1992 Chevrolet Camaro - Transformer

Homebuilt Third-Gen Camaro Completes Metamorphosis Into 800hp Fire Breather

Peter Bodensteiner Jan 12, 2011 0 Comment(s)
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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.

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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.

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"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.

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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.

Deciding between another single-turbo setup and twins was a dilemma; once again the lure of the new and different swayed Richey toward two 66mm units. "I wanted everything to be symmetrical," Richey said. "The most intense part was laying everything out." He hung the turbos in mid-air using chains to help figure out how to run the piping while hiding as much of it as possible. He placed an intercooler in front of the radiator and added pusher fans on the front side of the radiator to keep everything cool. He went with stainless pipes this time; he tacked the pipes together using stainless wire before taking the components to a skilled TIG welder to finish them off.

Since completing the twin-turbo build, Richey has put about 500 miles on the car. While he's still breaking things in, he reports that it already feels faster than before. "I'm running six pounds right now," he said. "The boost definitely comes on quicker. I'm getting full boost at 2,800 rpm, where my last setup wouldn't see full boost until 3,600 or 3,700 rpm."

Despite being built for the street, Richey opted for a 10-point rollcage on the interior. "Third gen [unibodies] are notoriously weak, and if I start hooking good, I don't want everything to start creaking and popping," he said, adding that the cage makes a significant difference in how the car rides and how stiff and tight it is. The rollcage also provided a way to create easy mounting points for a fourth-gen dashboard-a conversion that would have been much more difficult using only the factory mounting provisions. A fourth-gen center console, a custom gauge arrangement, and leather-wrapped racing buckets also spruce up the interior.

As hard as it might be to believe, Richey claims that the transformation of this car is now complete. "I plan to leave it at around 800 hp because it will be a street car," he says. "The limiting factor is the factory crank, and I don't want to gamble on hurting that. [The car] is done," Richey says. "I say it now and I hope it's true. I've gotten married, got a house, got a truck, we're talking about kids ... it's time to be done. But I'll never be done with cars, and I'm not planning on selling this one."

Data File
Car: 1992 Chevrolet Camaro
Owner: Landen Richey
Body: PPG Plymouth Prowler orange metallic paint with clear coat, ASCD "SS" Ram Air hood, Hawks Third Generation spoiler, custom-fabbed core support
Interior: 10-point cage, fourth-gen dash and console, racing seats, Corbeau harnesses, Autometer Cobalt gauges
Engine Block: GM LQ4, 370 cid
Compression Ratio: 9.0:1
Heads: AFR 225cc, 2.08 intake, 1.60 exhaust valves
Rockers: Stock, 1.7 ratio
Cam: COMP hydraulic roller, 225/225 duration, .581/.581-inch lift, 113 LSA
Pistons: Diamond, forged
Crankshaft: Stock, nodular iron
Rods: Callies I-beam, forged
Oil Pump: Ported LS6
Intake: Air Raid filter, Edelbrock ultra-low profile elbow, Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold
Throttle Body: Edelbrock 90mm
Fuel Pump: MagnaFuel 4301 external pump
Injectors: 60 lb/hr
Ignition: Stock coil-near-plug, MSD wires, NGK TR6 plugs
Exhaust: Custom turbo manifolds with Stainless Works piping, dual 3-inch downpipes
Turbochargers: Twin Turbonetics GTK-650s
Blow-off Valve: Turbonetics "Godzilla"
Wastegate: Twin TiAL 38mm
Boost: 15 psi
Intercooler: Custom Air-to-Air, 3x15x30
Engine Management: Stock PCM (3-BAR), tuned by Tracey Scott
Transmission: T56, built by T56 Rebuilds
Shifter: B&M Ripper
Clutch: McLeod Street Twin
Driveshaft: Strange 3-inch chrome moly
Rear End: Strange S60, 3.54 gear, Detroit Tru-Trac posi, 33-spline Strange axles
Front Suspension: Eibach springs, Spohn sway bar, stock control arms
Rear Suspension: Spohn lower control arms, Eibach springs, Spohn sway bar, torque arm, and Panhard bar
Wheels: Z06 Motorsports 18x9.5 (front and rear)
Tires: BFG KDW 245/40/18 front, BFG KDW drag radial 275/35/18 rear
Brakes: Stock front, fourth-gen rear
Current Mileage: 5,000
HP/TQ: 805/674

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This 1992 Camaro will blow the doors off of any brand new, Autobot-inspired fifth-gen sitting at your local Chevy dealer.
Peter Bodensteiner Jan 12, 2011

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