According to legend, a strange creature roams the Pine Barrens of south NJ. Known to inhabitants of The Garden State as the Jersey Devil, it’s said to be a demonic hybrid of animals, resembling a kangaroo, possessing the head of a goat, leathery bat-like wings, horns, clawed hands, and standing on cloven hooves with a forked tail. Lurking in the dark shadows of the forest, the formidable beast moves swiftly emitting a blood-curdling shriek.
As with most urban legends, there is often some basis of fact shaping their origin, like in the case of Chad Lucas and his ’99 Camaro Z28. Chad, a 26-year-old electrician from Glassboro, NJ, has been tinkering on cars since getting his license, predominantly offerings from GM’s bow-tie division.
Back in December of 2010, Chad was heading home from work on a road not usually traveled. Cruising passed a used car dealer, a fiery red flash caught his gaze, warranting a U-turn and a closer look. It was a 4th-gen Camaro, and despite being in the hunt for a pre-owned C5 Vette at the time, Chad was very interested. Two days fresh on the lot, the Camaro was an automatic-equipped, LS1-powered Z28, not a V6 model as he originally feared. Despite the decade old pony-car showing 113k on the clock, it was clean, straight, and the price was right. Two days later, Chad returned to the dealer with a fist full of dollars, 6k of them to be exact, and drove his Chevy home.
Only 23 years old at the time, Chad had been wrenching on Chevy’s for a while, including an ’81 Malibu which saw 305, 355, and 400 cid motors during its tenure. A pair of SS Cobalts came along, too: a supercharged ’06 and turbocharged ’09, the latter of which is still used as his daily driver today. Those cars were fun and got the job done, but Chad knew the Z28 was a different animal altogether. Upon closer inspection, Chad’s acquisition seemed pretty stock, save for the SLP lid, cold air kit, and Gibson cat-back exhaust.
Wasting no time, with fresh oil and a tune-up, Chad hit his home track at Atco, NJ for some time trials. The then twelve-year-old F-car ran 12.8 at 108mph off a 1.90 60ft time. Initially impressed with the performance of his 5.7L Z, he felt she was capable of much more. Chad was familiar with the LS motor’s awesome potential through his buddy Ron Paton, whose ‘98 T/A was running low 11s with an array of bolt-on modifications and a little bit of nitrous. His brother Justin’s ’04 5.7L powered Goat, with only exhaust and a converter, was in the low 12’s.
Soon after a spanking from a local ’99 ‘Stang GT (How’s that even possible? – Ed.) with a heads and cams set-up, Chad was ready and itching to step up his game. Now, “it was about bragging rights,” Chad says, “I wanted to get the full potential out of it.” As the Spring of 2011 sprung, so did the first round of mods. From the outset, Chad was on a budget, recently engaged to his then fiancé Jessica and with a new house; he knew every penny and performance part had to count. With no intention of messing with the stock internals, his final vision would be a methodical and detailed process. Chad got things rolling with a few well known free mods; including removing the throttle body stop for 100% WOT, EGR delete to keep hot gasses out of the intake, and the coolant bypass mod for greater efficiency. He then ported and polished the stock throttle body, installed an LS6 intake, a 160-degree thermostat, MSD 8.5mm plug wires, a 25% under-drive crank pulley, Circle D pro single-disc 3400-stall torque converter, B&M shift kit, trans cooler, and Eibach Sportline lowering springs – a nice start to say the least.
The following winter, Chad returned to Atco with his now modified Z28. Running on Mickey Thompson 255/50/16 drag radials with some serious interior weight reduction; including removal of the rear seats, speakers, spare-tire, jack, and interior plastic trim, put down a nice 12.01 at 112mph off a 1.61 hole shot. The proof was in the pudding now, as Chad knew he was on the right track.
The lower E.T and increased power began a chain reaction leading to an impulsive need for instant gratification and quicker times, thus, Chad was ready for nitrous. First came a 78mm Harris Speedworks plate kit, installed and dynoed at Race Proven Motorsports in New Castle, DE. Showing 409 hp and 409 lb-ft. to the tires through the factory exhaust manifolds, Chad ran the quarter-mile in August of 2012 with no weight reduction, laying down an 11.87 at 114mph - his first venture into the 11’s. Fall of 2012 brought a set of Pacesetter 1-3/4-inch coated long-tubes, with a cat-deleted Texas Speed y-pipe improving breathing enough to run an 11.20 at 121mph; using spray off the line.
Spring of 2013 brought about serious efforts to achieve consistent 11s on motor. Chad enlisted the indispensable tuning expertise of his friend Ron Paton, whose ’98 T/A inspired him to make bolt-on power. With continuous laptop savvy, the addition of a FAST 90mm TB/intake combo, and 30-lb. injectors from Ron’s ’01 Vette-the Camaro recorded an 11.78 at 115mph off a 1.61 reaction, spray free.
