1990 Chevrolet Camaro - Doin’ The Panhandle Boogie

One Man’s Take on the Perfect Project Car

Ro McGonegal Mar 21, 2011 0 Comment(s)
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I was more into boats and women than hot rodding, says Terry TJ McAnally. That all changed when Robbie Nelson came home with a ’90 IROC-Z hardtop five-speeda sweet-looking car. Spinning the tires and cutting donuts became an every afternoon occurrence. What do you suppose happened next? TJ no longer lost his wits over boats but the women stayed. TJ was hooked on hot rods and completely enthralled with the third-gen F-body.

1105chp 01  1990 Chevrolet Camaro 2/14

Although he dug the street scene, his proclivity hinged on racing down flat stretches of sanctioned asphalt. He built the car accordingly, but juked the engine and drivetrain with enough flexibility to drive it streetwise when the weather was good. He lives in Pensacola, Florida, at the end of the Panhandle hard by the Gulf of Mexico and the Alabama state line with Jennifer Owsley and Reese E. Boy, a chocolate Labrador. Without children to care for, he was able to build the ’88 IROC for about $30,000 during a seven-year hump. He omitted some of the nonessentials, but kept a factory audio system punctuated by a 6x9 Pioneer four-way speaker in the stock receptacle.

TJ minimized cost by doing most of the work himself and with a loyal legion of helpers, including Matt and Jamie Nowling, Larry Green, Brandon Raines, Dan Carnley, Randy Jernigan, Rob Jones, Jason Hanson, the folks at Speed Unlimited, Brad Baxter and the XXX Motorsports roller dyno, Jason at the GM parts counter, Jimmy Barnes at Fighter’s Garage, Ms. Jennifer, and his parents, Peggy and Willie Joe. Lots of help, lots of encouragement, lots of heart, and there was more. AutoZone counterman and third-gen F-body owner Angel Figueroa offered him tricks, tips, and the proper literature for the transformation of a 207,000-mile beater. If it hadn’t been for Fig, I’d have probably gone this far anyway, but I’m glad I could make a good friend out of it in the end.

Prior to the current LS engine swap, TJ had coped with several stroker little-blocks, the last one was a 385-incher that went 7.56 at 92 on 275 drag radials in the Emerald Coast Dragway eighth-mile in nearby Holt. That was nowhere near enough for our man. He pulled a 6.0L from a ’04 2500HD Silverado and had his way with it. He knew that the right manipulations would render a powerful and durable module that could be crazy tweaked without complication. This initial effort made 383 hp and 418 lb-ft of torque at the wheels. Dragstrip times were in the 7.3s at almost 94 mph.

From the outset, TJ’s engine mantra was on nuts. He replaced the Corvette exhaust manifolds with 13/4-inch Stainless Work long tubes, upped the converter stall speed to 4,400, and put 4.30s in the 9-inch. The reward: 6.901 seconds at 99.78 mph. He could squeeze no more from the package. He thought stroker crank. He thought bigger pistons. The 364-incher became a 408 via a 4.030 bore and a 4.00-inch stroke. It clips the eighth in 6.23 with a speed of nearly 110. My first trip to the quarter-mile didn’t land me single-digit elapsed times, what with the elevation and weather conditions, but the car was able to manage a 10-flat pass at 134. He realized that the top end speed was to the point of being gear-limited and demonstrably fuel-starved. There’s still more to come in this department.




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