Life is all about setting goals and working hard until you achieve them. For most of us, those goals are usually small, especially when we’re talking about our cars and typically sound something like, “Man, I just want to get it together sometime this year.” For others, goals are lofty like “I want to beat that Mustang [Edit: ha, who are we kidding, that’s not a lofty goal!] at the next track event.” Then there are people like Thadd Dawson, who set out to do several major things at once, who even manage to start with the wrong car—this is actually a ’97 Camaro SS—for the job, and get it done anyway. “I had three main goals for my car—1: break the stock cube LS1 nitrous record; 2: be the first stock cube LS1 nitrous car in the 8s; 3: get in GM High-Tech Performance magazine.” Guess what happened next…
Yep, Thadd managed to do all of those things, in that order, but the story doesn’t end or begin there. Interestingly, it all begins with an LT1-powered Camaro that Thadd found on the Internet and acquired in a trade for a sport bike. The LT1 was complete with a T56 transmission and a couple of bolt-on parts, but it wasn’t anything that Thadd couldn’t handle. After a couple long nights and what we can only imagine was some serious bench racing, Thadd decided to swap the ol’ LT1 out for an LS—a move Thadd called “the best decision ever.” And then Thadd decided it was time to get serious and take the stock cube LS1 record…
Now, just because the motor is stock cubes, doesn’t mean it’s stock stock. Inside, Paul Falcon from LS1 Excitement did a little upgrading, dropping a set of CP stock bore pistons down in the factory lined ’98 LS1 block, along with a set of GRP aluminum connecting rods. Balanced by Harrell Engine and Dyno in Denton, North Carolina the rotating assembly spins around a stock crankshaft and cranks out roughly 10.1:1 compression. Everything is held together with ARP bolts, as you would imagine, and the block has been further reinforced with a billet girdle for maximum strength and stability. The heads and camshaft are also all-new on Thadd’s nasty Camaro, with a pair of Trick Flow Specialties 225cc cylinder heads atop the motor that were CNC machined by Total Engine Airflow prior to their arrival. The camshaft? Well, it’s a serious solid roller piece cut to Paul Falcon’s specs, which are, surprise surprise, top secret. Come on, it’s the first stock cube LS1 in the 8s. You didn’t expect camshaft specs here, did you?!
Of course, that little 346 isn’t going to propel a Camaro into the 8s on motor alone, and the magic in this ride comes from a solid hit of nitrous. And when we say solid, we’re talking about roughly 300 hp worth in one single stage thanks to a .092-inch nitrous jet stuffed inside the Wilson Pro Flow plate kit. That’s a lot of power in one stage, which makes the tune up on an 8-second pass essential. Jeff Rhodes, owner, master mechanic, and tuner of Mayhem Motorsports can take credit for getting Thadd’s tune right on the money, dialing in the Big Stuff 3 perfectly to keep the motor happy under that big gulp of giggle gas.
Now, before we give you the impression that a set of pistons, rods, and a nitrous plate kit are what’s separating you and I from an 8-second pass, let’s jump into the rest of the chassis specs, which is where this quickly turns from mild-mannered stock cube stuff to something that sounds much more like a race car. Behind the motor, there’s a big boy Powerglide transmission built by Jason Wicker at Mayhem Motorsports that runs a custom 4000-rpm converter built by Ultimate Converter Concepts. Further back Thadd is sporting a Moser 12-bolt that is stuffed with a 4.11:1 ring-and-pinion, 35-spline Moser axles, and a full Moser spool.
The suspension follows the same all business theme, with Spohn subframe connectors stiffening the chassis and supporting the remainder of the suspension modifications. Up front, Spohn tubular upper and lower control arms ride alongside a set of QA1 coilovers, while the rear features factory LT1 springs alongside QA1 single adjustable shocks and a BMR drag bar. The parts are good quality, but it’s the setup that makes all of the difference and Jeff Rhodes again takes credit for the chassis setup, getting Thadd out of the hole in just 1.30 seconds on the back tires.
But, as you may expect, running in the 8s wasn’t just as simple as dropping some parts into the chassis and heading to the track. For Thadd, it’s been a long time coming, with small tweaks here and there helping him drop ever closer to the record. “A few weeks prior to dipping into the 8-second zone, I took the record that I had been after with a 9.13 at 148-mph blast at Coastal Plains Dragway in Jacksonville, North Carolina. The time slip showed there to be plenty of e.t. left in the setup as well as quite a bit of power left in the tune up.” Fast forward three weeks and Thadd, along with the Mayhem crew, where back at it again to try and go even faster. “After a solid shakedown pass the larger nitrous jets were put into the Wilson Pro Flow plate and off she went to an 8.93 at 150-mph blast. Written in stone, the first stock cubic-inch LS1, nitrous assisted car in the 8-second quarter-mile zone!”
So what do you do after all of that? Well, according to Thadd, you keep going faster. “I have big plans for the vehicle with hiring the help of Mayhem Motorsports to update the rollcage to current safety standards as well as fabricate a turbocharged setup for the stock cubic-inch setup. Be on the lookout for my car to run deep into the 8-second zone later this year with a 76mm turbocharged setup.” For a guy who started out with an LT1-powered Camaro only to eventually break the LS1 stock cubic-inch record, those words definitely carry some weight and if anyone can do it, it’s the madmen from Mayhem.
Car: 1997 Camaro SS
Owner: Thadd Dawson
Block: ’98 LS1, 346cid
Compression Ratio: 10.1:1
Heads: Trick Flow Specialties 225cc, 2.040-inch intake, 1.575-inch exhaust valves
Cam: Custom LS1 Excitement solid roller
Rocker Arms: Harland Sharp, 1.7-ratio
Pistons: CP, forged
Rings: Total Seal
Crankshaft: Stock, nodular iron
Rods: GRP, aluminum
Throttle Body: Accufab 4150
Fuel Injectors: 42 lb/hr
Fuel Pump: Walbro 255-lph, in-tank
Ignition: Stock, coil-near-plug
Engine Management: Big Stuff 3, tuned by Jeff Rhodes at Mayhem Motorsports
Exhaust System: Kooks 1 7/8-inch to 2-inch stepped long-tube headers, 4-inch bullet mufflers
Nitrous System: Wilson Pro Flow, single plate system
Transmission: Powerglide, built by Jason Wicker at Mayhem Motorsports
Converter: Ultimate Converter Concepts, 4000-stall
Driveshaft: 3.5-inch, steel
Front Suspension: Spohn K-member, upper and lower control arms, QA1 coilovers, removed swaybar
Rear Suspension: Spohn lower control arms, torque arm, subframe connectors, Panhard bar, QA1 shocks, stock springs, BMR Suspension drag bar
Rear End: Moser 12-bolt, 4.11 gear, Moser 35-spline axles, spool
Brakes: Stock LT1, front and rear
Wheels: Weld Racing RT-S S-71 15x4 front, 15x10 rear
Front Tires: Moroso DS-2 26x4.5
Rear Tires: Mickey Thompson Drag Radial Pro 275/50/15
HP: 800 (est.)
Best 60-ft. time: 1.30