7 June 2016

Why the 2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6 is now the best car ever made

The engine revs climb to a crescendo and the tire-shredding torque kicks in as the clutch is released. One might expect it to breathe fire, but instead you are greeted with something even better: loud, deep crackling exhaust notes. The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6 is the most beastly bird in the flock, and the split front grille resembles a dragon’s wide nostrils. Fire breathing, indeed.

The WS6 performance package beat many era competitors with a 6,200 RPM-limit, 5.7-liter displacement and 350 lb. ft. of torque, including any Fords (sorry Ford lovers). It’s the kind of car that you drive proudly (but cautiously…) through a school parking lot to show kids what a real car looks like. Growing up, I was one of those kids, and have wanted one ever since I caught a glimpse of a black WS6 rumbling through the school grounds, only to disappear via squealing tires. I didn’t know what that mystery vehicle was at the time, but once I discovered it later in life, I immediately remembered.

Although in production from 1998-2002 as a coupe, convertible or T-top (the best of both worlds), the 2001-‘02 models are my preference. Similar to prior years, the cars received a 5.7-liter V-8 LS1, but with a few improvements. By this time, a six-speed Hurst shifter was available, and technologies developed for the LS6 were being incorporated. For example, a billet-steel camshaft increased horsepower by five and allowed for greater torque delivery in the lower rev range. Reduced tolerances in the crankshaft eliminated any cold-knock observed in earlier models. A Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor guaranteed optimal performance at any air temperature, and a set of PUP catalytic converters (added for emissions) allowed the LS1 to be fitted with cast iron exhaust manifolds, which are not only more durable and cost-effective, but also improve exhaust flow. Also worth mentioning are larger fuel injectors for increased volume, resulting in maximum fuel delivery, which in turn allowed more options for aftermarket power increases.

In 2002, the WS6 Trans Am rolled off production lines with 325-horsepower achieving 0-60 in under five-seconds. But depending on an owner’s budget, this car is fully capable of producing over 500-horsepower and 600 lb.-ft. of torque. There are even insane twin-turbo 1,000-horsepower examples.

Horsepower is a brag-worthy number, but torque is what a driver really feels, and this car has the perfect horsepower-to-torque balance. The WS6 will shred tires and throw you back into your seat if you so desire. The overall styling pairs perfectly with the performance: bold and sensual. I will take one beastly Firebird in black with T-tops, please.

5 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Maxx Brooklyn, NY June 25, 2016 at 15:49
    I happen to own a Beastly Black 2001 WS6 model. It STILL has only 8,000 Original miles on the odometer! Burying the gas pedal on this Beast, is like fully throttling up an F-16 Fighter Jet, the G-Force pins you to your seat and the exhaust growls like an angry Bear! I thoroughly enjoy taking this car out to Car Shows and the occasional ride in the neighborhood to make the guys I grew up with drool from their Soccer-Dad minivans and crossovers!
  • 2
    Bill Columbia, SC July 9, 2016 at 15:11
    I own a 2000 triple black WS6 that just turned 44,000 miles. Having a manual 6 speed with a hurst short throw makes this car fun to drive. It is all original except for the exhaust. I agree with Maxx on the jet like propulsion. I have owned the car for 2 years however and have yet to spin the tires in first gear...Although I did catch second just once!
  • 3
    Randall Garcia Monroe North Carolina September 7, 2016 at 23:30
    I recently bought a 2002 ws6 collectors addition with a hurst 6 speed . I paid 5600 for it and it has 130k miles but in clean original condition .It's a terrific car but I'm unsure on how much it's really worth . Any feedback would be nice. Thanks
  • 4
    Thomas Tang Maryland September 23, 2016 at 11:46
    I have a 2002 Artric White WS6 that I may sell. It has 80k miles and all stock but catback.
  • 5
    Tony Florida November 11, 2016 at 19:01
    A Black WS6 looks and sound like a muscle car on steroids, can't beat that. Earlier this year I bought a Firehawk Convertible preferring a less aggressive looking performer. It's been a blast and hardly anybody knows what it is. The young kids down the block asked me if it was a Corvette and I said '"Yes I special ordered the 2 extra seats" they had no clue I was messing with them LOL.

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