To give the chassis the full Pro Touring rubdown, Paul revamped the suspension with Hotchkis springs, sway bars, subframe connectors, and front control arms. Spring damping comes courtesy of Bilstein shocks, and giant Wilwood brakes—13 inches up front and 12 inches out back—provide the stopping power. The 18x9 Snowflake wheels retain the look and feel of the stockers, but are large enough to accommodate 275mm-wide BFGoodrich rubber for some extra stick. "When I first started building this car in the early 2000s, Pro Touring wasn't nearly as big as it is today, so parts were harder to find. Luckily, it didn't take long for better suspension hardware to hit the market, which made building this car much easier," Paul says.
Since every g-Machine needs enough grunt underhood to take advantage of all that enhanced grip, Paul sent the Pontiac 400 engine to Patterson's Garage to have it stroked to 461 ci. After boring the holes out to 4.155 inches, Patterson fitted the block with an Eagle rotating assembly. Ported factory iron cylinder heads and an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold provide the airflow, while a COMP 230/236-at-.050 hydraulic flat-tappet cam actuates the valves. Overall, it's a combo that prioritizes low-end grunt and civility over peak horsepower, just like Paul intended. He estimates output at 450-475 hp, but it's the torque that he truly enjoys. "This motor can break the tires loose at any speed, and you can lug it at 1,400 rpm on the freeway at 75 mph. It's so nice to be able to carry a conversation in the car, which I couldn't do with the four-speed," Paul says. What makes such easy freeway cruising possible is a Tremec T56 six-speed manual transmission that sends power back to a GM 12-bolt rearend with 3.42:1 gears.
After a tedious 10-year build, Paul put the finishing touches on it in 2012. Since then, he's logged over 10,000 miles cruising with Shannon all around the South to places like Talladega Superspeedway and the Jack Daniels Distillery. The duo also teams up with fellow Trans Am enthusiasts on annual Bandit Runs from Texarkana to Atlanta. Although cruising is what he enjoys the most, Paul's not afraid to let it rip from time to time. "I ran my car at an Optima Faceoff event in Texas in 2012, and while I wasn't close to being the fastest in the autocross or road course, everyone noticed how much fun I was having. I lit up the tires and slid the car sideways whenever I could, and because of my enthusiasm they gave me a Spirit of the Event award and an invite to the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational," he recalls. "I certainly didn't get invited because I was faster than anyone else, but racing against guys I looked up to and read about was the opportunity of a lifetime. I was ranked 18 out of 40 or so cars during the middle of the event, but I don't know where I finished overall and I don't care. I was just happy to be there."
Whether Paul is taking off for a midnight run to Alabama, cruising to Atlanta, running laps around the autocross or heading out to Las Vegas, he's living it up with both his keepers, which he happened to find on the same day. How much luckier can one man possibly get?
BY THE NUMBERS
1978 Pontiac Trans Am
Paul Welch, 38
Type: Pontiac 461
Block: factory iron bored to 4.155 inches
Oiling: Melling pump, stock pan
Rotating assembly: Eagle 4.250-inch forged steel crank and rods; Ross 9.7:1 forged pistons
Cylinder heads: Pontiac 6X iron castings ported to 240 cfm
Camshaft: COMP Cams 230/236-at-.050 hydraulic flat-tappet cam; .488/.491-inch lift; 110-degree LSA
Valvetrain: COMP Cams timing set, lifters, and pushrods; Butler 1.6:1 rocker arms
Induction: Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold, Holley 850-cfm carburetor
Fuel system: stock tank; Aeromotive pump and regulator
Ignition: MSD distributor, coil, plug wires, and 6AL ignition box
Exhaust: stock exhaust manifolds, dual 2.5-inch MagnaFlow mufflers
Transmission: D&D Performance T56 six-speed manual, Centerforce clutch, Hurst shifter
Rear axle: GM 12-bolt rearend with 3.42:1 gears and limited-slip differential
Front suspension: Hotchkis upper and lower control arms, springs, and sway bar; Bilstein shocks
Rear suspension: Hotchkis leaf springs, sway bar, and subframe connectors; Bilstein shocks
Brakes: Wilwood 13-inch rotors and six-piston calipers, front; Wilwood 12-inch rotors and four-piston calipers, rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: YearOne Snowflake 18x9, front and rear
Tires: BFGoodrich 275/40R18, front and rear