Winner—2013 Muscle Car Of The Year
1981 Turbo Trans Am
Considering that this four-digit horsepower 1981 Turbo Trans Am wasn't even set up with quarter-mile, or even autocross work, in mind when we invited it to the Muscle Car of the Year competition, it sure did an excellent job in all three events. That statement is per Jeff Schwartz's comment to us that the TA was still geared and sprung for its standing-mile top-speed configuration, which by his calculations should be right at 200 mph. So as great as it performed all-around at MCOTY, Schwartz assures us it could do even better with a more tailored setup.
That's a very cool thing to consider, but we're glad it came out as-is since it really speaks to the heart of what we want in a MCOTY winner: a car that isn't specialized for any event, but still does very well at all challenges. In its winning configuration, the Turbo TA easily returned the lowest e.t. on the quarter-mile dragstrip despite very little traction and weight transfer, and finished competitively in both the Speed-Stop and Autocross.
The secret to the speed is a Schwartz-built twin-turbo LS9 that churns out 1,042 hp and 900 lb-ft of torque when set on kill, and the secret to the handling is, of course, one of Schwartz's own G-Machine chassis. The TA was designed from the get-go to be the flagship performance car in Schwartz's stable to show off the capability of not only the chassis, but everything his shop can do to create a top-notch Pro Touring machine. It's not a stripped-down track animal; this TA was built as a comfortable long-distance driving car with A/C and a plush interior. Just one more thing this car does well. On a more personal note, this build was also a chance for Schwartz to create his dream car that he could use to attend events regularly and build a good reputation for his company while checking off some stuff from his bucket list. It's hard to beat that advertising campaign.
With so much power on tap, we would have loved to see the TA deep into the single digits, but as wide as the 345-series rear tires are, thin sidewalls coupled with stiff rear springs meant Schwartz had to be tactical on the throttle and was still traction limited to the 11s all day. The sound and fury of the turbos spooling the LS9 down the track was phenomenal though, giving a taste of what it could do if Schwartz ever decided to go for quarter-mile glory. Maybe someday, but specialization isn't what this car was ever supposed to be about. It's an all-around high-performance machine with extremely high limits on every testable front; quarter-mile, braking, handling, and even top speed, and all while remaining a very pleasant and temperate street car. That's the very definition of the ultimate muscle car and is why Schwartz and his Turbo TA are the winners of PHR's 2013 Muscle Car of the Year competition.
BY THE NUMBERS
1981 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am
Type: 415ci 1,042hp Schwartz Performance twin-turbo LS9 with LS7 dry-sump system
Rotating assembly: Eagle stroker crank with K1 rods and 9:1 Wiseco pistons
Cylinder heads: ported LS9
Camshaft: custom ground, 242/248 at .050
Induction: twin Turbonetics 66mm turbos with 4-inch aluminum intakes
Exhaust: custom 3-inch oval stainless steel exhaust system, Schwartz custom T4 turbo manifolds
Transmission: Bowler Performance GM 4L85E, Bowler 2,500-stall converter, custom driveshaft
Rearend: Winters 9-inch aluminum center housing with Moser full-floating hubs and axles, Moser aluminum centersection, Wavetrac differential, 3.08 gears
Front suspension: Schwartz SLA with RideTech triple-adjustable coilovers and 500-lb/in springs
Rear suspension: Schwartz four-link with RideTech triple-adjustable coilovers and 300-lb/in springs
Brakes: 14-inch Baer Extreme-Plus cross-drilled rotors with Baer 6S six-piston calipers front and rear
Chassis: Schwartz Performance G-Machine bolt-in full-length frame, RideTech
Wheels & tires: 19x9 and 19x12.5 Forgeline TA3P with 265/35R19 and 345/30R19 Michelin PS2
|¼-mile Drag (best):
||11.659 at 132.73 mph
|⅛-mile Speed-Stop (avg.):