The Total Package
It Took a Vision and Eight Years
Jim Black - July 12, 2012 10:00 AM
Owner Tony Kucera summed it up. “It was a labor of love that started shortly after the birth of my daughter and was only possible with the help and support of friends and family.”
Tony’s quest to build the ultimate street fighter actually took root back in 1967 when his aunt and uncle purchased the Pontiac LeMans new at an Omaha dealership. In 1985, at the young age of 15, Tony was looking to purchase his first car and convinced his aunt and uncle to sell him the LeMans for $50. It still had the original 326, but the car was very rough and in need of some TLC. A couple of years later, Tony repainted the LeMans in his high school shop class and bolted on a new set of wheels. For the next 11 years, the LeMans served him well as a daily driver, all the while getting modifications along the way.
Now a valve maintenance mechanic for an Omaha utility company, Tony’s a fair hand with a wrench. “I always wanted to build a Pro Street machine and it wasn’t long before I started to plan out the intricate details for the build in my head. I just couldn’t wait to get started.”
In 2000, Tony started disassembling the car. He was soon deep into the build with the help of close friends and family. Following the disassembly, Tony “tubbed” the rear of the car to make room for the huge Mickey Thompson tires that were planned to take up residence in the new wheel wells. Tony did all of the fabrication work himself in his home garage, including constructing a full roll cage and then it was off to the media blasters and on to the paint and body phase.
Dan at Varn’s Auto Body in Council Bluffs, Iowa, prepped the car for paint, which included stretching the rear quarter wheel wells an additional two inches for the required wheel and tire clearance. He also removed most of the exterior emblems and mounting holes and smoothed the firewall, not to mention the usual sheetmetal repairs common to A-body cars of this vintage. Following the repairs, a metal-etching primer was applied, sanded twice, then epoxy primer was sprayed and sanded to 320 grit, then final blocking was done to remove minor imperfections prior to color coat application.
A DuPont basecoat/clearcoat system was used with six color coats of metallic blue applied, followed by three coats of high-build urethane clearcoat. After sufficient cure, the clearcoat was wet-sanded with 1,200 grit and finished with 2,000 grit, then machine compounded with Meguiar’s ultra cut and ultra finishing polish. The resulting finish appears so deep you could dive in and drown. Along with the new paint, other exterior details featured a GTO hood and grille inserts, carbon fiber treatment for the rear quarter “shark” gills (unique to the LeMans) and a set of Foop’s headlamps. Tony also kept the exterior squeaky clean, void of windshield wipers, radio antenna and all but two exterior badges.
Under the scooped GTO hood, Tony departed from traditional Pontiac power and dropped in a GM Performance crate 502 that runs well north of 500 horsepower. The crate motor features a cast iron block with four-bolt main caps, forged steel crankshaft, forged steel connecting rods, aluminum pistons, hydraulic roller cam, aluminum cylinder heads and an aluminum water pump. With a bore and stroke of 4.47 x 4.00 inches, the crate 502 runs a 9.6:1 compression ratio on 92 octane fuel.
Additional engine components include ceramic coated Hooker headers, a March pulley set-up, Be Cool radiator and fans, Moroso valve covers, HEI distributor with MSD ignition, NOS Big Shot nitrous system, a pair of Mallory electric fuel pumps that feed a Holley 870cfm topped with a low-profile K & N filter, and aluminum intake manifold.
All that horsepower is transferred to the pavement via a TCI Competition Turbo 400 with 3,500 rpm stall converter, shifted by a Hurst quarter stick, directed to a Ford nine-inch rear running a Strange center section and axles with 4.56 gears and a Detroit Locker. The chassis and suspension set-up includes stock upper and lower A-arms with two-inch drop spindles, Lakewood 70/30 shocks and disc brakes up front. At the rear, Tony bolted on an Art Morrison four-link suspension with adjustable coilovers and Panhard bar and utilized the stock drum brakes. The all-important rolling stock is comprised of a set of 15-inch Mickey Thompson Sportsman 28 x 7.50 inch tires up front with massive 33 x 21.5-inch MTs at the rear, mounted to Weld Racing Superlites.
Moving to the interior, very little was left stock, yielding to Tony’s personal taste and design. A new instrument panel features a full set of white-face Pro-Comp gauges by Auto Meter with Moroso switch panel and an Alpine stereo, all set in a carbon fiber surround. The full roll cage is hard to ignore. There’s a set of Summit Racing seats with G Force five-point safety harness and a custom Grant steering wheel. “With the back seat gone and a tubbed rear in its place, I decided to custom build a speaker enclosure utilizing the whole backseat area,” he said. “It took a lot of time and effort to get it to fit just right, but I was happy with the results.”
Tony used laminated speaker material for the enclosure, which houses two killer Kicker amplifiers, two subwoofers, two mid-range and four component speakers with the Alpine head unit located in the dash. He also custom built the console, which houses a pair of Auto Meter fuel pressure gauges and the center performance gauge. Both the speaker enclosure and the console were made with the same material and then Tony had both professionally sprayed using rugged, yet finished, Line-X bedliner paint. Tony’s attention to detail even extends to the trunk area, which also includes the bedliner-finished floor and side panels, hammer-painted wheel tubs, NOS nitrous system, a 12-gallon Summit fuel cell and Optima battery.
With the car finished in 2008, Tony and his wife Shannon have attended several car shows and enjoy taking the car on weekend outings. The LeMans was soon given the nickname “The Total Package” by one of Tony’s friends.
“It started out as a joke among friends,” Tony related. “My friends were relentless and the name just stuck.”
Some day, Tony might see what a ProCharger system would do to that 500-plus horsepower figure. “Until then, it’s just a blast to drive as is and it has more power than I’ll ever need anyway.”