The LS family of V8s are GM’s gift to those seeking affordable, reliable performance, and that was true 20 years ago. For 1998, Pontiac equipped the Trans Am with a 305-hp version of the LS1, and immediately, a new benchmark for cheap speed was established. As Motorweek notes in this 1998 review, the Trans Am offered “Corvette performance for a minivan price.”
The LS1 also helped the Trans Am leave the rival Ford Mustang in the dust. If you wanted a 1998 Mustang with as much power as a Trans Am, you’d have to step up to a Cobra—the base 4.6-liter V8 only offered 225 hp. And even then, the Cobra couldn’t match the Trans Am’s 335 lb-ft of torque.
Motorweek recorded a 5.5-second 0-60 mph run and a 14-second quarter-mile in a 1998 Trans Am WS6. Impressive, especially when you consider that pricing for the Trans Am started at $26,500, which is around $40,000 in today’s money.
Watching this 20-year-old review, it’s easy to see why the LS1 was such a big deal. It was the beginning of a beautiful thing.