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Complete Newb seeking advice...

This is a discussion on Complete Newb seeking advice... within the Firebird / WS6 forums, part of the Vehicle Specific category; How's that for a first post title? Alright, here's the sitch: I've been strictly a Honda and Toyota guy and ...

  1. #1
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    Complete Newb seeking advice...

    How's that for a first post title? Alright, here's the sitch:

    I've been strictly a Honda and Toyota guy and never paid the Big 3 any attention up until the past weekend. I currently drive a 1991 Acura Legend Coupe with a 5MT(pretty rare for that car). I love driving manual, but a severe injury about a year and a half ago wrecked that dream pretty badly; my Legend is a chore to drive and I've been wanting to replace it with an automatic for several months now. I've been looking at other cars(mostly newer Acuras and BMWs) but nothing has really caught my eye.

    Last weekend my future stepdad(long story) flew me out to meet him. As a result he let me borrow his '02 T/A WS6 6M for the weekend. The fact that I'm posting here should speak volumes about my experience... I loved the car. While driving my Legend for more than 20-30 miles in city conditions puts a major strain on my knee, the light clutch on his T/A was an absolute pleasure. I put nearly 300 miles on it in varying conditions with absolutely no pain. Couple that with the insanely powerful LS1 and equal or better gas mileage to what I'm running now and I'm just about convinced to pick up a T/A of my own. I just have a few newbie questions even though I've been lurking and reading up for the past few days.

    1. Am I correct in assuming the only major differences between the WS6 and the standard T/A are the ram air system, firmer suspension, and 17" wheels/tires?

    2. Is it correct that GM underrated these engines, and they're usually pulling a lot more than the stock 305HP/325HP? If so, how much more power does the WS6's ram air really add? More importantly, how easy is it to get a standard T/A up to that level?

    3. What're the major differences between the Formula and the T/A? I've also come across a couple of Firehawks for sale... any differences with those? I'm seeing those as well as a couple WS6s in my price range($6,500-10,000). What would be the best buy?

    4. How reliable are these cars? Are there any major problem areas to look for? I haven't really seen too many threads on here about these cars being absolute money pits(at least compared to stuff like the BMW 7-series and etc that I've looked at), but could really use more input on that end form you guys.

    5. I live in Colorado, and there's no getting around the fact that if I pick up a T/A it will be a daily driver, even through the winter. Now, in my defense salt is hardly used on the roads here and I don't put that many miles on a car... maybe 8-9K a year. How well will one of these cars do in winter conditions given an experienced driver(been through ten winters here, only stuck one time and no accidents), good studded snow tires and a few sandbags in the trunk to weigh down the rear end? I don't get snow for weeks on end and it disappears nearly immediately; I'd say three solid weeks of really bad roads at the maximum.

    Sorry in advance for the bevy of questions, but I never expected a muscle car to be so fun and practical at the same time. Really looking forward to getting a T/A if at all possible, and any input I can get to make the best-informed decision would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Senior Member justinmc978's Avatar
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    sold: 1999 firebird
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    1. and a power steering cooler on the WS6 as well, (because of wider 275 tires on WS6s and 245 on base models). it became optional on V8 cars in 1999 and standard in 200(1?).

    2. Camaros/Trans Ams have the exact same motor as Corvettes, which were rated at ~350hp, check this out: http://i55.photobucket.com/albums/g1...ofofpower2.jpg

    3. formulas are basically V6 bodied sleepers, no bodykit, cloth seats, lighterweight. usually cheaper than T/As. Firehawks were availiable as T/As and Formulas, rated ~40hp more than WS6s, I think that is a high figure because the base 305hp rating is underrated. Firehawks are rare and expensive for little extra hp gain. I think WS6 Formulas and T/As are the best buy for the money.

    4. relative to how well they are cared for, definitely blows any bmw out of the water in both reliablility and price to repair

    5. not enough snow experience to help you there, go slow?

  3. #3
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    '02 WS.6 / '07 Suburban

    Welcome to the site!

