Tony Madia admits the engine in his '98 Camaro SS is living on borrowed time. The car is on its third engine in six years; its current setup combines 10.8:1 compression, an STS rear-mount turbo, and a 50hp nitrous shot, which may administer the coup de grace. But that doesn't worry Madia. He's used to fixing things, with more than 20 years of experience as a Mazda master mechanic.
"I'll probably just run it until something breaks and handle it when the time comes," he says, adding that he'd rather have the car available to drive than endure the downtime needed to optimize the current setup.
Through an Internet search in 2003, Madia found the car at a dealership in Boston, about four hours away from his home in Schenectady, N.Y. It wasn't the nicest SS he had found, but the others had already been personalized by their owners. Madia was looking for more of a blank slate. After two unsuccessful trips to the dealership (literally 16 hours of run-around), the dealer agreed to sell him the car, this time sending a driver to deliver it. Madia dropped the driver off at the bus station for a one-way ride back to Boston, and the car was his.
The car had more than 50,000 miles on it and was in rough shape. Clearly, the previous owner had been young and enthusiastic, but misguided, at least judging by the APC windshield decal and extremely bald rear tires.
"It looked like somebody waxed it with steel wool," Tony noted, so he spent three days buffing out the white paint. He bought two new bumper covers and painted them to match. Meticulously applied SS stripes, carbon-fiber mirror covers, and clear indicator lamps complete the black-and-white exterior look. Billet SS and Camaro emblems were added, and a set of chrome ZR1 wheels were wrapped with new Goodyears, although Hoosier drag radials are on the rear of the car now. He painted the wheelwells with gloss black paint, as well as many of the undercar components, including the brake calipers, control arms, and springs. After blowing up the car's 10-bolt rear at the track, he added a Moser 12-bolt and buried it in clearcoat to preserve its pristine appearance.
Madia has owned F-bodies for a quarter-century, acquiring his first one (a 1978 Rally Sport) before he had a driver's license. This car marks his entry into the LS scene. He wanted a six-speed and T-tops, after owning a '94 Z28 hardtop with an automatic. He's also had a '70 Camaro, '72 R/S Z-28, '80 Z-28, '85 IROC, and an '87 TPI IROC.
This car's original LS1 got a head and cam package, but during dyno tuning it developed a rod knock. That engine was yanked and replaced with a beefed-up motor, which also eventually met its demise on the dynamometer. "Too much nitrous on weak rods," Madia says of the 150hp shot that did the deed.
Would the third try be the charm? It looked that way, as Madia and Howard Tanner of Redline Motorsports in Schenectady installed a stock-displacement LS6 with a five-thousandths clean-up, Wiseco forged pistons, and Callies Compstar H-beam rods. Trick Flow heads were installed up top. Then, while attending the Performance Racing Industry trade show, the opportunity to purchase an STS rear-mount turbo kit presented itself, and the deal was too good to pass up. Before he knew it, Madia's credit card left his wallet and the 67mm Garrett turbo found its way into his Camaro.
This called for a turbo-specific cam. A custom-ground roller cam from Cam Motion was installed, featuring 228/222 duration, 0.595-inch lift on both sides, and a 116-degree centerline. The intake and exhaust paths also needed to accommodate the setup, so a 3-inch pipe was installed behind QTP long-tube headers and a Flowmaster collector. Up front, a Nick Williams 90mm throttle body and FAST LSX intake manifold deliver the air, while fuel flows from a Cam 255-lph pump with the assistance of a Kenne Bell Boost-a-Pump to 60 lb/hr Mototron injectors.