The TA2 Engine Story

March 25, 2019

The TA2 Engine Story

The year 2000-2004: Howe Racing Enterprises works with GM Racing in 1999 to develop a low cost, high-performance racing engine for the American Speed Association. When testing is complete, GM produces hundreds of engines for ASA. The ASA engine is a 5.7L LS1 Corvette built at the GM Romulus engine assembly plant in Michigan. The engines are “upfitted” for racing by Katech Performance. Katech Technicians Kevin Pranger and Steve Moore provide track support. In 2002 ASA disqualifies the first competitor for tampering with an ASA engine. Rookie standout Scott Lagasse Jr. wins his first ASA race at Kentucky Speedway in 2004 with the ASA engine.

2007: A Dutch racing organization contacts Howe to create a new racing class in the Netherlands based on U.S. Stock Cars, the class is called DNRT V8. Howe uses engines built to the ASA formula by Schwanke Engines in Minnesota using a 6.0L LS2. Howe delivers only 13 cars to the Netherlands. The performance exceeds expectations, but Euro customers fail to connect with the appearance of the “NASCAR-ish” Five Star stock car bodies.

2008-10: Swedish racing team owners Hans Emeren and Tony Bryntesson contact Howe about re-branding the DNRT-V8 for the Camaro Cup Series. A Camaro body is developed based on the Bumblebee character in the movie Transformers. The Swedes choose the GM ZZ4 crate engine. The class is an instant hit growing to 60 cars in less than two years. In 2010 Howe builds a demo version of the Camaro Cup car for the U.S. with a Schwake LS3 engine. Not knowing where to sell the car, Howe presents it to club racers at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois where they had tested the Camaro Cup car a year prior with Swedish driver Nic Jönsson. Club member Britt Casey Sr. drives the car to victory in an exhibition race against a group of club Porsches.

2011: Trans-Am has added the GT America class to bolster shrinking entries in the TA class. The GT America cars running with Trans Am in 2011 are made up of old ASA cars and three new Howe Camaros driven by Greg Rodgers, Bob Stretch, and Tom Sheehan. Someone renames the class “TA2” and the name sticks. Jim Derhaag organizes a small group of investors to take over the operation of Trans-Am from SCCA. Derhaag invites Chas Howe to Road America to discuss the expansion of the TA2 class with the new Camaro and the LS3 engine. As TA2 grows in popularity, the supply of old LS-ASA engines dries up. Series Technical Director Kirk Ready allows the LS3 with an intake restrictor to bring the 525 hp down to the 470 hp of the ASA engine. Cost: $13,500

2012: John Clagett replaces Randy Hembrey as Trans Am President. Mike Miller joins Trans-Am as a TA2 driver and team owner but soon aft er also becomes a board member and series majority shareholder. Miller has a long relationship with Katech and leads efforts to add Katech as an approved engine builder. Kevin Pranger builds the Katech engines for Miller. By the end of 2012, there are no cars running an LS1. Cost: $16,000.


Late 2012: Howe begins work with GM Racing and Swedish Camaro Cup organizer Tony Bryntesson on a production based racing engine. GM had been prompted to the project by their Corvette team driver Jan Magnusson who also owns a Camaro Cup team in Denmark. Former Katech technician Steve Moore leads the GM development at the GM Performance Lab in Wixom, MI. The finished engine is installed in a Howe test car and taken to NOLA Motorsports Park in December. Magnusson and a young Cameron Lawrence alternate as test drivers. Following the test, the engine goes into production as the LS-CCR (Camaro Cup Racing). Howe would sell more than 160 of the engines worldwide.

2013: The 2013 Ford Coyote engine is too wide to fit a TA2 chassis. Tom West competes with the first gen five Mustang body using the same LS3 engine as the Camaro. Michigan engine builder Phil Harper proposes a narrower, 5.7L pushrod Ford built with a Dart aluminum block, and a carburetor. Kirk Ready approves the Ford with an intake restrictor. In August, Mike Cope, and three others are added as approved car builders for TA2. Cope installs the first Harper Ford engine in a car driven in 2014 by former ASA car owner Ron Keith. Costs: Chevy $16,000, Ford $14,500.

