Link ECU Build of the Week #10 – 1986 TransAm American Muscle

Flair, performance and a touch of retro.

There is a lot to love about this 1986 TransAm.

The car is a perfect combination of American Muscle and 80’s styling, topped off with a nice 400 horsepower V8 engine to really get those nostalgic juices flowing.

Owned by Rick from Superior Soobie & Import LLC (SSI), a Link ECU Dealer, this F-body is particularly special with a livery that emulates a GTA-5 version of the car on Grand Theft Auto: the Imponte Ruiner.

Already regarded as the Top Dog of the Firebird lineup, the standard Pontiac TransAm set-up was not enough for Rick who has given the car a bit of modern love.

SSI has built the custom 350 small block Chevrolet engine with a 97 Vortec long block.  It also features Vortec iron heads with 1.6 exhaust valves, a COMP NX276HR 276/288 split duration nitrous camshaft and PAC 1218 Beehive valve springs.

Stock pistons, stock PM rods, a stock crank remain housed in the engine.

A custom exhaust and aftermarket engine management package go on to play a part in the performance upgrades.

A new G4X XtremeX ECU is the weapon of choice for engine management. A lot of the original wiring has been retained, with a plug’n’play adapter harness connecting the Link XtremeX to the stock 1986 TPI harness.

Rick compliments the way this set-up works: “I love the ease with which the LINK handles the stock harness and sensors. The programmability of the LINK hardware and software allows endless combinations of inputs and outputs and the new G4-X has improved tremendously on the software logic options for configuration. It’s “Extremely” impressive that the LINK is able to work seamlessly with 35 year old GM sensors and protocols and speaks to the attention to detail of the design engineers. It’s such a unique and powerful  hardware and software tuning solution, that we really don’t want to use anything else!

Upgrading to the Link Aftermarket ECU was a smart decision for Rick, putting and end to the time consuming chip programming and troublesome emulation tools that had been behaving unpredictably.

“The simple, reliable USB interface of the LINK G4 Extreme-X is impressive in it’s seamless simplicity and robust reliability and I am confident that whatever upgrades the future holds for this car or the next one I install the LINK in, it will handle them with the same ease.” – Rick C., Owner/Lead tech/Tuner, SSI – Portland, Oregon.


Engine: Custom 400 HP 350 SBC by SSI:

· 97 Vortec long block. Stock pistons, stock PM rods, stock crank, ARP hardware.

· Vortec iron heads with 1.6 exhaust valves.

· Comp NX276HR 276/288 split duration nitrous camshaft.

· PAC 1218 Beehive valve springs.

· FIRST fuel injection TPI manifold.

· Dyno Don F body headers. 1-7/8” primaries.

· Full custom 3” exhaust.

· 42lb Deatschwerks LS1 injectors.

· 255 LPH Deatschwerks fuel pump.

· Deatschwerks fuel pressure regulator.

Management: LINK Extreme-X with plug-and-play harness adapter for use with stock 1986 TPI harness. The adapter allows the use of the entire factory harness, stock distributor and ignition system, and all stock sensors (TPS, IAT, CTS, IAC, etc). Only changes required were wiring in the GM 3-bar map sensor to original MAF input (3 wires), and bypass external knock control module (1 wire) since the LINK has built-in knock control.

Transmission: 1992 Ligenfelter stage 5 700R4 with B&M Holeshot 3000 stall converter

Final drive: Borg Warner M78 9-Bolt with 3.70 gears and Torsen.

Body: Panelwork and Paint by SSI

Imponte Ruiner graphics by B&R Sign and Design