Every year leading up to the SEMA show we're treated to announcements of builds that will be unveiled during the week. In October of 2016, Hot Rod reported that there was a Camaro being built with an LS-derived V12 that was to debut at the show. Beyond some teasers, we really didn't know what to expect. We do know that the place never fails to pull in some of the coolest cars from across the globe, and the mix is usually pretty eclectic with rides that you wouldn't otherwise give a second thought to. Having said that, there is also no shortage of the tried and true. One of the biggest culprits to fall into that category is the Gen 1 Camaro. There are always new interpretations of GM's F-body unveiled during the week, but after so many years, you have to ask if the creative well isn't beginning to run dry on these cars. Whether it's Pro Touring, Pro Street, Restomod, or any other flavorful mix, what has anyone recently brought to the table that is new?
This was the hanging question when it came to this project. Displayed outside the Las Vegas Convention Center, the immediate reaction was that it looked like just another Camaro slammed to the ground. Up close and personal, it became one of those "whoa" moments. That V12 was a majestic-looking piece of hardware that seemed right at home between those '67 fenders, and it had a decidedly American flavor to it. It was definitely something new and fresh on the table, and it lived up to all the hype leading up to the show. As we walked around the car at the time and examined it further, it was clear that it was still a work in progress, since most of the interior was missing, and the engine compartment wasn't fully finished. We also found out that it wasn't another high-dollar project built for a customer, unlike many of the cars usually displayed at the show. The car belongs to Mike Heim, the owner of Quality Custom Rides (QCR), located in the heart of Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Mike has owned the Camaro since 1987, and it was at one point his daily driver for a number of years. In 1991 it was parked because he wanted to tear into it and create something different. Challenged by a friend to build a car as low as a Ford GT40, he set pen to paper and laid out the foundation for what was unveiled at SEMA. Unfortunately, that initial design was put on the backburner for many years as a result of a growing family and business. It wasn't until December of 2015 that the '67 would finally move forward. He explains, "I was at a show and my good friend Rod Saboury introduced me to Matt [Corish], who was looking for a car to put a V12 into to test. I told him the only one that I can give you is my Camaro, which you can have at any time. When Matt came to look at the car, he asked, 'Can we get this Camaro to SEMA?'"
Work on the car began in January of 2016, and at that point the only thing that the crew at QCR had for the engine was a set of measurements. Beyond that, the starting point was the set of blueprints that Mike had penned in 1991. Getting it low was the goal, so they initially cut 4.5 inches from the rockers, and then removed another 3 inches by cutting the floor and dropping the frame. The hand-fabricated suspension riding on an Air Ride setup gave the Camaro another 5 inches of ride adjustment. It would go lower once the engine was installed.
While that was taking place at QCR, half a world away, Matt and his brother Shane Corish were putting the prototype V12 LS through its paces down in Australia. They started their business, V12LS.com, with the simple premise of bringing a commercially viable V12 engine based on the LS platform to market. Matt explains, "The LS is the most hot-rodded engine on the scene today. We've seen people create custom cars that are so extreme where every component is being modified, but the engineering in the engine compartment gets left behind. What we set out to do is create something really exciting that pushes the boundaries of what can be done in the engine compartment to make it on par with the rest of these builds." He further adds, "The architecture of the LS engine is far superior to anything else to come from Chevrolet, and the aftermarket support is huge. We wanted our engine to use as many standard off-the-shelf LS parts as possible."
The first prototype began life as two Holden LS1 blocks that were cut, welded together, re-sleeved, and bored. The 12-cylinder configuration bumps the two grafted blocks up to 519ci using the factory LS1 bore and stroke of 3.898 inches and 3.62 inches. The aluminum heads are also LS1-spec, while the crankshaft and camshaft are custom billet pieces that Shane has designed and developed. The rest uses factory-style pistons, rods, bearings, and valve train. On the dyno, on its first pull, it produced 717 horses on regular pump gas, which exceeded their expectations.
By July, the crew at QCR took delivery of the prototype. They had a large part of the fabrication work from the firewall back completed, and quickly dropped the engine in place. The new mill was only 8.8 inches longer than a standard LS block, so issues with space were minimal. They did have to eliminate the stock radiator support and move the cooling hardware forward, but the overall shape of the front end remained fairly true for a '67. The last major body hurdles were the engineering of the suicide doors, and the 1.5-inch chop on the top. Mike almost hit the mark by getting the car down to 42 inches of height, 2 inches shy of a GT40. Beyond all the sheet metal work, one of biggest mechanical challenges faced was the fabrication of the six-into-one stainless headers and exhaust. Clearance issues due to suspension travel with the Air Ride system required a complex set of pipes to be fabricated.
It was all hands on deck at QCR with only a few weeks leading up to the show. With time running out, they were able to get the car prepped and painted. The heart of the project was the engine, so Mike mixed a charcoal grey metallic for the body, while the engine was treated to a bath of translucent DayGlo green for maximum visual impact. This assured that the engine would be the focal point of the build. With the car almost completed, it was loaded up and shipped to Las Vegas for the unveiling.
To say that the Camaro was a fan favorite at the show would be an understatement. That enthusiasm was reaffirmed when Matt and Shane were bestowed with the runner-up award in the SEMA Launchpad program, as well as runner-up for Best Engineered New Product. In a sea of thousands of new products that show up at SEMA every year, these awards validated their efforts. As a result, they've moved forward in the evolution of the block by also offering an LSX-based V12 that displaces 580 cubes, and LS7-flavored heads that will soon be available. Depending on the application, they've even started offering the block in aluminum or cast iron. The cash register is now open for business, and they are offering potential clients different purchase options. You can pick their basic kit, which includes the block, heads, crankshaft, and cam, or you can have them build you a complete plug-and-play V12. They've made it easy to be found; their business name is their website. All the information can be found at V12LS.com.