Running a truly quick, high-power, Gen-5 Camaro SS that still sports the independent rear axle is challenging. As competent as the factory axle and suspension systems are with mild and midlevel performance upgrades, their limits quickly reveal themselves when serious torque is sent to the rear wheels.
At the last Camaro5 Fest, for example, we saw as many broken half-shafts in the pits as there were nachos and red Gatorade at the concession stand. One of the competitors at that event was Chris Kolibab, who did a masterful job at weaving his 900-rwhp 2012 45th Anniversary Camaro SS around the axle shrapnel to stand out among those trying to click off quick, clean and breakage-free ETs with an IRS.
In full disclosure, Kolibab's rear axle may be independently sprung, but it isn't exactly the same as when it left the Oshawa, Ontario assembly plant. It's a full-on, Driveshaft Shop-built 9-inch that works with a 15-inch wheel conversion to help propel the car efficiently and durably. The upgrade is by no means a bargain-basement bolt-on, but continual half-shaft replacements aren't exactly cheap, either.
The competition-capable drivetrain works well, which delights—and sort of surprises—Kolibab, who had little drag racing experience before diving into a project he admits was aimed more at the show field than the staging lanes.
"I had always been a fan and fascinated by the sport, but couldn't really afford to get into it when I was in high school and college," he says. "I've educated myself along the way, learning more and more with every pass down the track. I've also had more guidance and assistance from Unleashed Performance, in Georgetown, Indiana, than I could ever hope acknowledge adequately."
The transition from show car to street/strip star was a gradual one, but like so many such projects, once the high-performance bug got its hooks in Kolibab, he quickly succumbed.
"I have the tendency to go over the top without just about everything I do and this car is a perfect example," he says. "This saga began with a V-6 Camaro, which lasted about four weeks after I went mod crazy on it, and knew I was hitting a dead-end. I then made the move to an SS, and while my family loves the car show circuit, I was not satisfied with it. I am competitive. I'm a hockey and racquetball guy, and the ability to merge my car appetite into drag racing is really what got me going to where we are with the car today."
Kolibab's performance goal has evolved with its level of capability, but he currently has his sights set on the mid-9s—and he knows it will be a challenge, even with the beefed-up rear axle.
"I really wanted to be in the low-10s last season, but going for the mid-9s is achievable with this combination, hoever, it has to be reliable performance and stable on the track," he says. "I can't afford to break parts like some of the shop cars I run up against, so we'll keep pushing the car, but with realistic steps and expectations."
When it comes to producing the horsepower to deliver that first sub-10-second ET, Kolibab took the sledgehammer approach – cramming a lot of supercharger-generated boost into a large-displacement engine. The basic recipe includes an ERL-reinforced LS7 block fitted with a completely forged rotating assembly, a set of deep-breathing Mast-modified LS3 heads, and an enormous Kenne Bell 3.6L liquid-cooled, twin-screw blower. It shoves air into the heads with 18.5 pounds of boost, contributing to the car's roughly 1,100-horsepower-at-the-crank output.
"Engine and power-adder selection in the ‘fast car' arena is like a religious war these days," says Kolibab. "My goal was to keep the engine combination as simple as possible, supported with the strongest foundation we could must. And so far, so good; the engine has proven very durable, and the large displacement of the supercharger means it keeps making power all the way through the rpm band. It never falls off."
The Kenne Bell blower, however, wasn't Kolibab's first choice.
"I was running a Magnuson TVS2300 on the original LS3 engine. It was a good blower, but I realized that for the planned 427 engine and ETs we were aiming for, the boost limit of it would not get us where we needed to be," he says. "We wanted to go with the biggest and baddest blower we could find—and see if we could tame it accordingly. I don't know if the K-B 3.6L will be the final power-adder for this engine, but it's working for us."
Heat is always an issue with high-boost supercharged engines and Kolibab reports it's no different with the Kenne Bell-blown 427. A large heat exchanger, including an ice water reservoir, is employed, and methanol injection has been used within reason to keep the idle air temperature in check and stave off detonation. That car has put down 900 horsepower to the tires with 93-octane pump gas, but Kolibab says future forays onto the strip will incorporate C16 or FUSE racing fuel.
"The trick is maintaining the horsepower on a hot track," he says. "Even if we have to pull timing at a race, I'm confident we'll hit the 9s."
Strong, consistent launches are also tricky, and while the Camaro performed well with the original TREMEC six-speed – even delivering some admirable 1.65-second short times—Kolibab recently made the jump to a Jake's Performance-built 4L80E automatic.