheels. "Those figures are with the low-boost pulley. With a smaller blower pulley, the combo is good for another 100 hp," John says. The potent Gen IV mill is mated to a McLeod clutch and a Tremec T56 six-speed transmission. Getting it all to stick to the pavement, both in a straight line and around corners, is a Detroit Speed and Engineering front clip and suspension, as well as a QuadraLink four-link out back.

Ultimately, the combination of all this state-of-the-art hardware has netted a wonderfully balanced package that flat out rips at the track and cruises like a Tomahawk missile on the open road. Need proof? After this year's MCOTY competition outside Columbus, Ohio, John went cruising through the Carolinas and down to Georgia just for fun, then drove all the way back home to Kentucky. For some reason, we don't think he regrets ripping out that stock 455 and four-speed, not one bit.

By The Numbers

1973 Pontiac Trans Am
John Cunningham, 46 • Mayfield, KY

Engine

Type: GM LS7 small-block
Block: factory 4.125-inch bore aluminum
Oiling: Melling oil pump, GM pan
Rotating assembly: GM forged steel 4.000-inch crankshaft, titanium connecting rods, and 11:1 hypereutectic pistons
Cylinder Heads: stock LS7
Camshaft: factory 211/230-at-.050 hydraulic roller; .591/.591-inch lift; 120.5-degree LSA
Valvetrain: stock
Induction: Edelbrock E-Force aluminum blower manifold
Power adder: Edelbrock E-Force intercooled supercharger kit No. 1572
Ignition: GM coil packs and wires
Exhaust: custom YearOne headers, dual MagnaFlow mufflers
Cooling: GM water pump; Be Cool aluminum radiator and dual electric fans
Output: 570 hp and 550 lb-ft at rear-wheels

Drivetrain

Transmission: Tremec T56 six-speed trans, McLeod clutch
Rear axle: GM 8.5-inch rearend with 3.23: gears and limited-slip differential

Chassis

Front suspension: Detroit Speed and Engineering subframe assembly, control arms, spindles, sway bar, and coilovers
Rear suspension: Detroit Speed and Engineering QuadraLink four-link and coilovers
Brakes: Baer 14-inch discs with 6-piston calipers, front and rear

Wheels & Tires

Wheels: YearOne billet Honeycomb 18x10, front; 18x12, rear
Tires: BFGoodrich 295/35R18, front; 335/30R18, rear

  • «
  • |
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • View Full Article