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1999 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 - Learners Permit

A ’99 Z28 becomes a teenager’s first car— and goes from an already potent pony car to a serious street/strip machine

Andrew Nussbaum Jan 15, 2014
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"I've been into cars for as long as I can remember," says 20-year-old Nick Barresi of Port Jefferson Station, NY. Not much unlike most young red-blooded American males his indoctrination began early and was family bred. Nick's father, Anthony, and his three uncles all had a hand in steering Nick's passion as he grew up. Being track hounds, Nick would often accompany his uncles to English Town, NJ to watch the excitement of the 1/4-mile. There at fifteen Nick would see the car he would yearn for as his first ride; standing behind the concrete barricade his eyes fixed on a bright red LS1-powered Super Sport Camaro hustling down the 1320 ft. strip in the mid 12's, Nick remembers uttering to himself, "I have to have one."

After a year-long search via the Internet, Nick found a clean 2-owner factory stock, black '99 Z28 with only 26k miles on the clock. With a month to go before his 17th birthday, Nick's parents and grandmother purchased the babied Camaro for him stating one single criterion; "just be careful." Weeks shy of obtaining a full drivers license Nick took possession of his first car, a lucky young man indeed. Single at the time, it would be love at first drive as he fell quickly for the style and power of his Z28. More than exhilarated by his first run down the dragstrip, the pony car's performance prowess was evident, but Nick had plans to expand and enhance on what GM and Chevrolet had provided. Nick's dad Anthony was no stranger to the street and ‘strip lineage of his son's Camaro, having been the proud owner of his first car back in the day; a '71 Z28 that he modified and tweaked to his liking. Nick recalls his father "being with it from the beginning," although squeamish about going past bolt-ons to more heavy internal engine mods. When UPS started showing up with performance parts he quickly changed his mind, however.


After enjoying his factory stock Z28 a few months, the Spring of 2010 would bring the first modifications that would allow the untouched low-mile pony car to inhale and exhale more freely. This was more than achieved by installing a K&N open-element air filter and a full 3-inch stainless exhaust, consisting of American Racing 1-7/8 inch primary long tube headers, and y-pipe leading into SLP's loud mouth II cat back. The new deep muscular burble was a menacing indicator of the power that was being unleashed. The once high 13-second car now cranked out consistent low 13-second passes with a night and day increase in throttle response and an exhaust note that harkens back to the late 60's. The 17-year-old was getting a quick seat of the pants education in the vast world of LS1 performance and potential.

After over two years of ownership and enjoyment, Nick decided to up the ante and build his clean sub-30k-mile street machine into the track contender he had always envisioned. Starting in early 2012, with the install of a FAST LSX 92mm intake manifold and Nick Williams 92mm throttle body, the no longer stock Z28 would become the blueprint for Nick's performance aspirations.

Nick wanted to make serious horsepower and break into the 11's, so he sought out the expertise of Brian at Kaltec Performance on L.I., NY, who was instrumental to say the least, as he would perform all of the engine, suspension, rear-end and tuning work. Thus, as of March, 2013 Nick's Z28 is set up as follows. After taking a deep breath through the aforementioned filter and intake, a 100mm Texas Speed mass air flow sensor informs the ECM of what's coming,and starts the juices flowing through the 36lb. FAST injectors. As the compression ratio builds to 10.5.1 within the Precision Race Components fully assembled 227 aluminum heads, the Texas Speed Torquer V3 custom grind Comp Cams hydraulic camshaft with a 231/234 duration at .050 and 643/598 lift, and a 111 LSA hums with a vicious lope that brings a smile to car guys one and all.


As the street friendly, yet track ready bumpstick rotates, a set of Comp Cams hardened pushrods on top of heavy duty LS7 lifters, raise and lower the stock 1:7:1 rocker arms, which benefit from a Comp Cams trunnion bearing upgrade, to better handle the increased lift and duration of the more aggressive camshaft. Completing engine related modifications is a ported LS6 oil pump, to increase lubrication efficiency, an LS2 timing chain to keep everything in sync, and a BBK underdrive pulley to free up a few more horses and decrease parasitic loss. Nick wisely added a Comp Cams billet aluminum belt tensioner, to keep slippage from occurring, due to the boost in power and torque.

