Dropping An F-Bomb: James Chandler’s Rowdy 4th-Gen Trans Am

James Chandler’s story is more than just a tale of cars and speed; it’s a chronicle of family legacy, passion, and the pursuit of dreams. From his early days inspired by his father’s racing stories to his hands-on adventures with his brother-in-law, Doug Hill, James’s love for cars has been a lifelong journey. His fourth-gen Trans Am he calls “the F-Bomb” is his personal masterpiece showcasing his abilities and passion for fast cars.

F-Bomb Trans Am

Getting Bitten By The Hot Rod Bug

Growing up, James was surrounded by the roar of engines and the smell of gasoline. His father, a car enthusiast, would often regale him with stories about his first-generation Camaro, a car he raced with pride. These stories were not just bedtime tales but seeds planted in young James’s heart, nurturing a fascination for speed and mechanics. The real turning point, however, came with his brother-in-law, Doug Hill. Doug, who tragically passed away in 2003, had a profound influence on James. “Doug is responsible for giving me the bug,” James recalls. “Seeing his passion for cars and feeling the thrill of my first ride in his ’69 Nova with an all-aluminum 427 engine — I was hooked.”

F-Bomb Trans Am


James’s love for cars isn’t just about driving; it is about building, modifying, and creating something unique. Over the years, he owned various models — a turbo Talon, various Mustangs, Camaros, Trans Ams, a Trailblazer SS, and an SS Silverado. Each car was a canvas, a project where he could add bolt-ons and make enhancements.

F-Bomb Trans Am

His first full build was a 1996 Trans Am, a project that ignited his passion for hands-on work. But it was during a period of downtime that James found his most ambitious project: his 2000 Pontiac Trans Am WS6. Purchased from Eric Perini in Marion, Ohio, this car was more than just a vehicle; it was a lifeline. “I needed something to occupy my time while I was down with some medical issues,” James explains. “This car definitely kept me busy and gave me the drive to keep pushing.”

The F-Bomb Trans Am is as much a showpiece as a race car. Everything is powder-coated, painted, and polished.

Building It His Way

This Trans Am has a storied past, being the former fastest LS-powered car on the planet on a 275-drag radial tire. The car features an all-star build history, having been built originally by Stenod Performance with later chassis updates made by NRC Motorsports and Advanced Chassis. James poured his heart and soul into the Trans Am, taking it from a bare roller to a garage-built masterpiece over six years.

F-Bomb Trans Am

“I love cars because they all tell a story,” James says. “For some, they save you; for others, they keep you out of trouble. For a true car guy, a car is a reflection of himself.” This philosophy is evident in every bolt and weld of his Trans Am, but James’s dedication extends beyond just building. He’s taken classes from Garrett Turbo and is learning how to tune race cars, enhancing his skills and understanding of automotive electronics. His background and certifications in computer electronics have helped him with wiring his Trans Am and working with automotive electronics. “I never thought I’d use my computer certifications, but boy was I wrong,” James says. “They have helped me understand EFI and the car’s electronics much better.”

James started with a record-setting chassis and proceeded to the rest of the car at his house in his two-car garage.

Today, James’s F-Bomb Trans Am is a testament to his hard work and dedication. With its original paint, a body that boasts only 30,000 miles, and a chassis capable of competing in various classes from True Street to Small Tire No Prep, the car is as much a showpiece as it is a performer. “I love the original paint on this car and its clean lines,” James notes. “It’s a true garage-built car that never left my garage.”

Speaking of garage-built. James recalls the story of how his Trans Am got its name. “My father in-law, Troy Roe, was in town and he liked to help me work on the car or he would sit in the garage and hang out,” James say. “He would hear me cussing at the car when something wasn’t going right, and one night while we were in the garage he drew up the logo on an envelope and said I should call it the F-bomb because I was always cussing at it and when it was finished anyone who lined up against it would be cussing too.”

