When the fifth-generation Camaro finally made its long-awaited debut in 2009, it, like most new performance models, was met with mixed reviews from the general public and the hard-core performance crowd. But it didn't take long for Chevy's reincarnated muscle car to win over a good portion of the Camaro enthusiasts. And with the SS model sporting a 426hp LS3, the aftermarket saw dollar signs well before the paint had dried on the first '10 Camaro to make its way to the end of the Oshawa assembly line. Once the late-model hot rod enthusiasts saw how great the car looked with a slightly lower stance and sounded with an upgraded exhaust, giving off a slightly louder bark, it was clear that Chevy's new dog would bite the late-model Mustangs and Challengers right in the ass.
With the Camaro winning the hearts of enthusiasts in the looks and horsepower department, the 3,900-pound package (4,000 pounds with driver and a half tank of gas) was a bit of a hard sell to the hard-core track guys. But racers being racers, they tightened the chinstraps of their helmets and gripped the wheel of the "big-boned" muscle car to go around corners and straight lines at a competitive pace. Jordan Priestley strapped on a set of "beer goggles" and set his optimistic sights on this '11 Camaro and built it as the calling card for JDP Motorsports, his Sandy, Utah, GM LS performance company.
Jordan explains how it all went down. "One night after having dinner with some friends, we decided to do an online search for an '11 SS/RS with a manual trans and no sunroof. One at a nearby dealer came up so we headed over about 30 minutes before they closed that evening. They hadn't even finished receiving it off the truck, and I didn't even take it for a testdrive. I just bought it knowing it would be the next JDP Track Spec Camaro."
The premise behind this car was to build a daily driven, naturally aspirated fifth-gen Camaro 1SS/RS that would be reliable and quite capable on the autocross, road course, and straight line racing. The biggest obstacle would be the weight. In the world of racing, 4,000 pounds is a TON! Actually, that's two tons, and that sort of weight creates quite a challenge when it comes to keeping up with cars lighter and equal in the horsepower department.
Not one to back down, Jordan and the crew from JDP Motorsports got moving with the upgrades. "The day after I purchased the car, we installed an Airaid intake and Elite Engineering PCV catch can," tells Jordan. "Soon after that we installed a set of Kooks 1 7⁄8-inch LT headers with converters along with a MagnaFlow stainless steel 3-inch cat-back exhaust system [these upgrades increased power to 412 rwhp and 408 rwtq]. We ended up going with a Hurst shifter while retaining the factory knob. At this point, the car was starting to become enjoyable—all 4,000 pounds of it."
The next natural step was to address the chassis. Although there were quite a bit of trial suspension pieces bolted up over the past two and a half years, Jordan settled on the Pfadt Stage 5 ZL package featuring their Gen 2 adjustable coilovers on all four corners, adjustable front and rear ZL Spec sway bars, front radius bearings, bushing kit, camber plates, Spohn chromoly trailing arms, and toe links with Del-Sphere ends. The system brings the car down 1 inch on all four corners for an aggressive stance, but the improvement in handling is immeasurable.
Moving back to the engine, Jordan and JDP Shop Manager Jeremy Hart armed the LS3 with a FAST LSX 102mm intake and fuel rails and ZR1 injectors. Pete at VMAX Motorsports did his CNC magic on the stock throttle body and velocity ring. An Innovators West 10 percent underdrive pulley with a COMP Cams belt tensioner joined in along with Holley's LS series cast-aluminum valve covers. A two-row CSF radiator keeps the car cool during hot track day events.
JDP stuffed a custom grind cam package into the valvetrain, including titanium retainers, Trend one-piece pushrods, and COMP trunnion kit. Topped off with a JDP tune, the street-friendly LS3 now pounds out 480 hp at 6,700 rpm and 442 lb-ft at 5,500 rpm to the tires.
Jordan boasts, "This car gets 24 mpg on the highway and runs with cars on the track it shouldn't be able to keep up with, but it does."
Making that kind of power will ultimately bring the stock driveline's shortcomings to the forefront with one dump of the clutch—which is usually the first item to go. Jordan upgraded that weak link with a JDP LS9 clutch package that includes a Katech aluminum flywheel, Tick Performance clutch line with speed bleeder, and JDP Stage II clutch reservoir kit. Knowing the two-piece driveshaft would be next, in went a single stick of aluminum with upgraded factory axles from the Driveshaft Shop.
Moving to the rearend, the factory 3.45 cogs wouldn't cut the mustard, so a set of 3.91s and a limited-slip replaced the stock offerings.
Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber (295/35-R20 front, 315/35-R20 rear) wrap around a quad dose of satin-black powdercoated Forgeline GW3R wheels (20x10 front, 20x11 rear). Bringing 4,000 pounds of fury down from speed on a road course multiple times is a heavy task—a job that would eventually melt the stock Brembos, so Jordan bolted up a JDP CTS-V conversion brake kit featuring slotted rotors and more aggressive street/track pads.
For now, a Hurst shifter, and a fire extinguisher (required by many autocross and road course sanctioning bodies) are the only additions to the otherwise stock interior.
The Graphic Evolution-designed vinyl graphics only slightly interrupt the Camaro's stock Silver Ice Metallic pigment and offers a race-inspired theme to an otherwise pedestrian tone. For added personality and a more aggressive scene, a ZL1 front bumper and rocker panels and an Anvil Auto rear spoiler replace the stock SS pieces.
"With thousands of hours of testing and development behind us, we finally have the JDP Track Spec Camaro dialed in," Jordan proudly reports. "We've had a great time at events such as the American Street Car Series Run to the Coast in El Toro this past February, and we're focusing on running it hard the rest of the year. We are especially looking forward to competing in the Sturgis Camaro Rally, Camaro5 Fest, Holley LS Fest, the LSX Shootout, and we want to get in as many Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational qualifiers as we can. We know this car will do well at Optima, so the main goal is to get an invite. There's no doubt that we'll surprise a bunch of people with this car."
We've seen this car hold its own on the autocross and road course, leaving no doubt it has the potential to be a top contender at Optima or any other street car event … all 4,000 pounds of it!