Friday, March 28, 2008

My 1969 Camaro: The quest for 9 seconds

My Camaro has been reincarnated many times, sometimes just with engine rebuilds, other times with superior parts upgrades, and even one ground up restoration that removed every possible nut and bolt. My last edition was a solid 11.70 1/4 mile car that was a blast to drive and perfect in almost every since, except for one, I still wanted to go faster. After a total restoration just a few years earlier, I found myself gutting my car once again, removing most every component aside from those needed to roll the car around, in preparation for a roll cage.
At 11.70, you already are supposed to have a cage installed. Since I wanted to build an even faster engine, the cage seemed like a logical first step. After having a 12 point cage installed, the car sat, that was back in 2001. Today I have a solid game plan in place and am slowly making progress toward building a 9 second car that is 100% streetable. I figured I'd map out my plans in a system by system breakdown of my car, including parts I already have as well as parts I plan to purchase, highlighting my quest for 9 seconds and speeds close to 150 mph.

Who: Supersport
What: A 1969 Camaro
Where: Detroit, MI


Cylinder Block: 1974 GM Gen IV 2 bolt 454, will be bored .040

Cylinder Heads
Currently, GM's legendary rectangle port LS6 heads from back in the day. I feel that my last engine pushed these heads to their limits, and an upgrade is in the works. I was initially leaning towards a set of AFR heads, though the $3,300 price tag was just to much to swallow. I now think I'm going to go with the much lesser known Canfield aluminum heads, which offer just about as much bang, though for significantly less buck! I'm going to reused some components, if possible off my current heads, which include Ferrea Valves, Titanium locks and retainers, ARP rocker studs, and Harland Sharp roller rockers. For springs I will go with Comp Cams recommendation.

Studs: ARP studs throughout

Camshaft: Comp Cams solid roller cam with .678/.688 lift, dur @ .050 266/272, and a lobe separation of 110 degrees.

Lifters: Comp Cams 819-16 solid roller lifters

Crankshaft: GM Forged Steel Nitrated LS6 crankshaft.

Connecting Rods: Currently GM 3/8 rods with ARP bolts, these will be replaced with an aftermarket set, though I have yet to settle upon a brand.

Pistons: Forged Pistons with around 11 or 12-1 CR

Induction/Fuel: Currently, I have a Victor Jr intake. I picked it up at a swap meet, later to find that it was actually their last generation version, which gives up about 500 rpm on the bottom end. For the power range I am building for, it seems more than sufficient, so I may very well stick with what I got so save a little money. For carburation, I am sold on the Barry Grant carbs, which I have ran previously. My 750 Race carb went with my Challenger though, and wouldn't have been enough for this engine anyways. I have yet to decide on a carb, though have pondered one of their King models, I am leaning towards my quest to make this car powered by E85. We'll see what the next couple years hold for this fuel, whether it is a passing fad, or if it will stand the test of time. The increased compression you can run due to the higher octane, combined with a price that seems more affordable with each passing day, may be enough to win me over. I also have a nitrous kit, good for up to 250 hp, along with a tank mounted pressure gauge, bottle warmer, and purge kit. I got all this from a friend from some ridiculously cheap price around $125 I think. For the fuel system I'm planning on an Aeromotive electric pump and regulator with 1/2 inch fuel line coming from a new gas tank. I haven't decided whether or not to use a fuel cell or a baffled steel tank, offered by Aeromotive. I'll have to check the safety requirements at the dragstrip, as that could influence my decision.

Exhaust System: I'll use what I got in this case, which is a set of Heddman headers with 2 inch primaries with 3 inch collectors, dumping into duel 3 inch pipes leading back to a set of Flowmaster 2 chamber mufflers. I may add a crossover pipe later on down the road, but for now, I'll bolt on what I got. Building an engine with 900-1,000 hp, some may suggest a larger exhaust system. However, I feel that my car was already beyond the sound level of what is considered sensible, so I'm going to refrain from any changes that would only make it louder. That being said, those cutouts activated by electronic solenoids could find their way to my car some day. :)

Ignition System: I currently have an MSD small diameter pro-billet distributor which I will reuse. I also have an MSD 6AL box, though will likely upgrade to something with built in timing retard for the nitrous use. Aside from that, a set of Taylor wires and AC Delco plugs finish up the spark.