F-Bomb Trans Am

It takes a team to run a car of this caliber and James is thankful for the friends and family that support him.

The support system around James has been vital. His wife, Danielle, and daughter, Brooklyn, share his passion for cars, making the journey a family affair. “Teamwork makes the dream work,” James says, acknowledging the help of his crew—Brodie Chandler, Michael Saenz, Trance Saenz, Leon Sanchez, Joe Paul Flores, Tywon Williams, Willie Brown, Chris Havins, and Wade Hodgkins. Each late night spent wrenching was a step closer to his dream.

Having a proven chassis to start with as the foundation of his build meant James could focus his attention on the powertrain. The 25.2/25.3-certified chassis features UMI front upper and lower control arms, and Midwest Chassis travel limiters while the rear uses a Midwest Chassis long torque arm and a wishbone in place of the factory panhard bar. The F-Bomb Trans Am rolls on 17×4.5-inch Weld front wheels wrapped in Moroso DS2 tires with 15×13-inch Exile beadlock wheels in the rear from RC Components. Depending on the racing surface, James runs either Hoosier D05 28×10.5-15 slicks or Mickey Thompson 275/60R15 ET Street Radial Pro tires. Getting the car to hook are front and rear coilovers from Ron G’s Afterworks.

Photo gallery


The powerplant in James’ Trans Am looks as good as the rest of the car and makes north of 1,500 wheel horsepower. Horsepower Research of McKinney, Texas, performed all of the engine machine work and assembly. Starting with an ERL aluminum LS block, they filled it with a Callies Ultra Billet crankshaft, Ultra Enforcer connecting rods, custom Wiseco pistons made for boost, and a Bullet Racing camshaft custom specced by Mark Chacon. Once the short-block assembly was complete, a pair of All Pro LS7 cylinder heads from West Coast Cylinder Heads were bolted on along with a CID LS7 intake manifold and 105mm Wilson Manifolds throttle body.

The twin-turbo LS powering James' Trans Am is a show-quality piece producing in excess of 1,500 wheel-horsepower

Providing boost is a pair of Forced Induction Solutions’ 88mm billet turbochargers featuring 100mm stainless steel Tial exhaust housings. Twin Boosted Solutions 60mm blow-off valves and twin Precision 60mm wastegates control the boost. James is responsible for fabricating the piping for the turbo system. All the power is sent through a two-speed TH400 automatic transmission and Abruzzi billet bolt-together torque converter to a PST carbon driveshaft and a 10-inch rearend housing 3.90:1 gears, Strange 40-spline axles, and a spool.

F-Bomb Trans Am

The 10-inch rearend and Ron G coilovers work together to transfer all the power to the ground.

Feeding the beast is a Waterman 21 gallon-per-minute cam-driven fuel pump that sends methanol to FuelTech 720 lb/hr injectors. Controlling everything is an FT600 ECU and LS wiring harness, also from FuelTech. To get the base tune setup, James took the car to FuelTech’s facility in Ball Ground, Georgia, to let Camaron Lorhman work his magic on the keyboard.

Dropping A Bomb On The Competition

James is diligently testing to get the Trans Am ready for battle.

Since getting the F-Bomb Trans Am home James has been learning to tune the car himself with help from Josh Minzenmayer with 2JM Fab of Whitewright, Texas. James has eagerly been testing at various tracks to prepare for entering events, and as he looks to the future, his goals are clear. James plans to participate in radial-tire all steel all glass shootouts and continue pushing the limits of his Trans Am. While he wouldn’t divulge any E.T. number from testing, James did share with us that the car has reached 160mph in the eighth-mile. His story is not just about building cars; it’s about honoring a legacy, pursuing passion, and the relentless drive to achieve one’s dreams.

About the author

Jeremy Nichols

Jeremy loves to go fast, whether that's on two wheels, four wheels, or boating. With a willingness to compete at almost anything, Jeremy shoots competition long-range rifles matches and races road bicycles and enjoys building vehicles for people.
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