As the summer heat ensued, so did suspension and chassis upgrades-including BMR weld-in subframe connectors, QA1 single adjustable front coilovers with 300-lb. rate springs and rear QA1 single-adjustable shocks coiled in stock or Eibach springs, depending on Chad’s desired ride height. Also added that summer, a mean looking 3-inch fiberglass cowl hood, aggressive Motive 3.90 gears, and SLP’s hell raising Loudmouth-1 catback; replacing the slightly heavier Gibson exhaust. More PCM tweaking also took place, as a torque converter lockup switch was installed.
By fall of 2013, three years of test and tuning, some cash, and good old-fashioned elbow grease had bared forbidden fruit. Now equipped with a 90mm HSW nitrous plate, Meziere high performance electric water pump, A/C delete, a short belt mod-bypassing power steering; freeing up extra ponies by limiting parasitic loss, a set of NGK TR5 plugs for a motor pass and SLP line lock, Chad’s Z28 blasted down the 1320’ in 11.63 at 116mph. Not long after his best all motor run, Chad installed a set of colder NGK TR6 nitrous plugs, unleashing the 125 shot and a best time on spray of 10.89@125mph, all with the factory LS1 stock internals intact and unspoiled.
Adding to his red devil’s visual appeal, Chad applied classic old school, ’69-style Z/28 badges, and the more aggressive 4th-Gen SS rear spoiler. Helping to bring all this bolt-on power to a halt are Russell braided steel lines(front and rear) and Motive drilled/slotted rotors with Kinetic pads at all four corners.
Chad’s Z28 goes from Jekyll to Hyde, wearing track-duty Weld Draglite 15x4” front and 15x10” rear wheels wrapped in Hoosier rubber or 17x9.5” and 17x11” polished C4 ZR-1 style rims shod in Sumitomo HTR tires for car shows and street burning fun. Interior enhancements include extra gauges mounted on the A-pillar and in the ashtray; monitoring nitrous pressure, trans temps, and a NGK-AFX wideband for air/fuel ratio. Chad admits being quite proud with the results of his efforts. He wanted to build a fast street/strip car with minimal dollar investment utilizing bolt-on parts, and that’s exactly what he did.
Chad says he loves his Camaro’s reliability and dominating performance, that can match or beat, cars with far more money invested. “It instantly commands respect from most. I really enjoy running at the track on Friday night, then slapping on the Vette rims for a car show on Saturday morning.” When not testing new parts, he’s racing for fun, usually in grudge-match events against arrogant Mustang owners or over-confident imports. Chad say’s “there’s definitely more room for improvement and tweaking, I’m confident we can get more out of it on spray.” That being said, Chad has since installed a new 90mm Nitrous Outlet 125-shot wet kit, and entertains the idea of actually touching the engine, possibly with an LS6 “heads and cam” setup.
Chad extends thanks to his wife Jessica, brother Justin, and buddy Chris for their love and support, Ron Paton for his unending guidance, and the tuning talents of everyone at Fusion Fab Racecars and Custom Welding for their professional assistance.
So if you’re ever in south Jersey and happen to hear the local car folk spewing tales of a bright red ‘99 Z28, bought for $6k, running tens with bolt-ons and a 125-shot, don’t be so quick to discount the tall tales as myth; remember most legends are spawned from the truth.
|Car:||1999 Chevrolet Camaro Z28|
|Rocker Arms:||Stock, 1.7 ratio|
|Throttle Body:||Fast 90mm|
|Fuel Injectors:||30-lb. ’01 Corvette|
|Ignition:||Stock coil over plug, MSD 8.5mm wires, NGK- TR5 plugs-motor, NGK-TR6 for spray|
|Engine Management:||Stock VCM, custom tuned by Ron Paton, Ronster tune-utilizing HP Software|
|Power Adder:||Single stage, wet 125 shot, 90mm Nitrous Outlet plate kit|
|Intercooler:||1 3/4-inch coated Pacesetter mild steel long-tube headers, 3-inch Texas Speed Y-pipe, SLP Loudmouth-1|
|Torque Converter:||Circle D pro series billet single disk 3400 stall|
|Transmission:||Stock 4L6OE, B&M shift kit and cooler|
|Front Suspension:||QA1 single adjustable coilovers with 300-lb. rate springs, front sway bar removed|
|Rear Suspension:||QA1 single adjustable shocks, Eibach sportline lowering springs or stock|
|Rearend:||Stock 10-bolt with Motive 3.90 gears-installed by Fusion Fab Works|
|Brakes:||Motive drilled/slotted rotors F/R, Kinetic ceramic pads, Russell steel braided lines|
|Wheels||Street- Polished C4 ZR1 style, 17x9.5 front, 17x11-inch rear (street), Track-Weld Draglite 15x4 front 15x10-inch rear (‘strip)|
|Front Tires:||Sumitomo HTR 275/40/17 (street) Federal supersteel 165/80/15-skinnies (‘strip)|
|Rear Tires:||Sumitomo HTR 315/35/17(street) Hoosier DOT drag radial 275/50/15 (‘strip)|
|Fuel:||Pump Sunoco 93|
|Race Weight:||3600-lbs. (est.)|
|Best ET/MPH:||11.63@116mph (all-motor), 10.89@125mph (spray)|
|Best 60-FT. Time:||1.46 on spray|
|Miles Driven Weekly:||60 (only in nice weather)|