Back in the pits, the natives were restless: this was a way faster car than I had been able to prove, and Thomson and Smith took a spin to see what was up with the trans. They came back reporting no problems, so Brian and I went out. The trans trouble finally reared its ugly head with Thomson behind the wheel and unable to powershift, and it was determined that in order to get gears changed with any success, I would have to throw the T56's health to the wind and really muscle the shifter.
After a quick burger and cheese fry dinner, I again donned the helmet and rolled into the pits. By now, the Wednesday Night Test & Tune crowd was thick, and a couple of oil-downs meant I would have lots of time to think about this rocket. Though the trans was a concern, I was still blown away by this combination: the 4.56s were perfect for the quarter-mile, though on street tires the first two gears were pretty much useless when the LS7's big torque came online. The clutch was holding fine and had a nice pedal feel. And the high-rpm sound, even through my helmet, was wicked.
Nearly an hour later, I finally pulled into the box. Second was selected, and I dumped the clutch and hazed the Goodyears. I eased off the brake and let the 'Maro's momentum carry me to pre-stage. I quickly noticed that the long cooldown had benefited the trans, which was moving between gears much easier. I grabbed First, eased into the stage bulb, and revved the 427 to 2,700. When the tree came down, I breathed on the gas while slipping the clutch. The street tread latched onto Milan's surface and I was yanked to a 1.85 60-ft. Seven thousand came quick, and I brutally muscled the shifter into Second, then Third. It still wasn't allowing a powershift, instead stopping briefly in Neutral before slipping into the next gear. This run was coming together, and when Fourth was dialed in, I knew I was flying. The LS7 strained past 7,000 as I crossed the stripe, recording a 12.43 at 115.08.
"Finally!" Meyer exclaimed as I cruised back to the pits. "Now we have a test car!" One more street-tire run was made 70 minutes later, but the 1.86 60-ft couldn't make up for the crunched-up gearbox: 12.95 at 105.
Back in the pits, Lazlo and Mike swapped the street radials for a set of slicks, and I hauled tail to the lanes. It was now almost 8 p.m., which meant that Milan would be closing soon. The T56 was giving me more trouble on the way to the burnout box, and after smoking the brand-new meats big-time, I staged up. The last thing I wanted to do was stall this rocket on the slicks, so I gassed it until just over five grand was showing on the tach and side-stepped the clutch. WWWWHHHHAAAAA-aaaaaaahhh, the LS7 groaned, pulling my head into the cloth seat and recording a 1.67 short time. I again abused the shifter through the gears but had to settle for molasses-slow shifts, and flew through the traps--limiter kicking in immediately--with a 12.61 at 112. I was now down to the last run of the night, as the lanes had been closed off after I rolled in. I was joined in the pits by the Thomson crew, Jamie Meyer, Shawn Smith, and Lisa Reffett of GMPP, and Mark Whitney, who had earlier put the smack down on Meyer's stock Trailblazer SS with his tuned TBSS. With one run left the GMPP folks were adamant about going for broke and suggested that I leave off of the limiter--um, sounds good to me!
Just after 9 p.m. I pulled the bad black F-body into the water and executed a big Second-gear burnout. A crowd gathered on either side as I found the lane's groove and eased up to the lights. Once pre-staged I took a deep breath, jammed the shifter into first, and crept up until both yellows were lit. I let the tree come down, floored the throttle, and when the Racepak showed 7,000, dropped the clutch. The slicks bit, the nose yanked up, and my head whipped back, but my eyes strained to look down at the tach, which was already nearing redline! I clutched and rammed the shifter into Second, marveling at how fast the revs were climbing. Third hung up just a bit but took, and with insane acceleration taking hold, the slicks--set at a low 13 psi--started to make the car sway. I applied minor correction to the steering wheel and jammed Fourth gear. The finish line loomed immediately, the LS7 banged the limiter, and it was over: 1.56 60-ft, 12.00 at 115.07.
When I tried to pull it out of gear before hitting the return road, the lever was stuck in Fourth. Turns out that a shifter fork was bent--the trans was done and this GMPP rocket disappeared into Thomson's trailer.
It was sick fun being able to test the GMPP LS7 Camaro at Milan. A marvel of engine-swap ingenuity, this F-body has an easy 11.60 in it with a good trans, and carries no ill effects along with that timeslip. It's a great world indeed when you can drop in a reliable crate motor with this kind of power, and instead of worrying about the engine, turn your attention instead to how the rest of the drivetrain and the car itself will handle the power. A killer car, and a killer crate engine.--R.J. Special thanks go out to the GM Performance Parts staff, the Thomson Automotive staff, and Mark Whitney for all of their assistance.