View Full Version : Building 97 Trans AM from the frame

08-01-2012, 10:10 PM
Alright guys, as crazy as this sounds I picked up a 97 Trans AM that is need of a full restoration. It's currently the factory dark green and has definitely seen better days. It's got scratches, dents, bad touch up paint, etc...I got the engine pieces in bins and the transmission bell housing is broken. The interior is almost entirely shot and the dash is in 15 pieces. They had carpet on the dash and the adhesive is extremely hard to remove from the dash. I picked it up because i have a passion for cars(especially these trans am's). I remember shopping for my first car when i was getting my driver's license in school and seeing these trans am's and it being #1 on my list of cars i could not afford but wanted. I have always wished i could understand how EVERYTHING on a car works and now i'm ready. I've come leaps and bounds on my knowledge of cars and think i'm ready to take on the real challenge of taking this junker and turning it into a show quality car. I plan on stripping this car all the way down to the frame to get the entire thing(including hidden parts that are still green) painted factory red with as good of a clear coat as i can get. I'm gonna do all the sanding, priming, prepping myself and have it professionally painted. My question is, has anyone else here done this? Any tips for the tear down process? Any tips for converting this auto to manual? Any tips as to what exactly i will need to get this LS1 in? Like driveline, k member, harness, etc...? What parts do i need at a bare minimum in this car for it to run smooth on the track/ what is unnecessary? I know to label everything already. I plan on putting in a forged LS1(by me with the help of very knowledgeable people i know), converting this automatic transmission vehicle to a standard 6 speed, putting race seats, and a sport suspension. I want to run bare minimum and have this somewhere in the neighborhood of a 9-11 second car. I know this is a BIG project. Any tips would be appreciated

08-02-2012, 03:51 AM
I'm in the same boat building/restoring from ground up on a 98. One question I have is are you going to be driving this on the street much? Reason being is why go through all the nightmare of switching an A4 to a M6 tranny when that A4 is going to help you out big time on achieving your 9-10 second goals. Stall converter. Shift kit. 4.56 rear end gears. That tranny will shift harder and faster than you ever could in a M6. Mine is a M6 but it will be a restored street car. If I were going to the track w/ roll cage (anything under 10.99 seconds in my home town has to have a cage) i'd definitely want an A4. Just my 2 cents.

08-02-2012, 08:50 AM
I bought a 97 t/a body(completely bare) and did the full ls1 conversion there are some small differences between the lt1 car and the ls1 car but doable. Like stated above if you want a drag car stick with an auto. What parts do you already have?

08-02-2012, 09:25 AM
Also are you using the lt1 front or are you going with the ls1 front

08-02-2012, 01:57 PM
I have stripped my '94 down to just the unibody for my project, and from the experience I have afew tips to send your way.

1. A digital camera is your best tool! Take pictures of every bolt, panel, and wire both before and after you remove it. Most people can't put every bolt back from memory (I know I sure as hell can't), so build a data base of pictures. Group them in files by section, and you will be much more successful than just with a manual.

2. Spend the extra $$$ and buy the factory manual, the extra information in them will always be useful.

3. Bag and tag all parts by section. Use paint markers and plastic ziplock bags, and if you section your bags like you sectioned your pictures it's easy to go back togather the same way.

4. Don't throw anything away, and plan for the space your parts will take up. I have a garage big enough to park 2 4-door duallies inside, and even using tough boxes and shelving my wife barely has room to park inside too.

5. Tear it down in a place it can sit for A VERY LONG TIME! The car will not go back togather fast, and your budget could always slow down due to life (like mine did). If you end up taking a break, it's fine..... unless you have pressure to finish it because someone else needs the space. That can force you to give up on a car you can no longer make money off of.

I used all of these rules, and with the help of a buddy my car was down to the unibody in 3 weekends. So the extra time it takes to apply all these rules is not enough to slow down progress. They will help keep your project alive even when you can't work on it, and be a big help when it's time to go back togather.

That's my advice to manage your project. Our "conversions" section will point you in the right direction for the LS1 install.

08-03-2012, 11:49 AM
I have not fully committed to having it as a street vehicle with the 6 speed manual or running it with an auto on the track. I know the major advantages of the auto on the track and how much more simple it will make in the rebuild process to keep an auto. My only issue is driving an automatic drives me nuts! I plan on using the K Member from an LS1. Is there more to the front end i have to swap? I appreciate all of your responses. It's all very good points and advice.

08-09-2012, 05:55 PM
You could always go "MANUAL-matic". Install an automatic with a full manual valve body. Keeps the build simple and gives you more control. All you would be missing is a clutch.