Cooling System: I bought the biggest Griffin radiator I could fit between the fenders, then purchased two sets of duel electric fans, complete with shrouds, for a total of 4 electric fans. Needless to say, even in the most extreme conditions, I don't deal with overheating problems. The water pump is an Edelbrock Victor Jr aluminum unit.

Oiling System:
I found out the hard way that my last oil pan was not a good choice. It wasn't until it was installed in the car and ready to go that I realized it hung below the crossmember, and was the lowest point on the car. While it's 8 quart capacity was nice, I will have to take into account clearance issues next time around and get something that doesn't make my asshole pucker when I slam a pothole and look in the rearview mirror anticipating a trail of oil. To let ya know just how bad it was, just prior to parking the car for good I had exactly two flat sides left on the drain plug bolt, the rest had been rounded off from numerous encounters with the pavement. So aside from a new pan, I'll get a new pump/pick-up, and possible a remote mount oil cooler to compliment my trans cooler.


Transmission: Rebuilt TH400 with a few minor modification for strength, also converted to a manual valve body. I may reinstall the transmission as is, or perhaps just do an inspection prior, as it only had a few thousand miles on the rebuild and functioned flawlessly.

Cooling: Remote mounted cooler in the grill.

Torque Converter: Coan 10 inch with a 4,200 stall. I may send it back to Coan, have it flushed and inspected, just to be safe. When you spend close to $700 on a converter, I think it's wise to take the "better safe than sorry" approach.

Shifter: Currently a B&M Megashifter, though I plan on replacing it. I never liked how sloppy this model shifter felt and will upgrade to something tighter, perhaps a B&M Pro Stick.

Drive Shaft: Currently a stock 3 inch diameter shaft with new u-joints. This will be replaced by something a bit stronger.


Rearend: GM 12 bolt. I have considered switching to a Ford 9 inch for added strength, yet I just can't bring myself to part with my GM unit, so I think I will simply beef up what I have.

Currently stock, though will be replaced most likely by a Detroit Locker.

Gears: Currently a set of Richmond 4.10's, which I think I will stick with.

Axles: Stock, though will also be replaced with a set of either Moser or Strange axles, as well as a set of C-clip eliminators to keep them from exiting the rear in case they snap at the dragstrip.


Steering: I have the first Ididit column made for a 69 Camaro, as they used my car to mock up the columns for production. In addition, I have a Lecarra steering wheel with leather wrap and polished aluminum 4 spoke design. My steering box took a shit just prior to parking the car, springing a leak and losing pressure. I plan to upgrade to a Flaming River rack and pinion bolt in setup. This should not only tighten up the steering, but also drop some pounds off the nose of the car.

Leaf Springs: Stock, which I plan to stick with for now.

Front Coil Springs: 2 inch drop small block springs, which turned into 4 inch drop springs when I switched to a big block. These will likely be replaced with a set of Moroso Trick springs to help improve launch and 60 foot times. The kicker is, I like my ride sitting "in the weeds" low, so those springs will get chopped to obtain a more appropriate stance.

Traction Bars: Currently a set of South Side Machine lift bars. While CalTraks seem to be the latest hot ticket, I think I'll stick with my SSM bars until maybe later on down the road when I decide otherwise.

Shocks: Currently just a set of KYB shocks. I'll likely at least upgrade the front shocks to a set of adjustable shocks while replacing the springs. As for the rears, swapping in something different likely wouldn't happen until after some time at the track to see how the current set perform.

Front Rubber: New stock replacement.

Rear Rubber: All poly to stiffen things up and help on launch.

Front Sway Bar: Stock, with new stock rubber.


Brake System: With my current system almost completely removed, an upgrade was already in the works. Previously I had a factory power brake set up with a vacuum canister. Even so, after a couple of pumps the vacuum was gone and they resorted back to manual brakes. I was never able to take the first turnoff at the track, and was often on them hot and heavy to make that second turn. Increased speeds means increased braking, and an aftermarket see are in the works. I may very well stick with my rear drum setup due to the less drag, but the fronts will see larger rotors, better calipers, and either a conversion to full manual, or maybe some sort of hydroboost setup.