2014: At Homestead Speedway, Chas Howe offers the LS-CCR Engine to Trans-Am but Jim Derhaag asks for more than GM has to offer, and Howe withdraws the offer. At Mid Ohio, Mike Miller and Dodge SRT debut the Dodge Challenger with an aluminum block, 6.3L EFI Hemi Engine built by Arrow Performance. Average Cost: $17,500.

2015-17: The class grows, but increased competition raises tensions over perceived imbalances. Ilmor Racing Engines buys out Phil Harper, taking over production of the TA2 Ford engine. Trans-Am approves the expensive Dailey oil pans for all engine models after discovering them on some Katech Chevys. Late in 2016, Ricky Brooks becomes the new TA2 Technical director. Brooks takes engines to a neutral dyno facility in Tennessee and adjusts the restrictor sizes. Following the purchase of Arrow engines, Prefix Corporation takes over as the supplier of the TA2 Hemi engine and eventually becomes an approved engine builder for the Chevy and Ford. Trans-Am mandates a common ECU made by series sponsor AEM and changes the Ford from a carburetor to EFI.

Mike Miller sells his race team to Joe Stevens and his series ownership to Tony Parella. Tony Ave and Jim Derhaag also sell their ownership shares to Parella giving the new owner complete control. 2017 TA2 Champion Gar Robinson travels to Australia to compete at Bathurst in a TA2 Challenger with an LS-CCR engine. Cost: Chevy $20,000, Dodge and Ford $24,000.

2018: GM discontinues the LS-CCR due to model changeover to the LT1 engine causing Howe to solicit bids from Katech, Wegner, and Prefix. Howe excepts the bid from Prefix. Steve Moore works with Rick Talbot at Prefix to move the LS-CCR engine to Prefix, renaming it the “Prefix Global Engine.” Howe orders 24 Global engines sending the first engines to Thailand and Australia. Ilmor pulls out of Trans Am at the same time that Dart Machinery is bought out by Race Winning Brands. The sale of Dart causes a stop in the production of Ford blocks. Dodge also phases out the aluminum 392 block. The shortage of parts for the Ford and Dodge spikes the price of each. Trans-Am begins looking for a new lower cost engine from Katech, Prefix, and Wegner. A Wegner 5.3L carbureted engine is installed in the car of Rafa Matos and competes in the last two races at COTA and Daytona. Plans to approve the Wegner engine for 2019 fall apart in December due to cost and logistical problems. Trans-Am contacts Howe with interest in the Prefix Global Engine. Cost: Chevy $23,000, Ford $34,000, Dodge $28,000.

2019: A meeting is held on 1/2/19 at Prefix Corporation includes representatives from Trans Am, Howe, and Prefix. All agree that the Global engine is to be produced exclusively by Prefix. A track test would follow independent dyno testing by Trans Am. Howe, Prefix, and SLR racing sponsor a test of the Prefix Global engine at Sebring on January 29-30. Scott Lagasse Jr. is the driver for the test. Following the test, Ricky Brooks reviews the results and selects a 2.5” restrictor. John Clagett renames the engine, “TA2 Choice” and plans the unveiling for Sebring.

The Choice engine is the LS-CCR and Prefix Global engine rebranded. The engine is essentially a Chevy Corvette LS9 with the supercharger replaced by an SUV intake and a Kinsler manual throttle body. Prefix has upgraded several internal components for greater durability at 6800 rpm. An LS9 is distinctly different from an LS3 due to the factory supercharger and dry sump oiling system. The stock Corvette oil pan requires the engine to sit 2” higher in the chassis. Because there is no multi-stage external oil pump to create a vacuum, the engine must be vented. The last surviving component from the GM Project 2000 is the ASA spec camshaft . It remains to be seen how the Choice engine will compete at the various venues of TA2, but one thing is for sure; the new engine is the most affordable choice, dialing back the engine cost to that of 2015. Cost: $16,879.