When people pick a Chevy to build for handling, they often choose a Camaro. With this in mind it shouldn’t shock anyone that half of the cars in this year’s Super Chevy Suspension & Handling Challenge were, in fact, Camaros. The real shocker is that none of them were ’69s.
The ’68 that Speed Tech brought to the party was borrowed from one of its customers, and while he did the paint and engine, the wrenches at Speed Tech installed all the turn-hard goodies. Most noticeable of the mods the customer did was the engine. For most the power from a 421ci stroked LS3 would be enough, but this one has an extra 4-liters of Whipple supercharger stuffing in tons of atmosphere. It makes around 850 horsepower on pump gas, but that power comes at a cost. This car’s Achilles’ heel turned out to be the rather tall cowl hood that was needed to clear the blower. In a drag car, where you only need to peer straight ahead, this isn’t a problem, but in the twisties it makes seeing to the right problematic. Like most things in life it’s a trade-off, but the burst of speed when the gas pedal is mashed makes the sightline problem seem trivial.
While the satin-black paint gives the car a street-fighter vibe, it actually has all the bells and whistles, including air conditioning and a full interior. For safety there’s a full six-point cage and the Camaro just oozes attitude from one end to the other.
On The Road —Jim Campisano
Never let it be said that I ever shied away from a street car, either as a passenger or driver, because it was too radical. I once tooled around a school zone in a supercharged Pro Mod Camaro. Not a street machine done to look really radical. This was a Pro Mod with license plates (thanks to Florida’s extraordinarily loose definition of “street car,” there’s precious little you can’t register in the Sunshine State). Ergo, when it was time to get in the Speed Tech entry at our Challenge, the 6-inch cowl hood seemed perfectly fine and natural.
On the other hand, the driving position left a lot to be desired. Even with a pillow on the seat I had a hard time seeing out of it. The seat was, quite literally, on the floor. The problem with testing someone else’s hot rod is just that—it’s built to suit their tastes and body type. At 5-7, I’m no midget, but I kind of felt like one in this car. On the plus side, I am a horsepower junkie and with 850 on tap, it put a smile on my face before I drove it an inch.
Because I didn’t have to maneuver it on track, the giant hood was but a slight inconvenience for me. As Charlie Daniels once sang, “I jumped in and fired that mother up …” Matting the throttle was an exhibition in full-on “yeeee-haaaaw!” it was a blast in a straight line, though it is hard to use this kind of power on the street without ending up in jail.
As far as ride and handling go, my expectations were that this could be a bucking bronco, but it was actually quite the opposite. The ride was remarkably compliant. No, the solid rear axle setup didn’t soak up the bumps as well as the independent rear in the second-gen we tested last month, but it was not the least bit objectionable either. And it surely didn’t cost nearly as much as an IRS setup.
I’d say considering this had Speed Tech’s full Track Time package, including its front subframe and torque arm setup, it was quite liveable. It was far more composed going down the road than a stocker, but not the least bit harsh. One thing I liked was the manual steering. It wasn’t as fast on track as you’d like, but for a street car it was good, a nice departure from some of the over-boosted power setups we’ve experienced.
When you look at the numbers the car turned in on our abbreviated course at the Streets of Willow Springs—nearly a second a lap quicker than the fixed roof Corvette bogey car and over 2 mph faster than the C5 through the slalom—you know the Speed Tech parts are doing their job. If not for the giant hood and power-crazed LS, we’re certain it would have improved significantly on these numbers. I’d have no qualms about recommending these parts for someone’s next project.
Track Test Evaluation —Mary Pozzi
Right away, I knew there would be problems. I’d sent scouts and as soon as other Super Chevy Suspension Challenge testers told me about that monster-sized hood and that some lines of sight were going to be ... um, gone entirely, I stole a pillow from the Hampton Inns in preparation for what I expected to be a quite unique and interesting driving experience. Even Blake Foster, creator and designer of all things Speed Tech, warned me that this Camaro wasn’t going to be an easy drive.
What’s cool about Speed Tech is they’re now down here in the States eagerly advising customers and selling products, and everything they manufacture and sell are systems and parts that have been thoroughly tested (this means thrashed and punished) on their own rides. Speed Tech mostly sells systems, not piecemeal parts. As for this particular Camaro, it’s a customer car that was put together for this Challenge barely a week before. Some pieces were a carryover from its Pro Street days and I guess the 6-inch (or was it 10?) cowl hood was one of them.