    Lots if guys on here are running high mile F-bodies without any real issues. Like any car, they have to be maintained and there are items that are prone to failure. Just by way of example, the headlight gears and power window motors like to die, the door panels tend to crack at the top towards the back, M6 clutch issues in the hydraulics, and the 10 bolt rears are not up to taking what these cars can dish out. These are all trivial matters when compared to the style and performance you get with a 4th gen. Here is a link to a guide that details a lot of things to look for: Guide to Buying a Fbody

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    Senior Member tatertot91's Avatar
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    Sunset Orange Metalic
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    Welcome to the site,
    Justin and jeff summed it up real good. as far as winter driving, no personal snow experience but I would invest in a second set of wheels for some winter tires.

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    Moderator 35th-ANV-SS's Avatar
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    Welcome to the site Adam. These other guys summed it up nicely. I live in the Midwest so I will chime in on driving in the winter. I never drove my V8 Camaro SS in the winter months, but I did own a V6 Camaro 3.8L for around 10 years before selling it last fall.

    All-in-all, it did relatively well in the snow. I did have a separate set of wheels/tires for it that I used solely in the winter. In the 10 years of driving it, I got stuck maybe twice. Like any car, you just need to be careful of your speed and get used to driving a rear wheel drive car as it behaves a lot different in wet/snowy conditions than that of a FWD vehicle. One wouldn't think so, but the weight ratio from front to back on these 4th gens is relatively close. Adding some extra weight in the rear and using a narrower tire will help you out in the winter. I had a sound system in my V6 which probably added a good 100 lbs out back.

    I will admit though, since owning my 08 Impala LTZ and driving it the last two winters...I do appreciate a FWD car

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    I grew up in Golden Colorado, and drove my TA year around with no issues. I always stuck to the city streets, and im sure you would get stuck if you headed into the hills. 5.0 THIS and MR LOUS are from colorado, and they might be able to help you find one.

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    Thanks for the warm welcome, everyone! Lots of awesome information posted, and this is getting me closer to deciding to get myself in a T/A for my next vehicle. A second set of winter wheels/tires is always a good thing; that's what I run with my Legend. I'm pretty confident that with the right tire combination and not acting foolish I'd be just fine. Sounds like these are pretty reliable cars, too.

    One other question I forgot to ask: are all manual transmission T/As 6-speed? My future stepdad was claiming about 29-30mpg in his WS6 on the highway, which sounds about right to what I got on the highway with it last weekend.

  8. #8
    Senior Member tatertot91's Avatar
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    Sunset Orange Metalic
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    manuals came with t56 6 speeds and 30 mpg is not unheard of if you're driving nice

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    Member derekbuckner1's Avatar
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    My right foot has never let me get 30, but I've seen 27 a few times

    LS6 Intake, LS6 VCT, E^2 Catch Can, Hooker LTs and ORY, Magnaflow Cat-Back, 3" QTP electric cutout, UMI adj LCA, PHB, 3 pt SFCs, STB, MGW Shifter, SLP lid and bellow, Free-Mods, Tuned by BlueCat


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    Member nichoLaS1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tatertot91 View Post
    manuals came with t56 6 speeds and 30 mpg is not unheard of if you're driving nice
    +1... 6th gear is awesome, you will be surprised at the increase in mpg; a long interstate trip would easily give you 28-30. I check my mileage everyime I fill up and consistently end up with at least 21, with ~70% highway/ 30city driving, so I'm happy enough snow= doable; ice= no good.

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    Senior Member Lunatikgixxer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by justinmc978 View Post
    1. and a power steering cooler on the WS6 as well, (because of wider 275 tires on WS6s and 245 on base models). it became optional on V8 cars in 1999 and standard in 200(1?).

    2. Camaros/Trans Ams have the exact same motor as Corvettes, which were rated at ~350hp, check this out: http://i55.photobucket.com/albums/g1...ofofpower2.jpg

    3. formulas are basically V6 bodied sleepers, no bodykit, cloth seats, lighterweight. usually cheaper than T/As. Firehawks were availiable as T/As and Formulas, rated ~40hp more than WS6s, I think that is a high figure because the base 305hp rating is underrated. Firehawks are rare and expensive for little extra hp gain. I think WS6 Formulas and T/As are the best buy for the money.

    4. relative to how well they are cared for, definitely blows any bmw out of the water in both reliablility and price to repair

    5. not enough snow experience to help you there, go slow?
    I know this is off topic but how in the hell did the vette from that article run less horsepower than the trans am?

