Total Cost Involved’s entry this year looks a lot like their ’68 Camaro validation car, but in fact, it’s another ’68 owned by one of its customers, Chad Ryker. Chad has had the Camaro for nearly eight years, but it was only in the last few that he really got hustling on it. Powered by an LS3 that was punched out to 427 cubes by Mast Motorsports, his Camaro certainly had the power to get moving; it just needed the right parts to the do the lateral shuffle around a track.
For this he turned to TCI and bought everything it made for his car, and then optioned the kit to the hilt. And this is an important thing to remember about TCI. Its entry-level kits are priced well, very well. The front subframe starts at $4,900, which is quite a bit cheaper than other offerings out there. The rear kit is under $2,000, again, very competitively priced. Now, the base stuff will get your car hustling through the curves faster than the stock bits allowed, but Chad wanted to be much faster than that so he started clicking on the options. Triple-adjustable RideTech coilovers, check. Bigger Wilwood brakes, check. Stiffer springs, check.
He also opted to get the rear system complete with a Currie Enterprises built-up 12-bolt. This made installation easy since the brackets for the torque arm rear suspension came welded to the housing. Options are why around $7,000 turned into over $16,000. But hey, if you wanna run with the big dogs you have to pry open the wallet a bit farther. Keep in mind that this wasn’t just the suspension cost, but the cost for everything, including the steering, brakes, differential, axles, and high-end coilover shocks.
The end result is a killer car that is exactly what Chad was hoping to end up with. It’s a Chevy nice enough to cruise in the perpetual Southern California sunshine, but rowdy enough to tear up the local autocross or road course.
On the Road — Jim Campisano
It was the great philosopher Yogi Berra who uttered the magic words, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” That was my feeling when I climbed behind the wheel of Chad’s ’68 Camaro. It was similar to the TCI test car from 2009 (Super Chevy, May ’10), both in appearance and feel. Like that F-body, this ’68 felt the most track-oriented of any vehicle at the 2014 Challenge when driven on the street.
Chad’s ’68 had the firmest ride, with tight, fast steering. It was the least comfortable over the washboard section of our road drive, and it definitely let you know the owner was more interested in FTD than absolute comfort. If you ride around with a princess who complains about the pea under her mattress, she definitely won’t be happiest with this suspension setup. Of course, we say kick the princess to the curb and head to your local autocross. We’re all about fast lap times and the Total Cost Involved Camaro knows how to achieve them.
If you snuck ahead to our spec box, you already know the red rocket wiped up the fixed-roof coupe Corvette we used as a bogey car in every measurable category on our abbreviated Streets of Willow Springs course. Thanks to the TCI suspension, it pulled more g-forces, was over 3 mph faster through the slalom, and turned in lap times nearly 4-seconds a lap quicker than the Plastic Fantastic. It was also the second quickest car around our Streets course, trailing only the Art Morrison Enterprises IRS-equipped Camaro (Super Chevy, Jan. ’15).
Without the benefit of Mary’s pilfered pillow (see below), I had a hard time seeing over the dash. One other thing we noticed: This car didn’t like going slow. Its LS3 liked lots of revs and lots of speed. No doubt this ride was more on the radical side of the street/open track equation, but we know you could dial in more compliance and comfort. It all depends on your preferences and what you plan on doing with the car.
Likes? In addition to the stellar lap times, we were in love with those Forgeline wheels. The arrest-me-red paint and 427 badges on the timeless ’68 body get us every time. If you want an edgier ride, one that will have you running with the big dogs, the TCI suspension setup is one to consider.
Track Test Evaluation — Mary Pozzi
From all outwards appearances, this year’s TCI Camaro looked identical to their “house car” tested a while back and I was anticipating a fun, enjoyable five laps. Talking with the owner revealed he’d purchased this car about eight years ago as a roller. Time has been very good to this car as over the years, it’s received some serious drivetrain love, ending up with a Mast Motorsports LS3 stroker, Wilwood brakes, Forgeline wheels, Falken tires, and TCI’s developed and well-engineered front and rear suspension. The completion of the most recent version, V.3, was in June 2014, with the goal being a track day driver that can serve dual-duty for the street. And I was itching to see if everything it promised on paper was met on the pavement.
