If you've watched old horror movies, one of the clichés of wild-eyed mad scientists is the cry: "They said it couldn't be done," just before they pull an oversized lever to send electricity coursing through their unholy amalgam of body parts. Typically, it results in a rampaging monster that draws the attention of pitchfork-wielding, torch-throwing townsfolk. The Polo Green Camaro of Marcus Fields is a monster, of sorts. With more than 700 rear-wheel horsepower from a twin-turbo LT1 engine, it has monstrous performance, alright, but it's also a project that the sane scientists at the lab said couldn't be done.
Fortunately, the locals haven't marched en masse up to his castle gate-make that garage door-to demand the monster be put down. But after getting a good look at the taillights and "94TURBO" personalized plate on the back of the car, most of the LS-powered citizens roll up afterward and rhetorically ask: "I just got beat by an LT1?"
Sure did. To keep it in front of the LS crowd, as well as those smug supercharged Mustang guys and even the occasional late-model Mopar jockey who's still trying to find tuning for his stumbling Hemi, Fields upped its output with a pair of big, intercooled Turbonetics 60-1 turbos that pump out about 14 pounds of boost. With other mods, including a switch to an LS-style individual coil ignition system, his clean, green monster puts down about 715 horsepower to the tires. That's about 850 horses at the crankshaft-more than triple the original 275-horsepower output.
"It may have been more logical to start with an LS1 car in the first place, but this was my car and I liked it," says Fields. "The styling of the pre-1998 cars is stronger, in my opinion, and well, it became a quest to see what we could do with the LT1 engine."
Fortunately, Fields' brother in law-and resident mad scientist-is Joe Borschke, who owns Troy, Michigan-based Stenod Performance. It's a fabrication and tuning shop that's built more than its fair share of force-inducted F-cars-although most have been of the LS-powered variety. To be honest, the project started long before Borschke opened the doors at his own shop, but his fabrication skills had been honed while working at other Detroit-area tuning shops.
"There are almost no off-the-shelf parts on this car," says Borschke. "We had to make just about everything, because nobody was doing LT1 stuff on this level."
The high level of fabrication is immediately evident when the hood is lifted, as the turbochargers are mounted front and center, feeding and receiving a maze of 3-inch and 4-inch plumbing.
"The 60-1 turbos were too large to mount conventionally at the bottom of the engine, so we brought them up to the front of the engine compartment," says Borschke. "One of the benefits of this is the area around the exhaust manifolds doesn't get as hot, so the engine stays a little cooler and there's less chance of the manifolds cracking."
A closer examination of the turbos' installation reveals the radiator core support was cut and notched in order to make room for a thick, three-core radiator and the scratch-built intercooling system's heat exchanger. It's an extremely clean, integrated installation that typically requires a second look to appreciate. The same goes for the rest of the engine compartment and the modified LT1 itself. It is the car's original engine, but it's been bored 0.030-over to bring it to the classic 355 cubes. It has also been fitted with a set of splayed, four-bolt main caps for additional bottom-end strength. Those caps retain the activity of a Cola forged crankshaft that pulls on a set of Lunati forged steel H-beam rods and Diamond forged aluminum pistons.
To the short-block assembly was added a set of AFR 220cc aluminum cylinder heads. They're pretty much the gold standard in LT1 breathing these days and work very well with forced induction. The 23-degree, CNC-ported heads have 2.080-inch intake valves and 1.600-inch exhaust valves that draw the air and fuel channeled from an LT4 intake manifold. Of course, the air is crammed into that intake via the turbo system. In addition to the pair of ceramic-bearing 60-1 turbos-which are fed by stainless headers that were custom-made at Stenod Performance-the setup includes a pair of TiAL 44mm wastegates and 50mm blow-off valves; stainless steel custom-made 2.5-inch downpipes; a 3-inch stainless intake tube; and a Stenod-built, three-row intercooler. Stenod also crafted all of the turbo and header flanges for the turbo system, as well as built a custom, 2.5-inch stainless exhaust system that merges under the car into a single, 4-inch pipe that feeds a Borla muffler.
Setting alight the pressurized air/fuel charge is the chore of a unique ignition system that uses an LTCC coil conversion kit to replace the not-so-loved factory Optispark system. Upgrading to the LS-style direct, coil-per-cylinder system brings a much more accurate, reliable ignition. Factory LS1 coil packs are used and have no trouble generating the energy required to light off the pressurized charge. Additional engine details include a Melling blueprinted oil pump and Canton oil pan; a "vintage" Arizona Speed & Marine (now called AZSpeed) 58mm throttle body, 86-pound fuel injectors, and a Harlan Engineering injector step-down box. As we mentioned, this carefully engineered engine combination is worth about 850 horsepower, as well as 660 lb-ft of torque.
