Quite possibly nothing galvanizes a true fighter like the agony of a humiliating defeat. You know that famous photo of Muhammad Ali, the one where he’s gloating over the battered shell of a downed boxer? Sure you do; it’s the shot that put the Louisville Lip on the map.
If you know that image, you may know a thing or two about Sonny Liston, the guy on the mat. Unless you’re a boxing nut, however, you probably didn’t know this: as a result of that loss, Sonny trained with such a vengeance that he won 11 consecutive fights by knockout.
Although Brandon Collins’ defeat wasn’t as widely publicized, it was equally humiliating. Still basking in the macho afterglow of a Super Chevy Show that afternoon, Brandon went to battle against a Mustang on the way home. As a six-speed LT1 model, his 1995 Camaro was respectable; with a K&N intake, Flowmaster exhaust, Hypertech chip, and Eibach springs, it was downright healthy.
What a shame it must’ve been to find out the five-oh was healthier. “I got spanked,” Brandon admitted, ruefully speculating whether or not his opponent bottle-fed his pushrod-pony. Whatever part of the event he missed as he desperately tried to chase down those taillights, his friends, who witnessed the fight, surely recalled in great, embarrassing detail. With that, “I knew it was time to get serious.”
For his first round of training, Brandon went straight to mother of all mods: a supercharger—in this case a Vortech S-trim. Tweaking the stock fuel-management system, he bumped up the fuel pressure but left everything else; injectors, programming, and the like bone stock. While the results netted 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque at 6 psi boost, the combo yielded only a modest 13-second pass at 102 miles per hour. Not enough in Brandon’s estimation.
The sound of collapsing cast pistons rang the end of that round. Rather than merely rebuilding the engine, he found another LT-series block; at that point, “the shopping list got really long.” The tally, influenced by friend and machinist Tim Linder, read like a window shopper’s wish list: forged 3.75-inch Eagle crank, billet-steel four-bolt main cap conversion, 6-inch H-beam Eagle rods, forged SRP slugs that yield a 9:1 compression ratio with CNC-ported AFR heads (210cc intake), and an LT4 intake. The S-trim screw went back on but with a smaller driven pulley for greater boost pressure.
Rather than let the ECU limit the potential, Brandon opted for an Accel Gen VII DFI system. His dad, Mark, set up the system to serve as a stand-alone fuel/spark controller, yet wed the brain to the factory pulse-control module so the gauges, climate control, and cruise control features would still work as The General intended. Rather than risk the fresh bottom end to a high-end lean condition, Brandon bought insurance in the form of an Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump, progressive pump controller, and regulator. The stock rails belied the fact that they fed a set of Accel 48-pound-per-hour injectors.
At the following December’s PRI show, a friend offered the use of his dyno while the Mustang Dynamometer folks were in town calibrating it. The Accel people, in turn, linked Brandon with one of the premier DFI tuners, Job Spetter. The numbers settled just about where Job speculated: 419 hp and 406 lb-ft. The 12.1-second e.t. at 121-mph trap speed, on the other hand, told a different story. The car made enough power to haze the tires down the track as the lopsided e.t./speed indicates.
With the taste of defeat at the hooves of a Mustang still fresh in Brandon’s mouth, however, the preceding still wasn’t enough. The engine’s new displacement offset whatever pressure increase the smaller-diameter supercharger pulley promised. Knowing he was at the end of the S-trim’s rope, Brandon upgraded to a T-trim Vortech and, just for safety’s sake, overclocked it with a custom-whittled ASP crank pulley. With the increase came higher manifold temperatures, an issue Brandon offset with a Vortech Aftercooler. Having well eclipsed the 48-pound injectors’ capacity, Brandon upgraded to Holley 75-pound-per-hour injectors.
At a conservative 24 degrees of timing at full boost with a reasonable 11.8:1 air/fuel ratio, the new combo thundered to the tune of 526 lb-ft of torque. The peak horsepower would’ve eclipsed the 588 figure had the dyno read past the 5,700 mark, but not that it mattered, really; all the figures were conservative since the car hazed the tires upon every pull.
While it’s incidental to the horsepower story, we should indicate that Brandon sprayed the car with Martin-Senour’s Tec-Base, two-stage paint in GM Bright White and Dodge Viper Blue at CARRS, his father, Mark’s, restoration shop. While the 18x10.5 Bonspeed Crokus wheels and the 265/35 and 295/35 BFGoodrich G-Force TA KD hides don’t seem much more than a concession to aesthetics, bear in mind that they opened the door to a set of sorely needed bigger brakes. The car now effectively hunkers down due to Stainless Steel Brakes’ Force 10 kit with 13-inch rotors and four-piston calipers at the bow; the stern still uses stock calipers, but on Baer Brakes’ 13-inch rotors.
To get the car to hook right with all that power and tire, it now sports a set of Edelbrock adjustable IAS-series coilover dampers. To get it to turn in, it leans on Addco antiroll bars at both ends. A set of Edelbrock weld-in subframe connectors stiffens the chassis; Lakewood lower control arms replace the flimsy rears. Brandon can also fine-tune the car’s squat and roll characteristics with an Edelbrock adjustable torque arm and a Lakewood adjustable Panhard rod, respectively.
And you’re right; the stock 10-bolt won’t stand up to serious power. Brandon knows it, and as a result there’s a Moser 12-bolt with a 3.73:1 cog and an Auburn limited-slip carrier in the mix. With a less-forgiving RAM clutch and the stronger axle, the six-speed doesn’t stand much of a chance, either, but Brandon’s cool with it until it lets go. Inside the cockpit there’s a pair of Corbeau CR1 seats, Auto Meter Ultra-Lite gauges, and an AEM air/fuel meter.
While he’s blasted around the streets of Brownsburg, Indiana, he hasn’t officially timed the car yet. Given its power, it’ll e.t. quick enough by NHRA rules to necessitate a ’cage—something Brandon hasn’t invested in yet.
But a low e.t. or high trap speed isn’t what Brandon Collins cares about. You see, there happens to be this matter of a bottle-fed Pony that needs to be settled…