A Daily Driver to Die For

Got a bad commute? Some 660 rear-wheel horsepower should fix that.

Steve Baur Aug 22, 2003 0 Comment(s)

While most of us would agree that the ideal job would be one that we could do from the comfort of our own home (or better yet, our favorite easy chair), but the fact is that many of us must venture outside, don our respective modes of transportation and arrive at work, which is usually quite some distance from our humble abodes.

Some of us (this author included) must face an arduous journey each and every day. Here in the Garden State, it's not uncommon for one to commute 50 or more miles each way. As you can imagine, this can get quite tedious from day to day and as true gearheads, it's often hard to commit to driving some 98hp weakling just to save on gas. After all, you have to be able to pass the slow people that are clogging up the left lane right? So we take to the roadways in our modified late-model rides, but some of us have more fun on the way than others.

Twenty-three-year-old Josh Ledford of Houston, Texas makes his way to work in style, and if passing speed is required, he has 476hp to call upon. That's rear-wheel power too. Gone are the days of big block-powered gas belchers, as Josh's fuel-injected F-body pulls down 24 miles per gallon on the highway.

While his commute is only 30 miles, Josh pilots his 2002 Camaro SS every day, as it is his only mode of transportation. Mr. Ledford also happens to work at Motorsport Technologies Inc. in Houston, where some of the South's most potent LS1 cars come from. As you might have guessed, Joshua's Camaro is no exception.

Since selling his tricked-out pickup truck, Ledford put down the greenbacks for the LS1 car of his dreams, a 2002 Camaro SS. Josh ordered the car as a base SS model with leather interior. While a host of SLP options were available for the pony car, Ledford knew he would be modifying the car himself. "Being a mechanic, I didn't worry about the warranty. I even asked the sales guy if he could give me some money for it since I wasn't worried about having one," said Josh.

It wasn't more than two weeks after taking delivery of the 2002 Sunset Orange Metallic Z that Josh started bolting on the go-fast goodies. An MTI air box lid was first, followed by a Pro 5.0 shifter and a host of Hotchkis suspension components. These include front and rear sway bars, lower rear control arms and panhard rod. A Hotchkis strut tower brace was also added, as was a Borla cat-back exhaust system.

As Josh occasionally indulges in extra-curricular nighttime racing, the competition led him to his second round of modifications. These included a set of LS6 Stage 2 cylinder heads, which were massaged by Pecos Loughlin at MTI, and a 2002 ZO6 camshaft. The Corvette bumpstick checked like a stocker, which fooled stoplight challengers, and also put the all-aluminum mill over the 400hp mark.

Three to four months later, Ledford installed a TNT wet-flow nitrous system for a little added grunt. This would, however, show Josh where the weak link in the engine was, as a broken piston resulted from the gaggle of giggle gas.

Remember this was his daily transportation, so an all-bore rebuild was quick and painless. The bore was broadened from 3.900 to 4.100, increasing cubic inches to 382. Pecos was once again called upon to assemble the motor, which was topped off with the same Stage 2 heads, although Daryl Hameetman at MTI had slipped in a set of Ferrea 2.08 intake and 1.60 exhaust valves. Josh and MTI proprietor Jayson Cohen chose their own specifications for the custom Comp Cams camshaft, which features 240 degrees of duration at .050, and .578-inch lift. Jesel 1.7:1 rockers were used to fortify the valvetrain, as were the MTI chromoly pushrods. "I spin the motor a lot higher than most people," noted Josh.

Further up the pike, one will find a ported stock throttle body and the factory mass air meter. Exhaust wise, Josh welded the Mac headers on the outside of the tubes and then ported the inside where the Mac welds were. A custom Y-pipe was also fashioned. This is a 3-inch unit that connects to the Borla cat-back, but it also features a 3.5-inch exhaust cutout when it needs to be loud. "With the big motor, the cutout is worth about 10-15 rear-wheel horsepower," Ledford said.

The stout T56 6-speed transmission has held up, but the stock LS1 clutch was tossed in favor of a McLeod twin-disc setup. The stock driveshaft remains for now, but Josh plans to chuck it shortly so it won't suffer a fate similar to that of the rear.

"I've broken three rearends so far. One axle and two carriers. I haven't broke a ring and pinion yet, but it has spit the spider gears through the back cover," he exlained. Josh managed to commit this destruction with a set of drag radials once, and the other two times he had help from the 26X11.5-inch ET Streets. While he was able to reassemble the rear with leftover parts, by the third time, he called in the order for a Moser 12-bolt rear with all the bells and whistles. This included 33-spline axles and a 3.73 gear ratio, but until he gets a new driveshaft, the clutch drops will have to wait.

The LS1/6 mill was tuned using LS1Edit. Jayson and Josh had the motor running well, with the majority of the tuning required to get the air/fuel ratio correct for the nitrous oxide. On the dyno, the orange F-body turned the rollers to 476hp and 438 lb.-ft. of torque. Hitting the 185 shot of juice boosted those numbers to 660hp and a unibody-threatening 720 lb.-ft. of torque. And it gets 24 mpg on the highway. Now that's a daily driver to die for.

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With ET Drag tires and Weld wheels, Josh has hopes for mid- to high-10-second elapsed times in the 130-mph range. The Camaro's exterior is stock save for the Wings West lower valance. Whether for stealth or for style, the lack of additional body parts looks good in Sunset Orange metallic.

"I wanted an LS1 because I knew they were great cars, and this car is just a blast to drive," Josh says. "I built the car to be an all-around performer, and want to do some road racing and maybe some local autocrossing with it."

The 382-cubic-inch mill is juice-fed for fearsome horsepower. A manual button combined with an rpm-activated switch gives Josh a greater degree of control, which comes in handy for the extra-curricular activities that test both the car's and the driver's abilities on the street.

Traction has been a problem for this Z28. Not a lack of but too much, as it has broken the rear on three different occasions.

Ledford ordered the SS with a leather interior and no performance options. This enabled him to stuff a Pro 5.0 shifter under the leather boot, and the nitrous button which juices the new 382-cube motor.

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