Chevrolet’s Camaro 1LE was developed to take on Ford’s Mustang Boss 302, which was a formidable task considering the very demeanor of Ford’s hottest 5.0L Coyote pony. However, never let it be said it couldn’t be done. The Camaro 1LE was born for competition yet is quite docile for the daily commute and weekend fun. Chevrolet’s “1LE” designation dates back to the 1980s when you could buy a track-ready IROC-Z Camaro stripped of all the frills, ready for brute competition. The original 1LE IROC-Z was a no-nonsense competition ride with potentially 400 horsepower from its TPI 305ci/5.0L V-8, F41 competition suspension, limited-slip, four-wheel power disc brakes, oil cooler, Borg-Warner (TREMEC) five-speed manual transmission, and plenty of rubber on the ground. The old-school fuel-injected 1LE was a cool limited-production Camaro for the mild-mannered competition enthusiast.
Today’s Camaro 1LE is not only race-ready at $3,500 over 1SS or 2SS sticker, but right on time for cruising with all the creature comforts we’ve come to know in recent years. Face it—we’re spoiled. We like climate control, compatible electronics for all our interactive toys, great handling and braking, and right-sized posterior appointments for that long weekend drive to Schenectady. The 1LE is proof positive you really can have it all without sacrifice. It delivers.
Sometimes a factory-fresh 1LE with all its superior appointments just isn’t enough. Some folks want more. Lio Martinez calls coastal Oxnard/Ventura, California, home. Vast, open stretches of freeway on which to spin cam lobes and dodge the Highway Patrol. And when it’s time to get the friction on, there’s open desert highway far inland engineered for a ride like this Ray McClelland/FTK-prepared and tuned 2013 Camaro 1LE.
“I grew up playing Need For Speed and Gran Turismo, customizing cars in my mind, and watching Fast & Furious,” Lio tells us. “Cars have had a huge impact on me since my childhood in Mexico.” As he grew into adulthood, he became more able to make his dreams come true via his brother Sergio, who had a steamy passion for hot Camaros. These raw emotions date back to their father’s 1967 Camaro 327 RS and a 1955 Bel Air.
Lio’s dad helped him get into his first Camaro: a 2011 V-6 RS clad in Inferno Orange Metallic with a five-speed stick. “Yet I was left feeling the need for more power and a greater adrenaline rush. When I heard Chevrolet was coming out with a track-ready Camaro—the 1LE—I was ready for it. I traded in my RS and got an extra job working in a pediatric clinic to pay for it,” Lio reflects. “I lived on Cup o’ Noodles, saving every possible penny I could for seven months. Finally, a Santa Paula Chevy dealership received an allocation of 1LE Camaros and I placed the order for this one in Inferno Orange Metallic.”
The anticipation for Lio was enormous once the order was placed in September 2012. He was already out buying speed parts for this limited edition F-body rocket ship: long-tube headers, Eibach springs, AEM cold-air induction, Granatelli ignition, and more. “I had initially thought this setup was going to get me 400 horsepower at the rear axle, but I was mistaken. On the dyno, I got 345, which was very disappointing,” Lio laments. “The car sounded mean, but with this setup it just didn’t perform.” This was when Lio learned the value of a professional dyno tune. Although he had what he wanted in the Camaro 1LE, he wanted more. “I was going to build this car the right way,” Lio tells us. “I wanted something that would be a show car and a track beast. As I added speed parts my dad looked so happy. When his friends would visit he would ask politely if he could show them the Camaro.” Lio went on to say, “My dream was to wrap up the Camaro build at a track day at Laguna Seca or Willow Springs. Well—we plan and life decides. My dad passed away on May 4, 2014, from a heart attack just when I had performed all of the track upgrades to the Camaro.” Today, Lio’s 1LE is something of a dedication to his father.
Lio fitted his 1LE with Pfadt underpinnings including coilovers, endlinks, camber plates, sway bars, solid rear cradle, bushings, and more. Inside, Sparco seats and an RPM four-point rollbar with crossbrace keep things safe and secure.
Lio’s path can be considered a good example of how to build power and performance into a Camaro. He began with suspension and braking modifications designed to make a powerful automobile safer. Those are Wilwood six-piston beasties behind the 20-inch OEM wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2 285/35 skins. We like the cool 405 Wraps carbon wrap accenting Chevy’s blazing Inferno Orange Metallic.
Turbonetics pumped up the poop with a T-76 turbocharger kit and intercooler, initially. Modifications to the Turbonetics system have been made since, which improved performance in the process.
This LS3 could never make the kind of power expected without a special turbo-grind cam from Comp. JBA shorty headers provide real scavenging and flow. A Mantic twin-disc clutch channels raw power through a TREMEC TR-6060 six-speed box and 3.91:1 cogs. Lio credits Full Throttle Kustomz for the extraordinary performance building and tuning, which has enabled him to achieve breakneck speed on the racetrack.
“This project has been challenging because I am the type of guy who spends hours researching parts and what works best. We all understand this does not come cheap,” Lio reflects. “So you have to work hard and play hard in life.”
When you drive Lio’s 1LE it cannot be compared with any other driving experience. It is easy to understand why he took it to the next level: racetrack power, handling, and braking from the dream car he worked so hard to achieve. The LS3 delivers an incredible torque curve right off idle. As the T-76’s boost comes on positive pressure against your backside is enormous. As rpm builds we are reminded of how far Chevrolet’s sporty Camaro has come since Lio’s father saddled up a lifetime ago.
|Owner:||Lio Martinez, Oxnard/Ventura, California|
|Vehicle:||2013 Camaro 1LE|
|Cylinder Heads:||GM castings with 2.165/1.590-inch intake/exhaust|
|Rotating Assembly:||Nodular iron crankshaft, powdered metal connecting rods, hypereutectic pistons|
|Valvetrain:||Stock 1.7:1 rocker arms, pushrods, timing set|
|Camshaft:||Comp Cams custom-grind “Turbo” hydraulic roller|
|Induction:||FAST/RHS LSXR 102mm manifold, Nick Williams 102mm throttle body|
|Exhaust:||JBA shorty headers|
|Ancillaries:||Turbonetics T-76 turbocharger system|
|Output:||626 horsepower, 636 lb-ft of torque|
|Machine Work/Assembly:||Original LS3|
|Tuner:||Ray McClelland, Full Throttle Kustomz (Fillmore, CA)|
|Transmission:||TREMEC TR-6060 6-speed|
|Rear Axle:||3.91:1 Posi-Traction|
|Front Suspension:||Pfadt coilovers, camber plates, sway bars, bushings|
|Rear Suspension:||Pfadt coilovers, solid rear cradle, bushings|
|Brakes:||Wilwood discs w/ six-piston calipers|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels:||OEM Black 20-inch|
|Tires:||Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2|
|Seats:||Sparco with racing belts|
|Steering:||OEM with fingertip controls|
|Shifter:||OEM with TR-6060 six-speed|
|Dash:||Stock with personal appointments in red|
|Instrumentation:||OEM w/ Auto Meter vacuum, turbo, and fuel gauges|
|Bodywork:||Factory with ZL1 side skirts and rear deck spoiler|
|Paint by:||General Motors and 405 Wraps|
|Paint:||Inferno Orange Metallic|
|Hood:||LE hood with hood pins|
|Bumpers:||Factory front air dam with rear exhaust pockets and quad tips|