Knowing that his automatic transmission needed upgrading to handle the increased power, the services of Starias Transmissions in Centereach, LI. were utilized. They would install a Yank 3600ss torque converter to help with launch duties, and a B&M 24k tranny cooler that keeps things cool under pressure. Moving through the drivetrain, a Moser 3-inch aluminum driveshaft replaces the stock steel unit to better transfer the additional torque. With ambitious future plans in store for the Z28, the factory 10-bolt rear was removed and replaced with an indestructible Moser 9-inch unit, housing 31-spline axles, 3.70 gears, and a Wavetrac posi differential. Upon completion of the wrench time, Brian at Kaltec dialed in the ‘99 Z28 using HP tuning software - guided by his years of late model F-body experience.

It was not lost on Nick that getting those newly unleashed horses to the ground is the name of the game. The chassis would now receive some much needed stiffening, in the way of UMI bolt-in subframe connectors, and an adjustable torque arm. The front stock springs and shocks would gain support from the addition of a UMI strut tower brace, while the rear suspension would be securely planted through the advent of UMI adjustable lower control arms and Panhard bar - all fitted with poly bushings.

The power meets the pavement as the Camaro rolls on Weld RTS 15x4-inch (skinnies) up front, wrapped in Mickey Thompson Sportsman SR 26x6 rubber, and Weld RTS 15x10-inch wheels on Mickey Thompson 275.50.15 tires out back.


Toughening up the exterior, Nick emulated the Super Sport he saw at the track years before, by installing an SS hood and the more aggressive rear wing, along with custom metallic silver paint outlining the air intake, painted at none other than his uncle's body shop, Charlie D's Auto Collision in Middle Island, NY where Nick is presently learning the ins and outs of the auto body industry. As for the interior, other than a Pioneer radio/CD player, it remains stock.

To date Nick's 33,700-mile Z28 has run a best time of 11.54 at 118mph on pump gas. Stating, "It pulls like a train," he is convinced that with 437 rwhp and 392 ft-lbs. on the dyno, low 11's are possible with a tad more tweaking. After being a legally licensed driver and drag racer for four years now, Nick has gained a wealth of experience on the road and track. Future plans for his beloved Z28 may include making his 346 into a 408, and then installing a ProCharger, or perhaps, a turbo. At 20, soft-spoken Nick has found that the Hot Rodding lifestyle is a learning process, both of which he seems to pick up fast.

Good luck, Nick. See you in the 10's.


Data File

Car: 1999 Camaro Z28
Owner: Nick Baresi
Block: LS1, 346 cid
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Heads: Fully-assembled Precision Race Components 227cc aluminum
Cam: Comp Cams hydraulic
Rocker Arms: Stock 1:7:1 with Comp Cams trunion bearing upgrade
Pistons: Stock LS1
Rings: Stock LS1
Crankshaft: Stock LS1
Rods: Stock LS1
Thottle Body: Nick Williams 92mm
Fuel Injectors: FAST 36lb/hr
Fuel Pump: Stock LS1
Ignition: Stock LS1
Engine Management: Stock ECU, tuned by Kaltec Performance
Exhaust System: American Racing 1.7/8-inch primary long tube headers and y-pipe, SLP loud mouth II
Transmission: 4L60E built by Starias Transmission
Converter: Yank 3600
Driveshaft: Moser 3-inch aluminum
Front Suspension: Stock springs/shocks with UMI strut tower brace
Rear Suspension: Stock springs/shocks with UMI adjustable lower control arms, Torque arm, Panhard bar and bolt in sub frame connectors all with poly bushings
Rear End: Moser 9-inch, 31-spline axles, 3.70 gears and a Wavetrac posi differential
Brakes: Stock LS1 front/rear
Wheels: Weld RTS 15x4, front 15x10, rear
Front Tires: Mickey Thompson Sportsman SR 26x6
Rear Tires: Mickey Thompson 275/50/15
Fuel: 93-octane
Race Weight: 3810 lbs.
Best ET/MPH: 11.54/118
Best 60-FT. Time: 1.65
HP/TQ: 437/392
Mileage: 33,700



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