Roll Control: I already had my Hurst Roll Control installed before, and it will find it's way back on for help with those smokey burnouts and hard launches.


Wheels: Weld Pro Stars, 15x6 up front, 15x8 out back

Tires: Something nice and sticky, a DOT approved tire could for runs at the track, with a set of skinnies up front to compliment the look I'm going for.


Seats: Currently I have the stock front and rear seats, which have been restored. I'm leaning towards keeping the rear seat in, even though it's nearly impossible to access with the cage, it's more simply to keep the interior looking more like that of a street car as opposed to a race car. The front seats will likely get replaced with something set up for 5 point harnesses with the access holes in them. I'm not going with the fiberglass lightweight stuff, but something that is comfortable and looks good.

Carpet: The carpet will once again be house carpet, in a deep purple plush that matches the color of the car.

Safety: Safety is much more stressed this time around, as traveling 116 mph at the track with nothing more than a lap belt and open face helmet probably wasn't among my brightest moments. This time I will have a full 12 point cage, 5 point harnesses, closed face helmet, fire suit, and a kill switch that actually kills the power to my car.

Door Panels: I'm either going to have to modify what I got, or make new. The cage doesn't allow me to use my stock interior door handles, and the large holes in the panels where they mount will cause an issue. The interior is one of the last things I'll complete, so I have plenty of time to consider my options. I'll likely make may own and add a set of billet aluminum window cranks and arm rests.

Dash: The roll cage took away any option of reusing the stock dash cluster, so I'm going to have to search for a new way to install all my gauges. I'm going to check into these aftermarket blanks they sell, as they may solve all my problems and allow me to mount everything the way I want.

Stereo: A loud exhaust requires an even louder sound system. I have a fairly good CD player with 4x45 watts or so, some good front speakers as well as 6x9's, but there were times when the music still couldn't be heard over the car even at full volume. This time, something packing more punch is in order, with an amplifier boosting the power to higher levels. While I haven't even began to think about my options, it will be a thumpin' system. A system that will actually over power the sound of the engine, which can actually get quite annoying, like migraine headache annoying when traveling down the freeway at 70 mph and 3,700 rpm's.

Gauges: This is almost all covered, as I bought all Phantom gauges some years back. I already have a 5 inch tach, 5 inch 200 mph speedometer, with 2 5/8 gauges for fuel level, oil pressure, water temp, voltage. The only additional gauges I will likely add are a nitrous pressure and fuel pressure, both of which will likely be mounted outside the car on the cowl panel.

Wiring: I completely redid all the wiring with an EZ Wiring kit years ago. Only changes I may make are the addition of LED tail lights that recently came out.

Battery: I already have a battery relocation kit mounted in the trunk, though my battery may no longer be up for the test. This time around perhaps I'll go with a dry cell batter, as I've heard nothing but good about them.

Starter: Tilton high torque mini starter.


Body work: As for the body, we did some minor modifications (well, my body man did) to make the car look a lot cleaner. We welded up most all the holes for the emblems, aside from the "SS" on the front and rear of the car. I also left off the stainless trim around the wheel wells, and welded up the holes for the stainless rocker molding. The seams on the panel between the rear deck lid and window were also welded up and smoothed. Aside from that, I replaced the stock flat steel hood with a Glasstek fiberglass 4 inch cowl along with hood pins. I had a little rust come back after a few years on the deck lid and am pondering a Glasstek replacement as well, to drop a few more pounds. I replaced the front and rear bumpers with new and had the rear bumper guards re-chromed.

Color: The color I went with is actually a Chrysler color, Plymouth Prowler Purple. I got tons of compliments no the car when it first hit the road, and it's not a common enough color that the same will probably be true when it hits the road again in a few years.

So there you have it, my full game plan mapped out. While I'd like to drop a few more pounds off the car, I'm really running out of options, because I want the car to continue to look like a street car, maintaining it's full interior and other creature features like a stereo. As stated, the Canfield heads will drop some pounds by replacing their cast iron counterparts, though probably not enough to offset the 100-150 lbs from the cage installation. The rack and pinion should help drop a few as well, in the very desirable nose end of the car. I already have an aluminum intake, radiator, water pump, glass hood, my heater box removed, a mini starter, and am considering a glass deck lid as well. A plexi-glass rear window even crossed my mind. Even with all that, the car will still likely be close to the 3,400 lbs it was before.

