EVOLUTION OF THE BEAST
Fr8train’s journey from contender to king and back.
Story | Phillip Pratt
Photos | Phillip Pratt / Gerry Burke
When the word “evolution” is mentioned, at least in the circles we run in any way, most immediately relate it to other words like “Mitsubishi”, “Lancer”, the engine code “4G63”, or, if you’re a die-hard Subie driver, “@#$% you!”. But to the rest of the sane world, the word “evolution”, derived from the word “evolve”, is the gradual development of something, especially from a simple form to a more complex one. It’s typically a slow process that begins to help an organism survive in whatever ecosystem it lives within, as the environment or other organisms around it change. Some develop rock-hard shells or the ability to change their color, maybe even to secrete venomous slim from their skin; it’s all done to better their chances in a world that’s out to kill and probably consume them.
Carlos, owner of the Trans Am named “Fr8train”, and the former king of the SRMS (Street Racing Made Safe) Top 10 List down in South Florida, knows this process all too well. Anyone familiar with the SRMS program in SoFlo knows his tenuous rise the top of the pack. The low-profile Firebird went from contender to top dog defeating every challenger put in its way. Having anywhere between 700 to 850-wheel horsepower, provided by a twin-turbo LS powerplant would generally make this a reality. That power combined with a rock-solid transmission built to necessity, in-house, by C&S (Carlos’ transmission shop) in Miramar, led to several run-ins with the ever-popular Danny “Frustrate” Rodriguez and his then B-Series powered, EG Civic. Losing to Frustrate during that friendly rivalry was enough to trigger Fr8train’s growth, but it most definitely wouldn’t be the last.
The car wasn’t purchased as we see it. It was acquired by Carlos’ father as a mere shell. From there, they decided to drop in the 5.7L LS V8 that’d you’d typically find in a WS6 but built it out with forged internals stroking it out to a healthy 393. Instead of going down the familiar avenue of a bottle nitrous (something they were used to) and calling it a day, they decided to go turbo. And not just a single snail either, two big boys. Utilizing the stock ECU (yes, the stock computer) and manual boost controller, they tuned it out to a ripe 711-wheel horsepower on only 3lbs of boost! That was enough to get him into the top five, and on the way, set up dances with several impressive contenders including a couple ridiculous Fox Body Mustangs, big power Supras and a wicked Evo or two. By the time Carlos was ready to challenge for a top-three spot, he’d turned up Trans Am to about 8lbs making more than 900-wheel horsepower. Finally, he was set to face-off with his target; Frustrate, and his boosted EG, who much like him had fought his way up the list over the last few months and wasn’t interested in letting go his crown. It was a close race, but Frustrate held on and did so for several months and just as many races. It forced Carlos to take his Firebird back into the lab.
The next time we saw Carlos, a couple things had changed. At a Super Chevy show, he snapped the timing chain on the Trans Am. It turned out to be a blessing-in-disguise as it led him to switch from a hydraulic to a solid roller which allowed the car to shift at higher RPMs and make a little more than 150 extra horsepower. This pushed the Trans Am well into the 1k+ club. That, combined with some needed track testing, was enough to dethrone the “People’s Champ”, Frustrate, at the next event and hold onto the #1 spot for quite some time. He even took the show on the road with a trip to Orlando Speed World. After some heated back-and-forths and the changing of the day (the race happened several minutes past midnight, in front of a handful of people), Carlos and Fr8train walked a local LS-powered Fox-body, with no more than two wheels on the ground for half of the 1320.
Carlos’ success didn’t go noticed, however. There were several groups from around the area that wanted a shot at him. Even Frustrate returned with a new set-up. This time utilizing a fully-built turbo-charged K-series motor. He was most certainly faster than before, but it still wasn’t enough to dethrone Carlos, who since their last meeting, had pushed the Trans Am to hold more than 1200 horsepower, converted to an automatic tranny and by then was consistently popping up on two wheels… and still had A/C. It wasn’t until weeks later, when Miami Performance Inc. and Fabshop Miami (no relation) showed up with their frighteningly fast GTRs, was anybody able to contend for Carlos’ crown. Ultimately, the younger, more advanced cars proved too much for the Trans Am and both, at one time or another, bested Carlos, controversy on roll-speeds and jumps notwithstanding, mind you.
With all that behind them, the boys at C&S are looking forward. They hadn’t originally built the Trans Am to be a “world-beater”. It was a passion project. Something to play around with on the weekends. Even after the big pressure contests, he endured against his friend Frustrate, it was just always just about fun at the end of the day. Now it’s a little different. During Carlos’ bouts against the MPI (Miami Performance Inc.) GTR there were a couple of dust-ups between the two crews. Ok, maybe more than a couple. Just about every time these guys got near each other there were most certainly words and always the chance of an altercation or two. I don’t want to claim it’s “personal” but I’m also not going to assume it’s just about going fast anymore.
With the intention of making a comeback, C&S have completely torn down the Trans Am; A stiffened-up chassis, a completely new rear-end, and a more advanced, substantially larger engine that will put out more than 2000-wheel horsepower (shhh…). The only thing that will remain from the previous power/drivetrain is the tranny because you know… C&S is a tranny shop. Carlos doesn’t plan to be present at the beginning of the new season of races in West Palm Beach. However, he does plan to be offer takers both rolls and digs, and promises “When I do come, they’ll know.”