2000: the aesthetic side of things.
With barely 2 years on the vehicle, I was just getting to know this multi-faceted
monster. It was all the things I was unfamiliar with until that point: close to 350 hp at
the crankshaft from the luscious LS1 while getting around 18-20 mpg, clean emissions,
unbelievable acceleration and braking when required, strong yet comfortable handling... and
I couldn't stop trying to dream up new angles from which to shoot photos.
What surprised me the most was how aggressive I thought the car looked even with the
headlight pods up. Sometimes it was tempting to drive around with the pods up and lights out
just for fun.
What I couldn't get over, looks-wise, were the missing front license plate cover and
the single rear exhaust outlet. Front plates are not required where I live, yet GM chose
not to include the front filler panel on Canadian cars. US cars came with these panels, however
most states use front plates, so this remains a mystery to me. I would only go on to correct this
situation in mid 2002.
This shot from 1999 shows the way the factory chose to configure all 1998 Ram Air
Trans Ams... with one single outlet on the driver's side even though the Trans Am model
bumper has cutouts for two outlets. This particular detail really bothered me about the
For decades, factory Firebird and Trans Am exhaust systems consisted of a single
intermediate pipe all the way back from the catalytic converter(s),
crossing over the rear axle and into the side of a sideways-mounted muffler with two outlets:
one on each side. The regular Trans Am exhaust for 1998 had two outlets with rectangular tips
filling in both cutouts (these cutouts are not present on the Firebird and Firebird Formula
bumpers, only the Trans Am). The high performance WS6 / Ram Air exhaust system had only a
single large outlet from the driver's side of the muffler. The claim was that the WS6 exhaust
system was too loud to pass full power sound level restrictions with two outlets from the
muffler, so the decision was made to maintain the large high performance characteristics of
the system, but provide only one outlet from the muffler.
Apparently, many Ram Air Trans Am owners complained because from 1999 onwards Pontiac
saw fit to provide the WS6 Trans Am and Firebird Formula with twin outlets, one per side as with
the non-WS6 cars. While the regular cars still used the twin rectangular outlets, the Ram Air
exhaust maintained the polished rolled metal tips as used on the 1998 single outlet exhaust but
with noticeably smaller diameter. This resulted in the same noise-limiting characteristic
necessary to comply to government regulations, but I still felt unwilling to sacrifice the large
outlet of the 1998 system for the benefit of the twin outlets. Aftermarket systems were
investigated, but the only one that came close to appealing to me was the adjustable Borla system.
This system uses a Y-pipe that separates exhaust flow at the entrance to the muffler: one path
leads through the Borla muffler and out the driver's side, and one path leads through adjustable
restrictions straight out of the system on the passenger's side. This allows full adjustability
between 100% through-the-muffler exhaust flow or 100% wide open. The cost, however, proved
prohibitive to me.
Stock 1998 WS6 configuration
My new enhanced configuration
Nonetheless, the single-outlet configuration of the '98-only exhaust proved beneficial:
I was able to mimic the layout of the Borla adjustable system by hacking into the original factory
piping and adding a second outlet on the passenger's side. A 3 bolt header flange was used to
provide the possibility of tuning the percentage of exhaust distribution, however since the first
moment I heard the car 100% unrestricted, I never bothered to try to quieten it in any way.
In cold weather, we can see how the exhaust flow doesn't exit 100% out the unmuffled
outlet... it's perhaps more like 80-85%. The result is that the factory muffler
contributes to the mellowing of the sound, adding a bit of low frequency
response to what would have been a raspy exhaust note. Again, there is a benefit to this: the LS1, with the
all-new-for-GM firing order, exhibits an odd clicking sound at some engine speeds with low
restriction aftermarket (or modified) exhaust systems, most easily
audible when the engine is decelerating immediately after revving in neutral. As the engine
slows to idle, it quietens sufficiently at around 1500-1600 RPM such that the normal deceleration
sound is replaced with a metallic clicking. It's characteristic of the engine and most likely
a result of valvetrain noise resonating throughout the fairly low-restriction exhaust system.
Aftermarket systems have tried to shape the sound so as to mask this clicking, but it's
there for good. Nonetheless, the rest of the RPM range above 1500 sounds heavenly whether
on the throttle or off, as shown in the following sound files:
exh2.wav: startup and revving, taped outside the car
ws6rev_1.mp3: taped inside the car while driving
The change in the car's look and attitude was dramatic. For once, the car looked
balanced from the rear, and had a bark worthy of the aggressive styling.
As shown here in this gag photo, I'm extremely happy to have been able to keep
the stock-for-1998 exhaust outlet style and size.
On the car show front, I got to participate one more time in the Modick Performance
show and shine and bring both my F-bodies.
All was not a bed of roses: in late 2000, the fuel level sender failed, which was
luckily a warranty job because it took close to two days to complete the task of changing it.
The way F-bodies are designed, one must drop the exhaust system after lowering the axle, and
only then can the fuel tank be dropped. There is no other way to access the pump and sender
except from the top.
Other than this, it occasionally served as a parts fetcher for my GTA, which was
undergoing a sort of freshening-up. Once the GTA was ready, the WS6 was pretty much parked
except for rainy days, which were few that summer. It did make one fateful trip to Pont Rouge
Quebec where I stumbled across a 1978 Trans Am that was for sale, and ended up completing my
collection. An alignment job rounded out the list of improvements made to the car which
totally improved its resistance to odd-tracking on rough and uneven pavement (-.05 degrees Camber,
around 5 degrees Caster, and zero Toe). This paved the way for an exciting 2001.