Humming Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now,” I planted my tush on the purloined pillow, which helped little with visibility. What was immediately clear, however, was the lack of traction given the roughly 850 available horses at my disposal. Yes, it was a CBM-built stroked LS3, which would have been more than sufficient. Added to this was a 4-liter Whipple supercharger, which meant matting the skinny pedal was rarely accomplished. Even in Fourth gear the ability to spin the hides was just a flick of the foot away. For the pre-drive evaluations around the Streets course, it was a tossup for what might work best to get this Camaro around smoothly and fast. Stiffen it up and jump it around the turns or soften everything to get some energy escape from lean as this might buy me a bit of time to see right and then plot my next move. I elected to go soft.
The drawbacks about this particular entry had absolutely nothing to do with the suspension, as overall the Camaro went where it was pointed. The Speed Tech-designed rear suspension torque arm/Panhard bar did its best to keep power planted where it belonged—on the pavement—and this system is an “off the shelf” package and exactly as listed in their catalog. The Whipple ‘charger changed things exponentially and when coupled with the massive cowl protrusion in the hood, turning right was by braille. A lot of the Streets course is transitional with more rights than lefts, and there’s really one, maybe two, extended lengths that could be considered a legitimate straightaway. Without spooling up of the Whipple power-adder, the engine was slow to respond in these short, transitional sections and that cost precious seconds lap after lap.
Downshifting before corner entry into T2 at the top of the hill and especially at the “Z” produced a bit of oversteer and I had to be very careful (and soft) with clutch release. Driving a car with this type of drivetrain requires full attention from the driver as you can go quick but there’s a fine line between fast and coming around. That said, when driven softly with a delicate application of the loud pedal, the Camaro was fairly predictable and pretty easy to drive.
Concerning the “satellite systems” for a suspension, Baer brakes gave plenty of stop; they were consistent, easy to modulate, and most important, provided a distinct linear feel. The long-throw shifter added to the track lap time count as did every depress-and-release of the high clutch pedal. Cornering at speed gave slight understeer but this was easily dealt with by backing up my braking markers and not placing more corner-entry load on the 275 Falkens, which kept them happy. I felt the 20:1 steering rack ratio was a bit slow and had to really work the wheel to get the Camaro through the “Z.”
My recommendations for the Speed Tech Camaro would be to finish the transformation from Street/Strip to a true, confirmed Pro Touring car and let this suspension do its job. I’d select an LS engine that’s naturally aspirated, and while Godzilla-sized superchargers are cool for pure power domination, they can be finicky to keep happy, which hinders street and road course performance. Also, adapt that frontend to get a larger front wheel and tire combo stuffed inboard as this will really help with overall balance, braking, and cornering (especially for corner entry and mid-corner). Swap the steering for a faster ratio rack (yes, they’re available) and look into a 15-inch steering wheel. And you know my thoughts on that hood.
And, yes ... I returned the pillow.
|Type: LS 421 with 4L Whipple|
|Block: Aluminum LS3|
|Fuel Delivery: Ricks VaporWorks with CTS-V boost control|
|Clutch or Stall: McLeod TST dual disc|
|Rearend: 9-inch with Strange aluminum center and 3.89 gears|
|Chassis: Speed Tech Track Time front sub with rear torque arm|
|Springs: Viking 650-pound|
|Spindles: Speed Tech/ATS tall spindle|
|Shocks: Viking double-adjustable|
|Sway Bar: Speed Tech 1.25 hollow|
|Brakes: Baer Pro Plus 14-inch 6-piston, Wilwood master - manual|
|Springs: Viking 200-pound|
|Shocks: Viking double-adjustable|
|Sway Bar: none|
|Brakes: Baer Pro Plus 14-inch 6-piston|
|Wheels and Tires|
|Wheels: Forgeline WC3, 18x9.5 front and 18x11.5 rear|
|Tires: Falken Azenis RT-615K, 275/35/18 front and 315/20/18 rear|
|Cost of Suspension: $9,999 including complete 9-inch. Spindles, with ZR1 hubs add $1,199|
|LF: 903, RF: 959|
|LR: 742, RR: 747|
|F: 55.57, R: 44.43|
|1968 Camaro||C5 Vette|
|Slalom:||46.2 mph||44.1 mph|