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Build a Better Bandit: Jeff Lutz’s Latest Project

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By Ainsley Jacobs

Photos Courtesy of Lutz Race Cars

On the jig table at Lutz Race Cars in Callery, Pennsylvania, the legendary heads-up-racer-turned-no-prep-king himself, Mr. Jeff Lutz, is piecing together his latest project – he’s building a better Bandit.

Lutz posted some pictures to his shop’s Facebook page on March 13, 2019, and fans went crazy trying to guess what the combination would be, where the car would wind up, or whether or not it’s for Lutz himself – spoiler alert, it’s not.

“I’m actually building this for a friend of mine, Steve Chechak,” explained Lutz of the car’s Pittsburgh-based owner. “It’s going to be a Smokey and the Bandit tribute car, but big tire-style for Hot Rod Drag Week’s Ultimate Iron.”

Chechak’s Pontiac Firebird Trans Am proudly features a factory steel body front to back that’s been retrofitted to a state of the art 25.3 SFI chassis, courtesy of Lutz Race Cars. In addition to the chassis work, LRC fabricated the custom wheelie bars as well.

Out back, a Strange Engineering full floater rear end was installed along with a four-link from RJ Race Cars/Quarter-Max. Penske shocks and struts will help keep the Bandit planted as it does double duty on the street and on the track, and a set of Mickey Thompson stickies wrapped around a set of beautiful RC Component wheels will be bolted on for the latter.

The heart of the build, though, is where the fun really begins. “It’s going to be a 540 ci big block Chevy with Trick Flow heads and intake, Callies crankshaft, Crower cam, Jesel valvetrain, and twin 88mm Precision turbos,” disclosed Lutz, whose team also built the headers in-house using Stainless Works supplies. Matching PTE ancillary components, including blow-off valves and wastegates, were incorporated into the turbo system and the whole combination makes use of a plethora of plumbing parts from Race Part Solutions. “We’ll also be using a Rossler Turbo 400 transmission with a ProTorque EV1 converter and Gear Vendors overdrive.”

As the ‘Bird will be run in two vastly different sets of conditions, Lutz made sure to outfit it with two separate fuel systems – one for street use, and one for race use. Two separate sets of Precision injectors work with Aeromotive fuel pumps that pull from either a rear cell from Summit or a front cell from RJ Race Cars, and a Holley EFI system will keep it all operating smoothly.

As Chechak stands at 6’6” tall, Lutz paid special attention to ensure the massive man fit comfortably into his new Trans Am. Carbon bucket seats from RJ/Quarter-Max were installed, and Chechak will have easy access to the controls needed to manage the estimated 3,500+ horsepower the car will produce.

Waiting at the ready once the hard parts are all wrapped up are the accent pieces that will give the Firebird its finishing touches. “We’re installing Optic Armor Lexan all around, but leaving the front windshield complete with an inspection sticker from ’86,” shared Lutz of the glass relic.

Finally, a fiberglass nose, shaker hood, and dash from VFN Fiberglass, rear wing from Racecraft Inc, and steel doors and fenders from Summit will all be sprayed in the traditional Smokey and the Bandit black and gold livery. And, for those wondering whether a massive Screaming Chicken will be included, Lutz answered affirmatively, “absolutely.”

Work only started on the Bandit build about three weeks ago, and Lutz – who has his hands full filming episodes of Street Outlaws and Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings – fully intends to have it wrapped up in another two months or less so that Chechak can hit the track and let the Firebird spread its (totally badass) wings.


Ainsley Jacobs
P.TEN Marketing's Ainsley Jacobs is a freelance motorsports marketing professional with extensive experience in marketing and communications, website development, social media management, photography, journalism, and more.
http://www.PTENmarketing.com
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