Following a busy day one at the 2022 Summit Midwest Drags, where competitors gathered at Edgewater Motorsports Park in Cleves, OH, just outside of Cincinnati, we were among the last to leave the venue for the drive to Morocco, IN. As such, we were joined by Steve Chechak and his son Steve as they worked on a pair of vehicles before hitting the road themselves. The car and engine combo that caught our eye was a 1998 Pontiac Trans Am with a turbocharged 427 LS engine stuffed inside.
We found out that Steve’s son had gotten the car recently as just a roller he located in Kentucky. The plan was to put an 8.50 cage in it and go fast at drag-and-drive events just like the Summit Midwest Drags.
“This Pontiac Trans Am was built from day one to do drag-and-drive events,” Chechak says. “The car was built for a big block, but it’s a learning process going faster, so we decided to go to the LS first instead of the 540 big block with the twins first.”
The Pontiac search was seven years in the making according to Steve. Thanks to the help of Facebook, he managed to find the 1998 Trans Am he has today.
“It was this sad looking roller in Kentucky,” Steve says. “The windows were left down for like two years and I just wanted to put it back together.”
One thing that did make the car unique was its bight-purple, metallic paint color. According to Steve, Pontiac only made 435 total cars this color in 1998.
“Pontiac only made 435 purple Trans Ams, Firebirds, six-cylinders, V8s, and WS6s in 1998,” he says. “This being a Trans Am means it is only one of 86 to have this purple color. There’s actually a special Facebook page just for purple Trans Ams. I was against the color at first, but I came around.”
The purple paint looks pretty awesome if you ask us, and juxtaposed against the twin-turbo 427 LS engine under the hood, it looks even better. The 427 LS features a Dart LS Next Pro block, AFR LS3-style cylinder heads, a Molnar forged crank and forged rods, CP pistons, a Brian Tooley Racing hydraulic roller camshaft, stock rocker arms and trunnion kit, LS7 lifters, and Trend pushrods.
“Vinson Racing Engines in Pittsburgh assembled the engine for us, and it’s a pretty stout piece,” Chechak says. “We had this in my other car for about a full year. We did Drag Week with it once. We did this Midwest Drags event last year. We won with this engine in the Ironman class. Turned down, it was not that fun making it go slower. Now, we put it in a car that could go faster. It’s the same turbo and same engine, and it was the same transmission, but we had to swap it into another car.”
The transmission issues meant the Chechak’s had to utilize a Rossler 210 Super Pro Mod transmission, which was for Steve’s other car. The shifter and the ProTorque torque converter came courtesy of Jeff Lutz and his Mad Max car.
The turbo is a 94mm Precision ball bearing turbo, and the large intake on top of the LS is a brand-new piece from Shearer Fabrications / Motion Raceworks.
“This particular intake setup was the easiest way to package everything, so that’s what we went with,” Steve says. “Engine-wise, we built it to get up to 2,000 horsepower with no problem. Our main goal, at some point before the end of this year, is to have the car go 7.40, and still be able to get 15 mpg.
“We’ve got a front radiator mount and we’ve got a back radiator. The car actually drives without the fans in traffic under 160 degrees. It’s got an amazing amount of fluid in the system. A Holley Dominator is our management system.”
This combo, although it’s been in a different car before, is brand new in this Pontiac Trans Am. The Chechak’s took it to the track just prior to the Midwest Drags for some testing, but the drag-and-drive event will continue to offer testing grounds and opportunities to crank up the boost and the speed.
“We’re going to start adding power to it throughout the week,” he says. “We’re probably around 12-lbs. of boost so far with it. We’ve been up to 35-lbs. on it before. Each day, we’re going to learn the car a little bit more and it’ll go faster and faster. We have a car that’s legal to go 6.00 in the quarter mile and 250 mph. Now we have to make it do that.
“Next year when you see us, it might be with a big block and the twins. Instead of trying to make 2,000 hp, we’ll be trying not to make too much, like 3,000-4,000 hp.”
As any drag-and-drive competitor can attest to, you’re always looking for the next level. Steve Chechak and his son Steve are no different. Here’s to hoping they achieve their LS engine goals in 2022.
Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade Motor Oil, Elring – Das Original and Engine & Performance Warehouse Inc./NPW Companies. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor Greg Jones at [email protected].