As the cliché goes, “respect must be earned”, and in the case of earning the respect of the brand-loyal and often JDM-centric sport compact crowd, earning some respect has proved especially difficult for Chevrolet and the Cobalt SS. Despite having solid out-of-the box performance from the 205hp supercharged SS back in 2004 and FWD class-leading performance out of the heavily revised 260hp turbocharged SS introduced in 2008, the Cobalt hasn’t found nearly as much traction with young enthusiasts as GM would have liked.
Its domestic-car exterior styling may not be for everyone, but in an era of renewed pride and interest in domestically produced cars of all varieties, perhaps now is the time for the Cobalt SS to earn its stripes with the tuner crowd. Matt Omiotek certainly seems to think so, given all the sweat equity he’s invested in his murdered-out and masterfully modified ’08 SS Turbo.
“I acquired my Cobalt in March of 2009 after a long, hard road of car shopping,” Matt says. “Originally, I was looking for a SRT-4, but they were all beat to crap, and when I finally found a clean one the dealer was unwilling to negotiate on price. So I moved on to looking for a ’04–07 STI, but the astronomical insurance rates shut me down on that one. Next I started looking into EVOs, but they were mostly beat, too, but I did finally find one I had my heart set on. After the papers were signed, the night before I was going to pick it up someone broke into the dealership and stole a bunch of parts off six of his cars, including the EVO, which had about $18K worth of exterior, interior and performance parts on it. That’s when I picked up the Cobalt for a steal from a dealership here in Illinois. At first I told myself this was just going to be my daily driver, and I wasn’t going to do anything more than bolt-ons. As you can see, that didn’t last long too long. Sure, I did bolt-ons, but then I wanted more from the car.”
To get the “more” he was after, the usual off-the-shelf performance parts for his turbo SS just weren’t going to cut it for a hardcore guy like Matt (who works at Dupage Autobody while also putting in hours at his dad’s automotive coil spring manufacturing facility and fabricating custom parts like dash gauge pods and tinted lights for the Cobalt SS community). More power would require a custom solution rather than the usual GM Performance Stage X treatment, so for this Matt turned to his friend Dave Gilbert and his crew at Performance Autowerks, where a custom WERKS PTE 5557 billet wheel turbo kit was developed, along with an intercooler, intake manifold, intake, downpipe and cat-back exhaust. Tuned by Dave on Performance Autowerks’ in-house AWD Mustang dyno, Matt’s SS now pumps out 442 whp and 450 wtq at 6200 rpm, more than enough jam to lay a beating on the more popular FWD sport compact culprits.
GM equipped the SS Turbo with some seriously stout Brembo brakes, so Matt didn’t need to touch this part of his Cobalt, but for grip to match the grunt provided by the upgraded turbo system a super sticky set of Bridgestone RE-11s to go along with Pedders springs and struts and a whole host of custom goodies from Powell Raceshop, including subframe braces, front and rear antisway bars and steering rack spacers. Powell Raceshop also fabbed up a custom harness bar so Matt can strap himself down into the fresh set of JDM Recaros he installed. Matt’s known best for his custom interior work, most notably his Omiotek custom triple-gauge dash housing, which he’s filled with a trio of Aeroforce Inteceptor digital gauges (capable of displaying over 100 parameters). The Black Cat Custom 120-mph main gauge cluster is also a pretty cool piece, allowing you to choose whatever LED color you want and add custom logos or names like Matt has (note the Omiotek name on the speedo). Pop your head inside Matt’s Cobalt and you’ll also immediately notice the WERKS rear seat delete, along with the blacked-out interior trim and headliner.
Speaking of blacked out, the exterior of Matt’s Cobalt is an exercise in the absence of color, other than the red pinstripe on the lip of the 18-inch MSR 045 wheels, the red front tow hook and ’02 Camaro SS badges. The taillights still have a hint of red to them, but they’ve been toned down by Matt’s tinted clearcoat treatment, which perfectly complement the black housing headlights, black GM bowties and tinted windows. The end result of all this blackness is a Cobalt SS that would look completely at home on the cover of a Spinal Tap album.
According to Matt, “I set out to make tasteful improvements to my Cobalt, keeping it clean and not over the top. A lot of inspiration came from the time attack and Grand Am racing Cobalts. One thing I will say is that its funny how many people actually bash the Cobalt or don’t even know that they come turbocharged and equipped with Brembos from the factory [not to mention no-lift shifting and a seriously stiff suspension]. I always get the, ‘Why would you turbo a Cobalt?’ question from EVO and STI owners, so hopefully this project can help educate people about what a serious performance machine the Cobalt SS Turbocharged really is.”
If Matt’s Cobalt has left you intrigued by the tuning potential of this domestic pocket rocket, you’ll have to check out his build thread on gmsportcompact.net because he’s got a whole bunch of cool new parts in the works, including a BorgWarner EFR turbo setup with individual EGT probes, a built 6-speed tranny, custom coilovers, a Racepak dash, custom carbon-fiber hood and trunk, front and side splitters, and a slick-looking blade-type custom trunk spoiler that’ll really accentuate the clean and mean look of the machine. If that’s not enough to get some respect, we don’t know what is.
Specs & Details
'08 Chevrolet Cobalt SS Turbo
Engine LNF 2-liter turbocharged inline-4
Engine Modifications WERKS PTE 5557 billet wheel turbo kit, downpipe w/ cutout, cat-back exhaust, Race intercooler w/ heat-extractiown coating, crash beam, chargepipes, intake manifold, intake w/ AEM DryFlow filter & coolant reservoir; TIAL Q blow-off valve; Boomba catch can
Engine Management WERKS hp tuners reflash by Dave Gilbert at Performance Autowerks
Drivetrain Spec Stage 3+ clutch & lightweight flywheel; B&M shifter
Suspension Powell Raceshop subframe braces, 1.25" (f) & 1.5" (r) antisway bars, rotated mounts & steering rack spacers; Powergrid sway bar endlinks; Pedders springs/stock strut combo
Wheels, Tires & Brakes 18x8" MSR 045 wheels; 225/45R18 Bridgestone RE-11s; stock Brembo brakes
Exterior Omiotek tinted taillights, black housing headlights, black Bowtie emblems, window tint, ’02 Camaro SS badges
Interior Omiotek custom triple dash & painted trim; black headliner conversion; Blackcat Customs gauge cluster; Auto Meter pillar gauge pod; AEM boost & oil pressure gauges (A-pillar); Aeroforce Interceptor triple-gauge cluster (dash); Eclipse AVN-726E head unit; MOMO e-brake handle; WERKS seat braces & rear seat delete; JDM Recaros; Powell Raceshop harness bar
Numbers 442 whp & 450 wtq at 25 psi on a Mustang dyno
Special Thanks Dave Gilbert & the team at Performance Autowerks; John Powell & Gloria Eng at Powell Raceshop; John Finucane & Jim Bailey at Dupage Autobody; GMsportcompact.net; my mom, dad & girlfriend Claudia for all the support & backing behind all my projects