Bryan Higgins is a true sport compact enthusiast with an impressive list of JDM rides to his name to prove it. He's owned an all-motor Mark II Toyota Supra that ran 13.8 at 101 mph in the quarter-mile back in 1995, a 2g Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX that ran 11.83 at 118 mph in the quarter-mile back in 2000 and a '76 Datsun 280Z that ran 13.74 at 96 mph in 2006-just to name a few of his favorite rides. Then, in 2007, he picked up this factory supercharged Chevy Cobalt SS and his unexpected transformation into a Chevy lover began.
It may seem odd to some of you that Bryan would go from classic and more modern JDM icons like the Supra, 280Z and Eclipse GSX to a domestic platform like the Cobalt, but his experience on the street convinced him it was a machine worth considering. "A friend of mine picked up a simple Stage 2 Cobalt SS and pulled up next to me at a light. I took the bait and proceeded to get walked on by a fancy Cavalier. So I did some poking around on Cobaltss.net to see what was going on with these cars, the underrated lawn gnomes of the spocom world. Pretty soon I was shopping for one and found the one I was looking for after a couple of test drives. Red, LSD, no sunroof, heated seats. Game on! Picked it up on St. Patty's Day and that Sunday was at the track with it stock-ran a 14.6 at 97 mph. Not bad for a stocker. The following Monday it went back to the dealer for the Stage 2 upgrade."
And thus began another saga of modifying what was originally meant to be a nice daily driver, in this case starting with a K&N intake, Pacesetter header, custom downpipe and a 3-inch Vibrant after-cat exhaust. After that Bryan picked up a used Snow Performance water/meth injection kit from a friend, but it was missing a few key parts. "I picked up a Hobbs switch, relay, wiring and then started making noise in the garage until it was all hooked up."
With the water/meth kit and the Stage 2 pulley and 42-lb injectors from GM, Bryan tuned the ECU to a pump-gas safe 11.8 air/fuel ratio, resulting in a solid 273 whp and 254 ft-lbs or torque. He left the car like this for a few months, but couldn't keep his hands off it for long. "First I put a Smooth Flow 2.7 pulley on the car, which opened up a whole new world of torque. But then I began to realize that what makes power is efficiency, rather than just force-feeding the engine with boost. So I installed Supertech valves, springs and retainers along with custom ground cams to HKS 272 specs and got power up to 291 whp. But with this came a whole new level of hell in terms of tuning. Idle surge, random dying at stoplights, people looking at me funny. With the help of a local Honda/EVO tuner, we realized that since I do not have control over idle air volume, I had to attack the idle surge and coastdown problems with ignition timing."
Having sorted out most of the early tuning gremlins-like all good speed junkies-Bryan couldn't leave well enough alone. The custom cams were pulled in favor of GM Racing LSJ cams and a Harrop TVS blower. Power jumped to an impressive 342 whp at 18 psi. However, the factory lifters were trying to stretch themselves due to the small base circle of the GM Racing cams, so the stock cams went back in and after some careful retuning peak power figures actually increased to 352 whp and 308 ft-lbs of torque on C16 race gas.