With all due respect to the Bumblebee Camaro of action movie fame, the transformer you see here is a bit more exciting than a car that turns into a robot. Of course this car didn't undergo this transformation in a few seconds, nor did it make that cool, "ER, ER, ER," sound you heard at the movies. But with more than 800 horsepower reaching the rear wheels, this 1992 Camaro will blow the doors off of any brand new, Autobot-inspired fifth-gen sitting at your local Chevy dealer.
Landen Richey's Camaro started its life as a red T-top, 305ci TBI automatic. Now it is an orange twin-turbo hardtop with an LQ4, a six-speed manual, fourth-gen dash and center console. The car has had a carbureted 355 small-block backed by an LT1-style six-speed; an LS1 with a T-56; two different turbo setups for the LS1 (as the mechanicals of the car migrated from the original body to a new one); and finally the iron-block twin-turbo build you see today. If you're keeping track, that's four engines, three transmissions, three turbos, and two bodies.
In its current iteration, Richey's Camaro is one of the cleanest third-gen builds you'll ever see. This is even more remarkable because Richey is a self-taught mechanic who planned and performed most of the work himself. Richey purchased the Camaro in 2001, when he was 16 years old. At the time he was pretty impressed with the power of the 305 TBI, as were his high school buddies. He threw a 10-inch subwoofer in the back along with some new speakers. During college he built the SBC at the urging of his father, but he never got comfortable tuning the carburetor. When his friends started to get LS-powered machines, he sourced a new drivetrain from a 2001 WS6 and installed a factory 10-bolt rear.
"The car ran amazing, but I just wanted more power," Richey said. His solution was to add a turbo; he built his own setup out of reversed factory manifolds, mild steel tubing, and a T-76. Under 10 pounds of boost this combo recorded 535 rwhp.
Within a year, though, rust that had been present on the car since his initial purchase became too persistent to ignore. "I was tired of ending up with a handful of rust in the mitt every time I washed the car," Richey said. "I figured I'd find (a new body) without too much trouble, and I found a project that someone had started and never finished." One $100 eBay purchase later, Richey found himself towing home a 1985 Berlinetta hardtop roller with no rust, already in primer. He set it next to his old red car in his barn and got to work transferring his drivetrain to the new body. He smoothed out the firewall and battery trays and built a new radiator core support from scratch to give the turbo room to sit in front of the engine, and to allow easier access to the system's components. The car got a new look with vivid Plymouth Prowler orange paint and a clearcoat on top.
Richey again used mild steel pipe in the new setup, but the more efficient arrangement resulted in 585 hp using under 11 or 12 pounds of boost. Unfortunately, after about 6 months the engine started to lose power and make smoke. A leakdown test revealed problems in cylinders 7 and 8. By now you know Richey well enough to understand why he "couldn't just pull the motor and put rings in it," he joked. He gambled on a fire-damaged LQ4 from a local junkyard, but the only apparent casualty was a melted intake manifold-the block was fine. The iron block would give a margin of safety over aluminum for this non-competition car.