Backing the hair-dried small-block is a T56 six-speed transmission that was built by D&D Performance in Wixom, Michigan, with heavier-duty Viper innards, including a beefier output shaft. It twists a custom, 3-inch aluminum driveshaft, sending torque to a Moser 9-inch rear axle that's fitted with a 4.10 gear and Detroit Locker differential. From there, the power is transmitted via Strange 35-spline axles to a set of genuine 19-inch Corvette Z06 rear wheels. Measuring a whopping 12 inches wide without their corresponding 325-series rubber, it was no small feat to cram them into the Camaro's fenders. But they're in there without the help of mini tubs or anything like that-although the inner fender lips were heavily massaged.
The matching, 18x10 Z06 wheels are mounted up front and all four corners of the car benefit from the adaptation of Z06 brakes-including the cross-drilled 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers in the front and drilled 13.4-inch, four-piston combo at the rear. The rest of the chassis wears suspension parts left over from the Camaro's days as a dedicated drag racer, including a BMR K-member, control arms, Panhard bar, and subframe connectors; along with a Spohn adjustable torque arm and Strange shocks. To be honest, Fields needs to do a little more work to put the street back into his suspension, as the hard-mounted suspension clunks and rattles considerably.
"Yes, it's a little annoying after a while, but we're working on it," he says.
Our brief seat time in the car suggested this Camaro can use all the traction help those racing-bred suspension parts can get. When the boost hits, the car rockets forward as if it were slammed from the rear. It's a surge of power that is both intoxicating and scary in a street car-and we were glad those monster Z06 wheels and tires put plenty of contact patch on the road. Even mild applications of the throttle produced acceleration that had us straining against the five-point seat harness. And thanks to the wonders of modern tuning, the Camaro was as docile as an old cat at the stoplights. It's not a very loud car; and with no external variances from stock, apart from those Z06 wheels, there's little clue to this F-body's Jekyll-and-Hyde personality.
Complementing that double-duty demeanor is an interior with a strong balance of performance, comfort, and amenities. The requisite auxiliary gauges are mounted on the A-pillar. A pair of Corbeau racing seats and the car's previous full rollcage was trimmed down to a six-point system that enables easier entry and exit for the family.
"I take our 4-year-old daughter and baby son for rides in it," says Fields. "And I think my wife likes the feeling of power as much as I do."
The most striking alteration from stock in the Camaro's cabin is the use of Trans Am dashboard and console components. They include the dashboard and center console from a 2000 Firebird and gauge cluster from a 1997 model (for the digital odometer).
"Was it an easy swap?" we asked.
"No," said Fields. "We initially thought it would be, because Firebirds and Camaros were basically the same cars, but that wasn't the case. There was a lot of wiring fabrication and other details to make it work-but I like the style of the Firebird dash better than the Camaro, so we made it happen."
Indeed, "make it happen" was the guiding philosophy during the car's construction-and the mantra for all mad scientists. Fields and Borschke weren't concerned about what was available for the car in the aftermarket or the fabrication obstacles that made it a more challenging project. They envisioned the ultimate LT1 Camaro and made it happen.
That's how Dr. Frankenstein got started.
|Data File 1994 Chevy Camaro|
|Block:||LT1, 355 cid|
|Heads:||AirFlow Research LT4 220cc, 2.08 intake, 1.60 exhaust valves|
|Cam:||Custom hydraulic roller|
|Pushrods:||Trend 5/16-inch, one-piece hardened|
|Rocker arms:||Comp Cams Pro Magnum, 1.6 ratio|
|Rods:||Lunati H-beam, forged|
|Throttle body:||Arizona Speed & Marine 58mm|
|Fuel injectors:||Precision Turbo 86 lb/hr|
|Fuel pump:||Twin Walbro|
|Ignition:||LTCC coil conversion with LS1 coils|
|Engine management:||Stock, tuned by Stenod Performance|
|Power adder:||Twin Turbonetics 60-1 turbos|
|Wastegate:||Twin TiAL 44mm|
|Exhaust system:||Custom turbo manifolds and 2.5-inch downpipes, Borla muffler|
|Transmission:||T56, built by D&D Performance|
|Clutch:||McLeod twin disc|
|Driveshaft:||Custom 3-inch aluminum|
|Front suspension:||BMR K-member and control arms, Strange shocks|
|Rear suspension:||BMR Panhard bar, antiroll bar, lower control arms, Spohn torque arm, Strange shocks|
|Rearend:||Moser 9-inch, 4.10 gear, 35-spline axles, Detroit Locker differential|
|Brakes:||Z06 14-inch, 6-piston front; 13.4-inch, 4-piston rear|
|Wheels:||Z06 18x10 front, 19x12 rear|
|Front tires:||Goodyear Eagle F1 275/35ZR18|
|Rear tires:||Goodyear Eagle F1 325/30ZR19|
|Race weight:||3,700 lbs|
|Best 60-ft. time:||1.45|
|Miles driven weekly:||75-100|