  12. #12
    dbl clutch'n like i shld WICKEDLS1's Avatar
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    as far as the rear ends and automatic transmissions having issues under added and sometimes stock power its one of those things thats going to happen its just when is the question. i have been lucky so far with having heads cam convertor and a 150 shot of nitrous and still on the factory 10 bolt and stock transmission

  13. #13
    Senior Member justinmc978's Avatar
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    sold: 1999 firebird
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lunatikgixxer View Post
    I know this is off topic but how in the hell did the vette from that article run less horsepower than the trans am?
    goes to show no two motors are the same, or maybe there is less torque lost through the T/A body and live axle?

  14. #14
    Veteran 0rion's Avatar
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    f-body on colorado type snow is going to be no fun at all.......it's not like you guys get a dusting 3-4 times a year. I would imagine colorado in general though is better prepared for snow than here as far as getting the highways safe. Still though....f-bodies are terrible on the snow. Run blizzaks and a bunch of weight over the axle and you probably wouldn't have a ton of trouble. Get with Mr Luos or 5.0this like someone else said....they live there and have first hand experience.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 0rion View Post
    f-body on colorado type snow is going to be no fun at all.......it's not like you guys get a dusting 3-4 times a year. I would imagine colorado in general though is better prepared for snow than here as far as getting the highways safe. Still though....f-bodies are terrible on the snow. Run blizzaks and a bunch of weight over the axle and you probably wouldn't have a ton of trouble. Get with Mr Luos or 5.0this like someone else said....they live there and have first hand experience.
    Yeah... running a high-performance RWD V8 around here during the winter won't be a picnic, unfortunately. I'm definitely budgeting for a set of good studded snow tires(thankfully I can run those here; I've got a set for my Legend) and throwing 100-150lb of weight in the back. Driving style plays a -ton- out here; I've passed 4WD trucks stuck in the ditch on roads I really shouldn't have been on with a passenger car in the first place... and those were with some nearly bald Continental tires, too. I'm not saying I'll be the king of the road in the winter, but I'm experienced enough not to screw around and act stupid. Once I get a T/A and the first snow hits, I'll be out to my local big, open parking lot at night to make sure I know how to control it when it gets squirrelly. That said, the Springs is kind of an anomaly... we're tucked right up against the mountains and as a result storm systems tend to 'speed bump' over us and land out east of town. I may get a dusting where I live, but friends out east of town might get 8-10" or so. Really strange until you get used to it, haha.

    As far as the gas mileage goes, I'm definitely impressed. Part of my weekend was about a 180mi highway trip in the WS6. On the way there I'll admit to gunning it a little bit, but I was much more reserved coming back. 1500RPM in 6th at about 70mph makes a huge difference. The T/A has as much passing power in 6th as my Legend does in 3rd, and all the while getting high-20s. That alone's worth the cost of admission.

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    Member Sas's Avatar
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    I live in Colorado as well, and as soon as it snow, the hawk stays in the garage and the truck comes out. They handle like a frozen turd on ice, and you'll have to turn TCS off if you plan on getting anywhere. They are definitely fun cars to drive though, when there isn't any snow!

  17. #17
    rice,its what's fo dinner LeadFarmer's Avatar
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    Just from my little personal experience I've had with these cars in the snow & ice.....it's an absolute nightmare imo. I tried it a couple times and it scared the shit out of me. Both with an A4 and M6. so if it ever snows here I don't even think about leaving the house lol. Gas in these cars are good on the highway. It's OK in stop and go traffic. In my M6 I consistently average 18mpg in the city. As long as you're not in the snow there really isn't better bang for the buck imo than these cars.

    The only thing I can complain about these cars is that certain repairs/upgrades can be an absolute PITA for a noob. You may think otherwise if you're really handy.

  18. #18
    Moderator 35th-ANV-SS's Avatar
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    Do the V8 cars handle that much worse than the V6's? Like I mentioned above, I had my 3.8L Camaro for 10 years and never had an issue driving in the winter and I live close to Chicago. We get slammed with snow.

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    Member Sas's Avatar
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    I don't know how the V6's are on ice and snow, but last time I was out in the snow I did a 180 right between 2 parked cars. My girl thought I was trying to show off, but I watched the life of my car flash before my eyes. I'm used to driving on snow and ice too, so it's not like I was being an idiot or anything.

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    Moderator 35th-ANV-SS's Avatar
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    I don't mean to sound like an ass...but ALL cars slide on ICE.

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