Pre-evaluation driving impressions had me wanting a slightly softer ride as this Camaro felt somewhat stiff with a noticeable lack of compliancy. There was minimal body roll, some disconnect between the front and rear, and I had difficulty “feeling” the balance and predictable handling I’ve known with TCI-equipped cars in past years. I quickly identified the culprit ... the seat. That seat has absolutely no lateral reinforcement and with only a simple lap belt and shoulder harness to keep me in place, spirited driving was difficult, at best. I’m no Kate Moss but I swam in this thing and I was grateful of the few laps of practice before my quality time against the clock. My filched hotel pillow served double-duty that day ... and I twisted and locked that seatbelt against my middle as best I could. TCI’s Sal Solorzano even contemplated duct-taping me and my not-so skinny self to the upper seat. And, guess what? It worked. Without duct tape, too.
With the ability to stay fixed in the seat uh ... fixed, I was able to concentrate on my driving and report end analysis of “conversations” between me and said red Camaro. From a suspension standpoint, it was good but there were a couple of small, pesky issues that raised their heads. One was inexplicable (and annoying) oversteer episodes at track out on slow, tight corners. This was difficult to 1) predict, and 2) control as the rear would get loose, then grab a tenth of a second or so, in an attempt to regain lateral grip, hence the disconnect felt earlier. The upside is this was almost completely eliminated by slowing corner entry and braking earlier while closely monitoring steering input. When done well, my reward was bulls-eye dart-throwing accuracy at corner entry and track out. Done poorly got me “late” and playing “catch-up” ... all bad stuff for a hired ’shoe.
Regarding steering, I felt it was too quick and as a consequence, experienced difficulty steering in concert with braking and acceleration inputs. Streets of Willow’s “Z” was oversteered on almost every lap as the quickness of the steering was heavily magnified by every movement of the small steering wheel. The stiff suspension feel mentioned earlier was still slightly noticeable and even after the changes made, further softening springs or shocks could help with compliance and offer greater driving confidence for the average Joe. The brakes developed a bit of “high, hard pedal” as laps progressed and I was told the booster vacuum may have been depleted. This would rarely, if ever, be noticed on the street, but trusting brakes lap after lap is huge for track competition; losing confidence in the brakes isn’t welcomed and most definitely added a bit of time to the clock. I loved the power the LS3 made and once the Camaro approached straight, getting it to the ground was fluid and defined. Overall, these nuances are minor and easily corrected.
As for improvements, work on a better vacuum system for the power brakes as running out of that magic stuff when it’s really needed isn’t much fun. I didn’t check nor asked about this but the steering on this Camaro was quick, too quick, for my liking. Lastly, it’s threefold ... a better, more fitted seat for upper body containment, five-point harness to keep your butt and the rest of you in place, and a larger diameter steering wheel (my “Happy Wheel” is 15 inches in diameter). All three would greatly improve driver position and the reward would be much faster lap times.
The TCI Camaro is a very nice, well-prepared, car that can handle whatever is thrown at it. Like its predecessors tested before, today’s evaluation confirms that this suspension is primarily suited for timed speed events, but can also be adjusted to perform well on the street.
|Type: LS3 stroked to 427-inches|
|Fuel Delivery: GM EFI|
|Transmission: Tremec T-56|
|Clutch or Stall: RAM aluminum flywheel with LS7 clutch|
|Rearend: Currie 12-bolt with 3.73 gears|
|Chassis: Factory Frame|
|Chassis: TCI subframe with subframe connectors|
|Front Suspension: TCI coilover IFS subframe|
|Steering: Power rack-and-pinion|
|Springs: Ridetech 500-pounds|
|Spindles: TCI with chromoly pins|
|Shocks: RideTech triple adjustable coilovers|
|Sway Bar: TCI 1-inch solid|
|Brakes: Wilwood six-piston calipers and 13- inch rotors|
|Rear Suspension: TCI Torque arm-based with Panhard bar|
|Springs: RideTech 300-pound|
|Shocks: RideTech triple-adjustable coilovers|
|Sway Bar: TCI|
|Brakes: Wilwood four-piston calipers and 13-inch rotors|
|Wheels and Tires|
|Wheels: Forgeline DS3, 18x9 front and 18x11 rear|
|Tires: Falken Azenis RT-615K, 275/35/28 front and 315/30/18 rear|
|Cost of Suspension: $16,400 delivered including brakes, rear, tubs|
|LF: 815, RF: 892|
|LR: 837, RR: 825|
|F: 50.67 R: 49.33|
|’68 Camaro||C5 Vette|
|Slalom:||47.4 mph||44.1 mph|