I'm confident that the planned build should be more than enough to propel a 3,400 lb car to 9 second 1/4 mile times though, and that's my main goal anyways...for this build at least. :) Who knows what the future for this car holds, but if I was a betting man, I'd say that an LS series small block and 6 speed will likely be involved next time around, as either road course racing or something like the Pony Express 130 and Bonneville 100 always seemed like fun to me. Plus, at some point I wanna see the American countryside, and I refuse to do it in anything other than a classic car. With gas prices continuing to climb, that will have to be with a modern day drivetrain to keep the cost of such a trip affordable.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Cylinder Head Porting Part 2

Well I figured it was about time to give you guys an update on the cylinder head porting I’ve been doing. I’m happy to say that I’m probably 70% complete with job. Let me start by saying that porting and polishing a set of heads takes WAY more time than I thought it was going to. I’ve done a few heads before, but I don’t remember them taking this much time. But that’s ok; I really do enjoy shaping the ports and seeing them polish up. It’s as if I can visualize the airflow going through the ports as I’m working on them.

I’ve added a few pictures for your viewing enjoyment. Like I was saying before, this is the first set of aluminum heads I’ve ever tried to port, and they ain’t like porting cast iron heads! These things are a whole different beast altogether!

First of all the cutting tool leaves a horrible surface finish on the ports. I’ve tried adjusting the speed of the grinder but it doesn’t seem to make any difference. The tools leave all these little gouges that initially worried me. But as it turns out it really isn’t a problem because the polishing cartridge rolls take that gouged surface and turn it into a nice smooth finish. I’d also like to add that polishing takes WAY longer to do then the actual porting itself. But so far I have been very happy with the results.

Second is that porting takes a heavy toll on the wrists. I quickly figured out that if I wrap my wrists they will not fatigue and I can keep going longer. Before I wasn’t wrapping my wrists and they would start bugging me after an hour or so.

I’ve also invested in a good set of anti-fog safety goggles. Those porting and polishing tools throw dust and chips all over the place. I don’t want any of that getting in my eyes. And speaking of which, I’ve been using a respirator since day one. Those cartridge rolls throw out some pretty nasty aluminum-oxide dust and I don’t want to breath any of that.

I have one head pretty much done, and about 50% done on the other head. After that I will polish the combustion chambers, which will be a one-day job at most. So it’s coming along. I’m going to try to update more frequently as the weather gets nicer. I’d like to have the engine in the car by the end of the summer!

Matthew 27:45-56

Rough Intake Port.

Ported and Polished Intake Port.

Ported and Polished Intake port #2

Intake Bowl, semi-finished (still needs some polishing work around guides)

Mr. Gasket Intake Gasket (with high tech head porting stand)

Exhaust Bowl (semi-finished)

Fel Pro Exhaust gasket.

Much needed equipment!!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

2001 Hot Rod Power Tour: Road trippin' in a classic car

It was the longest, and perhaps the only true road trip my Camaro ever went on. The date was back in May of 2001, the final season my Camaro would be on the road prior to gutting it in preparation of a 12 point roll cage. Hot Rod magazine's Power Tour was kicking off in Pontiac, Michigan. After much discussion, I managed to convince a friend to join me on just the first leg of a trip. The full road trip would go all the way to San Bernardino, California, much to far and costly for me. The first leg however, that was manageable.

The night before they departed Pontiac, the city held an all day car show that covered every street and parking lot in the downtown area. Approximately a few thousand cars were in attendance, some of which would be joining us the next day on our adventure. As the day turned to evening, many started to depart the downtown area, opening up parking spots in much more desirable areas along the main drags. I had a few friends with cars at the show, and decided to relocate mine closer to theirs. At the time, I had a 513 hp 454 big block equipped with a .629/.605 solid flat tappet cam and about 11-1 cr. Needless to say, an engine like that makes plenty of noise and draws much attention. Now, fire that baby up in a downtown area where the thump bounces off all the buildings, and the effect is magnified 10 fold.

