The nerve of these guys, affixing a name as hallowed as "ZL1" to a small-block. That's what the forced induction gurus at Fastlane Inc. call their fifth-gen Camaro turbo kits, and they better have a pretty darn good reason for flirting with heresy. You see, back in 1969, the ZL1 Camaro was the big cheese. A special-order COPO package built to clean house in NHRA Super Stock competition, the ZL1 option got you an all-aluminum 427ci big-block complete with a solid-lifter cam conservatively rated at 425 hp. In one infamous magazine test conducted by Super Stock & Drag Illustrated, the ZL1 Camaro ripped off an 11.64-second pass at 122 mph in the quarter-mile with Funny Car stud Dick Harrell behind the wheel. What made that test the stuff of legend is that, outside of long-tube headers, a carb swap, and ignition timing and valve lash tweaks, the aluminum Rat motor was otherwise stock. So can a new fifth-gen Camaro-saddled with a near 1,000-pound weight handicap and an IRS-really lay down some numbers worthy of its namesake? You bet your sweet hiney.
Houston-based Fastlane Inc. shocked the masses at the 2009 LSX Shootout when a '10 Camaro equipped with one of its ZL1 turbo kits lit up the scoreboard with a 10.86-at-127-mph pass. The feat was good for a class win, but even more impressive was the fact that those numbers were accomplished on a stock L99 long-block in a full-weight street car loaded with every factory option in the book. And oh yeah, all this went down just a few months after GM started releasing fifth-gens to the public. Ultimately, not only is a Fastlane-turbocharged L99/LS3 small-block truly worth of the ZL1 nameplate, it annihilates that sacred 427 big-block by nearly a full second down the dragstrip. That's not too shabby at all given today's ethanol-diluted pump gas and stringent emissions standards. The ZL1s of '69 didn't knock down 20 mpg in climate-controlled comfort, either.
What makes this stunning dichotomy of performance and civility possible is a BorgWarner 72mm turbocharger. Although there will always be some yokel that insists that the 8-71 Roots-style blower sticking out the hood of his Chevelle represents the pinnacle of induction excellence, late-model guys know better. The stigma that turbos are merely staples of diesels and imports has been dispelled long ago, and when it comes to sheer performance no power adder can touch them. This explains why the fastest doorslammers and Outlaw 10.5 drag cars in the country all run turbos, and rumor has it that they can even make Mustangs go fast. While urban mythology says that stock motors with high compression ratios don't work well with forced induction, Fastlane's ZL1 kit proves otherwise. Boosting a stock LS3 with 10.7:1 compression to 7 psi yields an impressive 585 hp and 580 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels. Automatic-equipped L99s aren't far behind, posting figures of 530 hp and 530 lb-ft on the chassis dyno.
For all they do well, however, plumbing a turbocharger into the exhaust stream of any LS-powered machine has traditionally been a major pain due to the lack of turnkey turbo kits on the market. In the past, unless you had the fabrication skills necessary to rig up a custom turbo setup, you were out of luck. That's no longer the case with Fastlane's ZL1 turbo kit for '10-and-up Camaros. At the heart of the comprehensive combo is the previously mentioned BorgWarner turbo, stainless steel hot piping, a front-mount air-to-air intercooler, larger fuel injectors, and aluminum intercooler piping. During our visit to Fastlane's facility, technician Jeremy Zimmerman knocked out an install on a customer's fifth-gen in eight hours flat. The process wasn't any more complicated than bolting up a centrifugal supercharger, and the end product looks like a factory install.