Much like its owner, 11-time autocross champion Mary Pozzi, this ’73 RS Camaro has been around and over the years it’s evolved on a pretty steady basis. With Mary behind the wheel it was fast even back when Pro Touring-type cars were just starting to hit the autocross track. Back then it had 383 stroker Gen I small-block and leaf springs. Since then it’s gone through several engines, a couple of transmissions, and too many suspension parts to count.
A few years ago Mary got tired of patch-working in new parts and tore the whole car down for an extreme makeover. New Inferno Orange paint, mini-tubs, LS power, Baer brakes, and a Tremec Magnum six-speed were just a few of the additions. With the new goodies she placed in the Top 5 at the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational, and thanks to the hot new looks the car was chosen at the 2011 SEMA Show to be in the Sony Playstation Gran Turismo 6 video game. So now she can crash her car and just hit the reset button. We should all be so lucky.
Since then, the stroked 402-inch LS2 was removed and in its place she and her husband, David, installed a 427-inch dry-sump LS7. The biggest change was the addition of an Art Morrison front subframe and independent rear suspension system. This completely changed the car and the pair had to start over in terms of sorting it all out. As for Mary, she loves her ’73 even more now, which we didn’t think was possible, with the new turn-fast parts. In fact, she says there will be no more changes for the Camaro, but we’ve heard that before.
Because the Camaro is the subject of an upcoming two-part tech series on the installation of the Art Morrison Enterprises suspension components, we allowed AME to use the car as its representative in this year’s Challenge—we needed the numbers to complete the articles. In the interest of fairness, however, we had Mary’s husband, David, drive the car during the autocross portion of the testing.
On The Street—Jim Campisano
Of all the cars I sampled, this F-body was obviously the most aggressively prepared. One application of brake pedal and I knew there were race pads in it. They was plenty noise from the binders and Mary confirmed my suspicions later. Still, there’s no rule against these pads, and I knew they’d be used to their maximum use on the autocross. Also, the engine sounded like an untamed beast, with a raspy idle. The rollcage, fire extinguisher, Corbeau seats, and harnesses all pointed to purpose-built track car.
But how could that be? It’s got functional air conditioning, comfy seats, and light steering (too light in my opinion). Remarkably, once I found the proper driving position and started wheeling the Camaro, I marveled at its dual personality. Like the Heidts-equipped Tri-Five also testing on these pages, the independent rear allowed the owner to dial in a track setup that was also right at home on the street. It drove smoother than just about any second-gen I’ve ever piloted—by a substantial margin—and it didn’t abuse its occupants. Over the washboard tarmac, those big tires simply soaked up the irregularities in the road without sending shudders through the cabin.
The biggest negative to me was the steering—way too light. Even Mary agreed on that point, and she’s formulating a solution. Some might find her setup a tad on the radical side, but the benefit is you could easily dial it back a few notches and end up with a magnificent grand touring car in the modern tradition.
Track Test Evaluation–Mary Pozzi
You have any idea how hard it is to write about my own car? It’s not easy and was something I’d agonized over for a few months preceding the testing. Just using this orange sled created a bit of controversy so the Super Chevy Testing Poobahs did a sidestep and we asked the hubs, Dave Pozzi (who is a pretty good shoe on his own merits) to take one for Art Morrison’s team. Dave has a few autocross laps, but until today, had never driven this particular car on a track at significant speed.
Just by itself, the Camaro has some history. It’s undergone several reworks over the past few years and I’m convinced this is the last version it will ever see as in present form, the car is THAT GOOD. And it was pretty darn good before the transformation from stock front sub and bolt-on parts to full AME underpinnings. Suspension is but only a small part of a car and helping get that power to the ground and keeping life happy were Baer 6R calipers and rotors, RideTech triple-adjustable shocks, Forgeline wheels wrapped with my favorite tire, meaty Falken Azenis RT615Ks.
I asked Dave for his driving impressions and he, of few words, said “It’s good.” When pressed for more details, he said “It’s really good. Never felt better.” And then he went to work with some words ... “Mary’s fussy about the ergonomics for her car: the seating, pedals, shifter, and the thicker rim steering wheel. These fit her very well and are not far off from where GM put them originally. With a notch or two movement of the seat, I was comfortable and ready to hit the track.”
“Mary’s Camaro isn’t the lightest car but it drives like it’s half its weight and has a definite Corvette smoothness to it. There’s no driveline vibration, no gear noise from the rear. Corner turn-in is immediate and more responsive than any other Camaro I’ve driven and this is likely due to the equal sized rubber on the front and rear plus the self-steering geometry and lower unsprung weight that comes with the Art Morrison Enterprises IRS. The Camaro easily rotates into turns without any drama, changes direction willingly, and flows over bumps that would cause huge twitches in a stick axle car. I could floor it in Second gear putting all those horses to work accelerating onto the front straight with no fishtailing or unwanted sideways movements.
“Medium-speed and higher-speed corners were easy to drive as well, the steering was very precise, and the car is very neutral at those speeds. In the slower/tighter corners, the Camaro oversteered a bit which was surprising but this wasn’t excessive. It’d think this would help at slower-speed autocrosses like Good Guys. The Strange-built Dana 60 was a torsion-type limited-slip and doesn’t promote understeer like the Ford 9-inch did.”
What stood out is this isn’t a sole race-type suspension but rather one that can pretty much do it all. Responsiveness and sharp handling makes it a no brainer for anything of a timed speed competition yet none of what’s underneath comes as a sacrifice for comfort and ride quality. What especially stood out was when the spurs were planted in this Camaro’s flanks, power from the Lingenfelter LS7 to the ground was immediate.
|Type: LS7 by Lingenfelter|
|Fuel Delivery: GM EFI|
|Transmission: Tremec six-speed Magnum|
|Clutch or Stall: Centerforce DYAD twin-disc|
|Rearend: Strange Dana 60, 3.73 gear ratio.|
|Chassis: Art Morrison Enterprises|
|Front Suspension: Art Morrison subframe, Corvette C5/6 control arms|
|Steering: Rack with 15:1 ratio|
|Springs: 600lb rate, 10-inch height|
|Spindles: Corvette C6 Z06 with ZR1 hubs|
|Shocks: Ridetech triple-adjustable coilover|
|Sway Bar: Art Morrison adjustable, 1-1/8-inch diameter|
|Brakes: Baer 6R, six-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors|
|Rear Suspension: Art Morrison Enterprises IRS|
|Springs: 425lb rate, 10-inch height|
|Shocks: RideTech triple-adjustable coilover|
|Sway Bar: Art Morrison adjustable, 7/8-inch diameter|
|Brakes: Baer 6R, six-piston calipers, 14-inch rotors|
|Wheels and Tires|
|Wheels: Forgeline SO5, 18x11 front and 18x12 rear|
|Tires: Falken Azenis RT615K, 315/30ZR18 (front and rear)|
|Cost of Suspension: $17,950 excluding brakes|
|LF: 869, RF: 890|
|LR: 828, RR: 854|
|F: 51.1, R: 48.9|
|’73 Camaro||C5 Vette|
|Slalom:||48.9 mph||44.1 mph|