As I navigated through the downtown side streets, all eyes were upon me as I turned onto the main strip, everybody wanted to see what was making all the commotion. I backed into an angled parking spot, got out and popped my hood, and spectators swarmed around the car to see what the beast possessed.

My friend joining me on the trip was also from CMU's automotive program, and we were meeting up with yet another guy from the program and his father. His dad would be taking his all original, including the 302, 1969 Z28 on the first leg with us. My agreement with my friend was that we would split the gas and hotel cost 50/50. At the time, it proved quite costly since my car would get around 10 mpg on the highway, but with today's prices, it would likely seem like a bargain.

The trip was just shy of 300 miles, and with traffic, took longer than the anticipated 5 hours. I know we got a later than planned start, but by the time we lost an hour with the time change, it was late afternoon by the time we arrived. On the way, somewhere south of Chicago, we got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, often sitting at a stand still. Just then, my friend following behind us in the Z28 calls me on my cell with a suggestion "Hey man, why don't you do a smokey burnout and I'll record it with out camcorder?" It didn't take much convincing at all, and while in a lane between two semi trucks I gave the brakes a couple of pumps, powered up my line lock, then pressed the shifter mounted button to lock the front brakes, and the smoke show was under way. Probably not a whole lot of people who can say they've done a smokey burnout while sitting in traffic on highway 80. :) Never have seen that video, as I honestly had forgot all about it until sitting down to write this.

Hot Rod had planned fuel/rest stops about every 150 miles or so, and they were exactly when I would need fuel, as I was often on fumes coming into the station. The stops were truly a sight to be seen, as dozens of hot rods pulled in to refuel, many of which had passed me on the freeway. For me, I could only cruise along at about 70 mph due to my 4.10 gears out back. Even at 70 mph my big block was wound up pretty good at 3,700 rpm's. This may sound pretty extreme for a big block, but consider this, I built this engine with a power band from about 3,500-7,200 and had a 4,200 stall converter, so it really lived more of a high rpm small block's life.

Most everyone who passed me on the freeway from the caravan gave me the thumbs up side, and spoke with me at the gas stops. Top two comments were "Man, that car sounds good, but you really got that thing wound out don't ya?" and "That thing has to be scraping bottom doesn't it?" Between the oil pan and the road I had a whole 1 3/4 inches of clearance, so yeah, the pan would bottom out now and then. I didn't plan this, as I didn't anticipate the oil pan hanging below the crossmember when I bought it. Still, the 8 or 9 quarts of 20W/50 are probably what allowed the engine to live without cooking the oil on such a trip.

We were to meet up with yet another friend at the Joliet stop, one who had also been in the auto program with us and took a job in Illinois after school. He sat and waited on a grassy knoll outside the dragstrip/NASCAR track where the car show was being held. Off in the distance he heard a recognizable big block thumping....ok, screaming would be a better description. I made a turn onto a service drive leading to the NASCAR track, not realizing that it was the next road that led to the dragstrip where the show was. As I turned around, I dropped the hammer, and my friend thought to himself "That has got to be Ed!" Sure enough, a few minutes later I came pulling into the show, and the sound attached to the vehicle at hand.

After the show, we'd all go out and get dinner together, then head to the motel for a good night's sleep. The next morning we'd bullshit with other gearheads who were continuing on the trip, some all the way out to Cali. After most departed, we headed for home. I won't lie, road trippin' in my Camaro is...less than comfortable. Cruising along at 70 mph, even with the radio volume at MAX you sometimes have to struggle to figure out what song is playing. With dual 3 inch exhaust with turndowns in front of the axles, the noise really resonates. Combine that with the oil and other fumes from the engine bay, and we both developed pretty good headaches along the way. Yet all said, both of us had one of the best road trips of our lives. Some day, I hope to repeat such an adventure, pershaps with a little more comfort though.

Friday, March 07, 2008

2008 Detroit Autorama

As promised, I just returned from the 2008 Detroit Autorama with tons of pictures to share, almost 300! This year once again proved that only the best cars make it into the show. No longer do you see cars with el-cheap-o Maaco paint jobs waving back at you. Another change this year was the lack of the over priced piece of shit cars for sale in the car corral, as it was gone all together, though it was replaced with more stands selling diecast models, car literature, and junk. The imports and Rat Rods were once again on display in the basement, though the imports seemed to be lacking in numbers this year, as did the Rat Rods in my opinion.

