After breaking the stock LT1 on nitrous, it was time to build something that would stay together. After seeing all the great results people were having with LS1s, I was quick to jump on the bandwagon. But I wanted to keep it on a budget; it's easy when you've got a great platform. We started off with a stock 5.7, all-aluminum block and 853 casting heads; not having money for big aftermarket heads, we swapped out the valves with stock-size Manley valves and a Patriot spring kit. We kept the heads un-milled so we could run a big cam and also assure the car could run on 93 octane. After discussing things with Speed Inc. and AES Racing, we decided on a big custom grind that would still allow us to run the stock pistons without fly cutting. After all, this is a streetcar that gets street-driven on a weekly basis. To save money, I used every stock part I could get my hands on--and when I say I used stock parts, I mean a lot of them! Stock LT1 lifters, stock crank pulley, stock fuel rail and injectors, stock original '95 LT1 fuel pump, stock coils, stock water pump, stock throttle body, stock LS1 intake and stock GM MAF sensor.
When it came to the chassis, thankfully I already had a Strange 12-bolt and TH-400 that I used for my LT1. The car still had all factory shocks, springs, Panhard rod and rear sway bar. The Spohn torque arm and the non-adjustable BMR lower control arms were it! Thankfully, the car was light, but not as light as I would have liked, after keeping the radio and stock carpet and not having many lightweight aftermarket products besides a BMR mild steel K-member that I had to buy for the motor to bolt up. But I figured a 3,200-pound race weight was going to work.
A few late nights spent at JM Auto, with the help of some friends, and the car was running! Everything seemed to be OK, so we were in a hurry to get it to the track for some test and tune--not having a roll cage left me no choice but to shut down at the 1/8th mile until the last run of the night! The car still had the old slicks from last season and a 3.73 gear that was being used for those nitroused LT1 passes, but it performed well. Spinning the tires a bit to a 1.52 60-foot, it went 11.27 all in street trim! I changed the slicks and went back to the track a few weeks later--11.25 with a 1.50 60-foot on a 90 degree day, we knew all along the gear needed to be changed cause it was just too small for a 28-inch tire and a TH-400. A 4.30 was in order, so that was swapped in and I went back to the track. Didn't help as much as we thought: 11.22 with a 1.47 60. The 60-foot is getting there, but the ET is still not what I would like. The stock LS1 intake had to be hurting, and what a perfect time for a friend to be swapping his for a 90/90 set up. One hundred and fifty bucks for the LS6 intake and it was on, along with a used pair of HAL front shocks. It went 11.17 with a 1.44 60, but then the real problem was discovered.
The ATI 8-inch converter was slipping 1,400 rpm at the top end. No time to waste. I sent it out to ATI to be repaired, but meanwhile we swapped in a 6,000 rpm Coan a friend had laying around. On the first pass the Camaro went 10.92 with a 1.40 60-foot! Getting the converter back from ATI on time wasn't a problem but having good weather in Chicago to drag race was! After ATI telling me the converter was so bad that the only thing they can re-use is the case, I knew we had a lot left on the table. And it showed it on the dyno, a gain of 35 rwhp! I had a big smile on my face when the dyno pull was done. But I was going to have to wait for summer 2006 to find out the track results.
Besides the swap, I have a total of $1,650 in valves, headers, cam, springs, pushrods, K-member and a used LS6 intake. And at a 3,200-pound race weight, this is no light car. With the help of AES racing, JM Auto and Speed Inc., I was able to go 10s on 93 octane with very minimal funds. Look for us to add on a few more bolt-ons and a lot better ET. A huge, huge thanks goes out to everyone who ever helped out with the car.