Some may know Betty Jo (BJ) Hawkins BETTER as the polite, good-natured proprietor of Hawks Third Generation Parts rather than the owner of one of the most powerful 6-speed F-bodies in the country. But then again, if your only source of information is the message boards, you may miss quite a lot in life. Around Easley, South Carolina, BJ's super-clean '94 Camaro has been highly visible for years with its custom orange paint and black tribal flames. But long gone is the more familiar LT1 powertrain or even the more recent LS1 with a lumpy cam, ported heads, and a taste of juice. A recent trip to the Midwest had the Z launching into the stratosphere with a custom turbo kit and 408-cube stroker from Speed Inc.
BJ and her husband Bruce decided that while they had a blast with many of their past and present projects, it was high time they leave all of them in the dust with an all-out "1,000-plus horsepower, supercar-type build." BJ's Camaro, originally bought to replace a 6-speed '93 Z traded for a more practical car while pregnant with her son, had already been converted to a 6-speed and an LS1. And now with the help of Speed Inc, it would be transformed to an unfathomable manifestation of terror on wheels. The Schaumburg, Illinois turbo LS1 specialists were more than happy to build a fresh 408cid iron block, bullet-proofing it with a Callies forged crank, Compstar H-beam rods, and Diamond -28cc dished pistons to lower compression to 9.0:1 with Air Flow Research 225cc heads. This familiar combo was paired with its 236/236-duration hydraulic roller running mate, the "TU2" turbo grind Speed Inc uses only with stroker motors.
With the new motor bolted to a BMR tubular K-member for greater clearance, Speed Inc got to work on bending up the hot and cold parts for the turbo system. Dual Precision Turbo 67mm P-trim .69 A/R hairdryers were to be fed by custom manifolds, and would supply the Starr 80mm throttle body and color-matched LS6 intake manifold with up to 21psi from a front mount air-to-air intercooler. A boost-referenced custom fuel system, using a 255lph Walbro in-tank and 340lph external pump, supplies 116-octane race gas to RC Engineering 96-pound squirters. The Hawkins also have a 12psi pump gas tune, supplied by Jim Moran via the Big Stuff 3 computer and software, though Bruce prefers to run race gas as added insurance. The exhaust terminates through dual 3.5-inch downpipes, a custom 3.5 to 4-inch Y-pipe, and a Mufflex 4-inch after-cat. Despite the ridiculous power afforded, Bruce says the turbo Camaro is very streetable and "feels like a 12-second car until you mat it. Then it's like having a rocket under your butt."
Dr. Strangelove references aside, containing the nuclear missile has been quite a chore. Bruce has been working with Madman Racing to get the suspension dialed in-namely, adjusting the front QA1 coilovers and AFCO rear shocks as well as placement of the beefy Wolfe double anti-roll bar. These parts work in concert with BMR lower control arms, torque arm, and Panhard bar to keep the Camaro constantly on the edge of traction even with the meaty 325/50/15 Mickey Thompson drag radials. The substantial rubber is mounted on custom Bogart 15x10 wheels, designed to mimic the previously installed 18-inch Fikse FM5s up front, which were needed to clear the powerful Baer 6-piston brakes.
So far the Big Stuff 3 computer's two-step rev limiter (which is wired into the horn), as well as an Innovative boost controller, have proved useful in making the Camaro a laser-guided missile. However launching a six-speed at this power level can be dicey, and there have been quite a few problems just getting a clutch that will hold this much power. Thankfully, though, the bulletproof T56 built by Six Speeds Inc has so far proved reliable. Using G-Force 9310 alloy gears (First to Fourth) and a Pro 5.0 shifter to navigate them, Bruce hopes to surpass the Six Speeds Camaro and 8.90s to become the fastest 6-speed LS1. Naturally, a necessary component was replacing the stock 10-bolt with a Currie 9-inch packed with 31-spline axles, a Truetrac differential for streetability, and a 3.25 gear to pass the last beams at around 6800rpm.
Initial 1/8th mile track testing has gone well with the Camaro, aside from smoking the clutch on its last pass, but Bruce and BJ are in no rush to set the world on fire. It's going to take baby steps to get the Z into single digits safely-and the bolt-in Wolfe 6-point roll bar is hardly legal for that. So once the clutch problem is solved, they have the rather large undertaking of welding in a cage. With so many customer cars going in and out, the turbo terror has taken a back seat. But I have a feeling, after sampling this year's event, they'll be itching to get the Camaro ready in time for next year's LSX Shootout. And we'll be waiting eagerly.