Video: Inside A ’71 Pontiac Trans-Am With A Nissan GT-R’s 4WD

A wild creation in the style of the cars seen in Mad Max, this desert runner combines the best of new and old in a heavily patinaed package. Perhaps it helps that the builder of this car, a perpetually grinning Kiwi named Gregg Hamilton, is also responsible for the crazy creations in Ken Block’s Gymkhana videos. Inspired by the barely-contained monstrosity that is Block’s Hoonicorn, Hamilton took this classic Trans-Am, and first tossed in a modern motor, brakes, and suspension.

That would’ve made it plenty appealing, but he went a step further with a collection of odd bits from a junkyard. Perhaps the most striking addition he made to this car is the ATTESA E-TS system from a Nissan Skyline GT-R, which sends the V8’s power to all four wheels. The result is a singular creation blending proudly exposed bondo and a modern drivetrain which Hamilton dubbed the “Formula 400 R.”

The name does roll off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Faded Glory

Proudly sporting all the signs of age and wear, its cracked yellow paint is a testament to a hard, unpampered life lived under the desert sun. That said, it’s still ruggedly stylish with that massive blower proudly popping out of the hood and broad 295-section tires sticking out beyond the body. Throw in a large ducktail spoiler and the big splitter at the front, and this classic shape can turn heads.

With supercharged V8 power sending its thrust through four wide tires, it also snaps necks. The junkyard-sourced motor is a 5.3-liter LS from a Chevrolet Silverado, complete with some nice rods, an aftermarket crank, a blower, and heads. Though he’s never dynoed the motor, he’s estimated it to produce 600 horsepower—and its mounting location improves the weight distribution. As a former rally mechanic, Hamilton knows the value of keeping the majority of mass between the shock towers, so he elected to mount the LS eighteen inches further back in the chassis.

This was done largely for weight distribution, but also for reasons of packaging. To stuff most of the components from an R32 GT-R’s drivetrain, it needed extra space. The shocks are specific to this car, the uprights and the subframes are from a Corvette, though tailored to fit within the confines of the car. On that note, the suspension uses handmade pushrods and rocker arms to deal with the limited real estate, too. In the remaining space, he shoved in a Summit Racing radiator and a set of Corvette fans.

Two decades of rally experience helped Hamilton shoehorn in all these goodies in a convincingly tidy way.

An Odd Collection of Parts

The drivetrain is a hodgepodge of Nissan bits that help put the power to the blacktop without much wheelspin. The R32 GT-R five-speed, a Q45 rear differential mounted in front, an aftermarket system to control the center diff, and a passive rear differential from a 300ZX make it probably the most intelligent Trans-Am ever. Best of all, most of these parts he grabbed from a wrecking yard for peanuts.

Hamilton’s lightheartedness is present everywhere; it sports a knockoff GT-R badge he bought off of Amazon.

Inside, Hamilton borrowed from another Japanese brand for a very functional and driver-oriented cockpit. The junkyard-found Toyota ST205 Celica dash wraps the driver in a comforting cocoon—a small bit of reassurance in a very spartan interior. Aside from some Vintage Air and a CB radio—the latter a reference to Smokey and the Banditthere’s not much there. Though, with style and focus oozing out of every fender gap, it doesn’t need to be too comfortable.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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