2002 Chevy Camaro SS - Chain Reaction

Staff Sergeant Gary Taillon Put Together One Hell Of A Ride, And He’s Just Getting Started.

View Full Gallery

Wikipedia defines a chain reaction as a sequence of reactions where a reactive product or by-product causes additional reactions to take place. Huh?

Camp 0905 13 2002 Chevy Camaro Ss Headlight 2/22

All we know is that when a guy like Gary Taillon wants to go fast, his natural reaction is to do whatever it takes to make that happen…well, as long he’s in a Camaro. For Gary, it’s been all about F-bodies since he first showed interest in cars early in his teenage years. His first project car, a ’76 Type LT was never entirely completed due to a head-on collision. It wasn’t his fault, but the reaction was three years of physical therapy and a totaled car. The by-product was a sweet ’67 Camaro—a much better outcome. But to Gary, something wasn’t quite right. He just never got dirty and his knuckles were never bloodied with the first-gen. There just wasn’t much to do to the car. Some guys may have preferred that situation, but not Gary.

So when GM announced that 2002 would be the final production year for the Camaro, Gary, in somewhat disbelief, knew the last run of this legendary muscle car would make the perfect vehicle to satisfy his need for speed and style. But a garden-variety ’02 wasn’t going to cut it, so he ordered up an SS with every option available from GM and SLP.

“I’ll never forget that rainy August night in 2002,” Reminisces Gary. “When I went to pick up my new prized possession from the dealer, I couldn’t help but notice the downpour had become increasingly fierce as I walked closer to the car.” Gary shrugged it off as coincidence. After all, nothing, not even a relentless summer downpour could ruin the excitement of taking home a brand new factory hot rod. Well…nothing except maybe Murpy’s law.

Camp 0905 11 2002 Chevy Camaro Ss Exterior Cowl Gauges 3/22

An overrated superstition? Maybe. At least that’s what Gary thought until an eventual series of unfortunate incidences led him to believe Old Man Murphy’s spirit had somehow been riding shotgun on a number of occasions. With the front bumper being ripped off by a negligent driver, an uncommon broken stud in the head during a head change, a flex plate showing cracks near every bolt hole, and a number of unexplainable mishaps on the 2004 Hot Rod Power Tour, most anyone would be convinced this car was born under a bad sign. Fortunately Karma (the good kind) had other ideas-for one, leaving Murphy, and anyone else who dare go head-to-head with Gary’s stout fourth-gen, in the proverbial dust.

We first noticed Gary’s ’02 as it sat silently awaiting battle in the staging lanes during the 2008 LSX Shootout at the Memphis Motorsports Park. Even among its nasty peers, the blinding red paint and aggressive stance just made the car stand out above the rest. It looked absolutely sinister, and downright badass.

With the drag strip its home, the familiar straight-line territory plays easily into Gary’s hands. As the light turned green, the Camaro launched violently. We watched in amazement as the rear wheels made minced meat of the first 660-feet of the quarter mile and the front wheels, only briefly, addressed the asphalt between first and second gears. Wrestling the over 590 horsepower for the remainder of the run, Gary crossed the traps in 10.68 seconds at 123 miles per hour. Needless to say, this Camaro is one bad hombre.

Camp 0905 17 2002 Chevy Camaro Ss Front Headlights 4/22

Hardly the car Gary started with, the F-body has gone through a number of transformations and upgrades in its relatively short life. “The sole purpose of building this car was to produce a Camaro that would look good and perform outstanding,” Gary states. “Being the last production year of the Camaro, I wanted to give it a menacing stance and adequate muscle to back up the General Motors tradition and preserve the Camaro’s legacy. And even though the car has over 500 horsepower, it was important to me that the car retain some sense of street manners.”

Gary credits Madman and Company Racing for installing the suspension, mini-tubs, and rollcage. They also narrowed the Moser 9-inch rearend 6-inches, then stuffed it with a Detroit Locker and 4.71:1 cogs. Finish Line Transmissions mated up their level 5, 4L65E to the 346 ci of LS1 madness.

Camp 0905 01 2002 Chevy Camaro Ss Passenger Side View 11/22

Engine assembly and tuning duties were left in the competent hands of Futral Motorsports. They bolted up a pair of Meaux Racing-massaged AFR 225 aluminum heads and hung a set of Diamond 10.8:1 pistons on the Manley rods. Fural’s .239/.243 duration and .612/.648 lift custom ground cam ensures appropriately-timed LS power.

The stock GM fuel injectors work in concert with the FAST 90mm intake and Nick Williams throttle body, while the CarbonFiber Whisper air cleaner houses a K&N element.

With increased air intake, the spent greenhouse need a quick path of exit, so Kooks 1 3/4-inch headers handle the task in conjunction with the Magnaflow catback exhaust system, Futral’s Y-pipe and 3.5-inch cutouts, and Stainless Works 3-inch CME tips.

Camp 0905 12 2002 Chevy Camaro Ss Engine Compartment 12/22

BMR’s tubular A-arms, along with QA-1’s two-inch lowering springs and adjustable shocks ensure the extra strength necessary to handle the wheels-up launches Gary dishes out on a regular basis. Thanks to the AFCO springs and Strange adjustable shocks, the rear end gladly accepts 2-inches of decreased altitude and increased strength.

The five-spoke wheel has enjoyed decades of acceptance on just about every style of car; be it a Drag Racer, Street Machine, Pro Street, or Pro Touring Camaro, and the Billet Specialties Street Lites are no exception. In fact, the 15x3.5-inch wheels up front compliment Gary’s fourth-gen as effortlessly as they would on a classic first-gen. The same can be said for the 15x10-inchers out back. And it’s no accident that Mickey Thompson rubber is wrapped on all four corners. After all, it takes a quality tire to get a grip when Gary summons all 500 ponies at once.

It’s serious business in the cockpit, and the combination of stock interior parts, woven together with race-inspired components keep Gary in-the-know during quarter-mile bursts and every-day driving situations. Autometer’s Pro Comp gauges and Granatelli 200mph speedometer adorn the dash, while the Grant 633 Formula GT steering wheel, with quick-release hub, provide Gary with driving confidence and comfortable ergonomics for those white-knuckle, quarter-mile sessions.

Camp 0905 16 2002 Chevy Camaro Ss Dragstrip Take Off 13/22

Randall Quick fitted and sprayed the aftermarket hood, carefully matching The General’s existing Bright Rally Red pigment. He also rolled the rear’s inner fender lips to make room for the bulbous drag radials.

As with all drag guys, the search for lower elapsed times is a never-ending task; but it’s one that Gary is up to tackle. In fact, he’ll be replacing AFR heads with a set of All Pro LS-2’s, and the FLT Level 5 will make room for a TH400; soon to be accompanied by a hefty dose of nitrous.

The way this ’02 is shaping up, it’s safe to say Muphy’s Law will never stand a chance, especially with Karma at the helm.

And according to of Staff Sergeant Gary Taillon, “This should be one hell of a ride!”


Gary Taillon took the opportunity to get a '02 Chevy Camaro SS before GM stopped making the legendary muscle car.
May 5, 2009


Connect With Us

Get Latest News and Articles. Newsletter Sign Up

subscribe to the magazine

get digital get print