Another thing I noticed this year is that muscle cars are continuing their trend of following in the footsteps of street rods. More and more custom body work, modern drivetrains, interiors, bigger wheels/tires, and modern suspensions. Perhaps the most significant proof of this trend was among the Mopar faithful. If there was anything I learned during my few years owning my 1970 Challenger R/T, it's that the Mopar people are often the most resilient to change.

At this year's show I saw several Mopars that had been cut up, bodies customized, aftermarket suspensions, powertrains, and even custom interiors. If the Mopar fans are giving their muscle cars the "street rod treatment," then you know it's more than just a passing fad. So without further delay, here are just a few of the pictures from the show, along with captions. I'll include a link at the end to the rest of the cars.

The Finkosel.

Pretty in prink, with a big motor under the...uhh...over the roof!

Cool display.

1,500 hp...and it's streetable!


Sharp two tone pickup.

Never been a big fan of these throwback customs, but there was just something about this old Buick that really caught my eye.

One of the sweetest Corvairs I've seen.

A good 4 or 5 of these 2nd generation Firebirds made the show, though not a single 3rd generation like I own. Just goes to show that these cars are gaining popularity. I'll admit, there was a time when I thought these, along with their cousin Camaros, were among the ugliest F-body cars to hit the road. Today, I have grown to love the styling of both cars from the 70's, and would even consider owning one.


One of several customized Dodge Challengers. While I like most of the customizations, especially the flush/painted bumpers. About three cars had 18 in front and 20 inch tires on the rear, which I found the rears to look stupid in my opinion. One Cuda had 17's up front, 18's out back, which I consider to be the perfect combination.

The perfect family truckster.

I could live with the 18's on the front, but again, the 20's out back just look too damn big and unproportional to the car. Muscle cars are meant to have some rubber on the rims, not rubber bands. Aside from that, this was yet another sweet customized Mopar.

Awesome 1969 Camaro, most beautiful muscle car ever built in my opinion.

Nice lookin' Stang.

Prostreet will never die, nor will it ever look dated in my book.

Ah yes, the big wing thing.

Another badass Mopar, but look at those silly rear wheels/tires.

While no 3rd generation Firebirds were there, there were a few Camaros from the era. This with a sweet candy apple spray on it.


Willy's were cool when nobody had them. Now, anybody into hotrodding and money seems to have the need to build one. Still sweet, but like the much loved 1969 Camaro, an over abundance can sometimes water them down.

Some nice airbrushed flames.

And it burns, burns, burns!

I never knew such a car even existed, until my days working at Ford when a coworker told me about them. Looks like a fun as hell car to me.

I never liked this generation Vette, in fact, I didn't much care for the generation after either. There was something about this car however, something I couldn't quite place my finger on. Maybe it was the big wheel/tire combo filling up the wheel wells, or the color. The body just seemed ultra smooth and flowing. Today perhaps I'll get a chance to bump into the owner and see if the body was modified in any way.

Update: I got to the show today and was able to talk to the builder about the car. I mentioned that while I typically don't like that style of Vette, there was just something about this one. He smiled and said "You wouldn't believe how many people have approached us at this show and said the very same thing." Seems there were many modifications done, though very subtle, they significantly change the appearance of the car. He allowed me inside the ropes to take a closer look, and point out the mods. The biggestest were the fender flares, which were blended into the body, and a custom rocker panel made to help the body lines flow. They also sharpened all of the body lines, which explained why everything looked so sharp. They also extended the rear spoiler about an inch. The guy admitted, he felt that Vette is one of the sexiest built, though thought Chevy left didn't finish it off right. They made the proper changes to create a product that appears much more polished.

As stated before, I've always loved the LX notchback Mustang, even when the optional luggage rack is tossed on. Now the GT, you can keep them ugly ass boxes!

Never understood it, probably never will, it just is.

You can view the rest of my pictures from the show here: 2008 Detroit Autorama