“Trans Ams are my world,” Brent Pursifull told me. “I’m getting more into them than anything.”
He sure is. Brent owns 11 of the iconic Pontiacs – eight second generation and three fourth generation models. He loves them all, but says his gorgeous 2002 T/A “is dang perfect.”
Brent has been a Pontiac fan for a long time. It started with his first car. Naturally, it was a Trans Am.
“I was 16,” he said. “I got a job frying hamburgers and bought a used ‘79 Trans Am. It’s been in my blood ever since. To this day it’s probably the most important car I’ve ever owned. It was my first. I made $3.35 an hour to pay for it. That’s a lot of hamburgers.”
He’s owned some other cars. Big block Chevys and the like. Even today he’s got three Corvettes, a ‘58 Chevy Wagon, and a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia in addition to the 11 Firebirds. But he keeps coming back to the Pontiacs.
Brent is the third owner of his ‘02 T/A, and he had to work for it. He tried to buy the car for six months, but couldn’t get a deal done. Then Brent found out that the owner was losing interest in a 2004 GTO he was building. So Brent agreed to buy the GTO along with the T/A.
He gives a lot of credit to the two previous owners for taking such good care of it. They really pampered the car, to the extent where both of those owners kept extensive notebooks with the receipts for their work. As Brent said, “It’s as good an example of an ‘02 Trans Am as you’ll see.”
The car, which has only 70,000 miles on it, started life as a base model Trans Am. It’s not a base model anymore.
Brandon Lloyd of Lethal Performance & Dyno in Jefferson City built the 383 cubic inch stroker engine. It’s based on the original LS1 block that came in the car, which is now running a Texas Speed rotating assembly, and Wiseco pistons. Air Flow Research heads have a Vortech Engineering supercharger on top, running 10 lbs of boost. The LS1 runs through an RPM Stage 4 transmission and Moser 9″ rear end.
The end result: 650 horsepower at the rear wheels.
Brent loves to drive his cars, but what he really loves is racing them. He’s done autocross, road courses, and drift. He raced his 1972 T/A on the Hyperdrive competition shown on Netflix, with his wife Nikki serving as his spotter. (You can check out his runs in episodes 1 and 2 on Netflix.) And Brent is actively involved with the Adrenaline Driving Series in Kentucky and the Southeast. “It’s a combination of autocross and drift with a drag race start,” he said. “You strap in the car and it’s pretty exciting.”
Obviously, being able to turn corners is an important aspect of a car’s performance for Brent, and his ‘02 Trans Am meets that requirement quite well. The Pontiac has a full UMI performance suspension. As Brent said, “Everything UMI makes is under it.” The UMI equipment is supplemented by Viking shocks.
There are upgraded GM disk brakes, with drilled and slotted rotors, at all four corners. All that suspension capability gets transmitted to the ground through BFGoodrich tires.
The T/A’s interior has custom seat inserts. The exterior looks very much like a stock 2002 Trans Am. Brent described it to me by saying, “It looks like your Mommy’s car.” (For the record: it does not look like my mom’s car.)
It may look somewhat stock on the outside, but don’t let those looks fool you. “It’s a good cruiser car,” Brent said. “It doesn’t look or sound anything crazy, but it’s a pretty bad little car. When you pull it back into third, you’d better hang on. We can hurt your feelings pretty quick.”
As much as he loves his fourth generation Firebirds, Brent’s true passion is with the second generation. His most recent purchase is a 1977 T/A he found in Montana. Brent described it as “a real basket case” but he’s determined to give it a full restoration back to its original condition, with numbers matching as much as possible. “I’ve got to do this right,” he said.
But Brent builds his Firebirds in many ways. Some he’s restored, like he plans to do with the ‘77. Some are built for touring, some for drifting, others for autocross. And when he’s done LS swaps, he’s gotten some grief online from Pontiac purists.
But converting a 120 horsepower Firebird Esprit into an LS-powered Trans Am tribute car makes a lot of sense to Brent. When you end up with a car that has more horsepower, better gas mileage, and excellent dependability, it’s hard to see the downside.
Nikki enjoys racing and driving with Brent and his stable of hot rods. In fact, they’ll soon be heading out from Kentucky for a trip to Key West in one of the second generations. “She’s a good supporter,” Brent said.
Second generation or fourth generation. Stock or hot rodded. Cruiser or race car. It doesn’t really matter to Brent.
“I really enjoy them,” he said.
All photos courtesy of Brent Pursifull
You can follow Brent on Instagram via 2thfarmer