1994 Chevy Camaro Grand Sport - Grand Slam

Ralph Sotello's Adventures In Motoring.

Mike Bumbeck Jul 16, 2009 0 Comment(s)
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"All show and no go" is the kind of car that Ralph Sotello would never make. Nope. Ralph comes from the "look stock and clean clocks" school of thought. The Ralph Sotello Grand Sport Camaro is the one that Chevrolet never built. It's reengineered to specifications that bump the stroked LT1 to a reliable 520 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque. While those real-world numbers may not make a four figures cover story of Dyno Test Monthly, the reality of Ralph's '94 Grand Sport Camaro is that he built his car for driving in a modern world. Ralph says his version of the legendary Chevy gets 22-24 miles per gallon and is 100 percent emissions legal-even passing the California Republic sniffer test.

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Grand Slam Ralph is no stranger to road-going V-8 performance. His roots drift all the way back to the '70s and the "SS Stockers" car club of Oxnard, California. Legend has it that Ralph and fellow SS Stockers pulled a fast one on the local high school's '75-76 homecoming parade organizers, when they entered their cars in the parade as floats. The resulting mess of uncorked headers, high-rpm rear tire spin on the red surface of the running track surrounding the football field led to the crew getting prematurely turned out of the parade. Needless to say, the genuine floats ended up a little more dusty red than when the parade started.

This earlier experience combined with a subsequent race boat and drag racing experience reshaped Ralph's performance-oriented activities in a different direction.

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One of the many things he learned over the years is that one thing always leads to another. The horrible and untold truth in modifying cars of any kind to go faster, handle better, and turn more heads, is that a change in one place almost always effects the whole. Performance isn't a trick of the week, and one size definitely does not fit all. Something that works great on one car won't work for beans on the next, and can cause all sorts of problems even when it does work. Newfound horsepower can introduce a host of newfound problems, especially when the cylinders really do start kicking out the jams.

Performance is easy right? Before you can say "raise my interest rate," you can have a plastic box with a fancy engine in it delivered to your garage. Even after spending all manner of time and money getting the mill installed and running right, there are sure to be other problems in wait. Driving through the clutch is usually one of the early discoveries, followed by engine mounts blown apart, and whine or howl coming from the transmission that keeps getting louder for some reason. And that clunk from the rear gears oh wait. What rear gears? Newton said, more or less, that for every action there is an equal or opposite reaction. Newton has a few other laws that may also apply to building Camaros. Ralph swiftly took some of those laws into account when he built his Grand Sport Camaro.

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Ralph's Camaro is a nod to the legendary Grand Sport Corvette factory racers from the sixties, and the more closely related '96 Grand Sport Corvette. Ralph himself modified this particular example to be as drivable as if the factory had manufactured it. The heart of the matter is the 383 cubic inches of LT1 engine.

While Ralph assembled the engine, the machine work was entrusted to Ken's Automotive Machine in neighboring Ventura, California. With the engine sorted, the 4L60E transmission was beefed up with uprated clutches, bearings, valve bodies and pump. Ralph assembled the rear differential with a set of 3.42 slant cogs and genuine GM Performance limited slip goods. Connecting the LT1 and the stout differential is a stock driveline balanced for smooth operation at Silver State Classic speeds.

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The one-inch front and two-inch rear suspension drop comes by way of a set of Suspension Techniques coils for just the right attitude and handling. The stock GM 16x8-inch wheels are shod with Z-rated 245/50 Sumitomo tires. Stock 11.5-inch brakes scrub off any built up velocity. New Vehicle Auto Restoration in Oxnard, California, bathed the Camaro in a PPG Medium Quartz Blue Metallic with the red fender hash marks - a nod to the stripes that signified numbers on the original '63 Corvette Grand Sports out on the track and the '96 GS Corvette. Tinted windows wrap up the appearance package.

Ralph says he occasionally toys with the Corvette crowd to show them what his Camaro can do, but after listening to the 12:1 compression engine, the local Z06 owners know it's best not to mess.

Even though the Grand Sport Camaro is one they never built, Ralph Sotello built this one. In fact, he plans on building a few dozen more just like it.


Ralph Sotello could be the first person to build 1994 Camaro "Grand Sport", yes that's right, with a LT1 engine and all.
Mike Bumbeck Jul 16, 2009


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