Thanks to the introduction of the LS1 in the late '90s, and the enormous family of LS engines available today, it may seem pointless to revert to old-style small-blocks in the search of power. However, the proven design and affordability of the small-block Chevy is enough to keep interest alive and well, especially for drag racers. As for Mike Farley, he admits to being a "big-block guy" but the small-block in his '99 Camaro certainly gets the job done.
Mike is from Dunlap, Tennessee, and he considers I-40 Dragway his home track, as it's located just up the road in Crossville, Tennessee. The highlight event for the local eighth-mile track is the Bounty Race, a monthly outlaw street car event that brings in lots of wicked-fast machines. Mike competes in the Cheap Street class, which has a minimum weight of 3,200 pounds for small-block cars and requires the use of 28x10.5 (or smaller) tires. For nitrous-fed cars like Mike's, the rules forbid multiple stages and require a nitrous feed line of no larger than AN-4, which puts a limit on how much nitrous is used. Mike does lots of testing with his Camaro and it's paid off, as he's a strong force in the Cheap Street class.
In early 2009, Mike found the car locally and it was completely stripped-a perfect candidate for a drag car. After paying $200 for the hull, he dragged it to his shop and began the transformation. He started by installing a PA Racing tubular K-member and then a set of PA Racing tubular control arms to shed a few pounds off the nose. A pair of QA1 coilovers helps transfer weight to the rear tires, and offers vast adjustability to dial in the launch. Another weight-saving measure is the Aerospace brakes up front, which feature drilled, thin-wall rotors and billet aluminum four-piston calipers. Rolling stock consists of Billet Specialties Street Lite wheels, measuring 15x3.5 up front and 15x10 out back, wrapped in Mickey Thompson racing rubber. The ET front tires come in at 25x4.5, while the ET Drag rears are 28x10.5.
Mike has built many drag cars but this one relies on stock suspension in order to meet the Cheap Street rules. To accommodate the rear slicks, he mini-tubbed the car but left the original rear framerails and suspension mounting points intact. Then he tied the chassis together and added an SFI-spec 25.2 rollcage from Wolfe Racecraft, which is made from chrome-moly tubing. Mike's friend, Phillip Barras, handled all of the welding duties on the Camaro. Mike also upgraded to a Burkhart fabricated rearend housing, which is set up for the torque arm rear suspension. Bolted to the housing is a Moser aluminum centersection, which features a 4.10 gear set and a pair of Moser gun-drilled 40-spline axles. Another pair of Aerospace brakes rides on each side of the well-equipped rearend and helps bring this F-body to a halt, while the Hal springs and QA1 shocks assist in the traction department.
Making horsepower isn't always easy, especially when there are lots of guidelines and rules for a specific racing class. Mike started by purchasing a short-block from Ohio Crankshaft, which consists of a forged rotating assembly, balanced and assembled inside a cast- iron block. Displacing 434 ci, the small-block features 6-inch Ohio connecting rods and a set of Ross pistons, built for nitrous abuse and 18-degree cylinder heads. Atop the block is a pair of Brodix 18X heads, which flow 320 cfm out of the box. Underneath the fabricated aluminum valve covers is a stud girdle and a set of COMP Cams roller rocker arms to control the enormous Manley valves. A Brodix HV single plane intake manifold draws fuel and air from the Barry Grant 1,000-cfm Race Demon carburetor, as well as a healthy dose of nitrous oxide.
A steady supply of C16 race fuel comes from a Summit 4-gallon fuel cell, thanks to a BG400 electric fuel pump, while an MSD ignition system lights the fire in the 68cc combustion chambers. Outgoing air travels through a set of Lemons headers and into the 4-inch exhaust system, complete with Bullet racing mufflers. Mike relied on Steve Johnson at Induction Solutions for a killer nitrous system to squeeze every ounce of power out of the single stage, so he's legal for Cheap Street. Mike puts it to the ground with a Powerglide transmission equipped with a Pro Tree transbrake, a ten-clutch drum and PTC 5,500-rpm stall converter. The owner-built transmission sends power to the rearend with a custom 31/2-inch driveshaft from Hudlow Axle.
Along with the undeniable performance abilities, this Camaro features a paintjob that rivals most show cars. When Mike found the car, it was totally stripped, so he replaced the doors, fenders, bumpers, and hatch to bring it back to life. He then added a 6-inch Sunoco cowl-induction hood, which is the only modification to the Camaro's body. Mike painted the car at his shop in Dunlap, using PPG Hugger Orange basecoat for the body and bright white for the stripes. From start to finish, he spent four months on the buildup, and just because this car spends most of its time on the dragstrip doesn't mean it's strictly a race car. All of the lights work, and it's fully capable of street driving-in fact, Mike drove the car to the photo shoot location.
Inside, the Camaro is far from stock, but it has carpet, a full dash, and the original console. Mike installed a pair of aluminum Kirkey race seats, while Lee Burge handled most of the other interior work. Auto Meter gauges mount to a custom panel and replace the original cluster, while two switch panels replace the heater controls and stereo. You won't find many creature comforts in this driver's compartment, only the essentials to going fast.
Mike unveiled the Camaro in May 2009 and tested continuously in preparation for the upcoming events. Like most cars, there were a few issues to figure out, but it didn't take long for him to win back-to-back Bounty Races in Cheap Street trim. At the July event, he certainly put on a show on his way to victory, as he dragged the back bumper over 100 feet down track in the semifinals and was still able to win the race. The August race proved to be an easy victory for Mike, as he turned up the wick and gained three-tenths, making his fastest elapsed time 5.561 seconds. That's definitely impressive for a 3,250-pound car with only one stage of nitrous. Mike said the buildup wouldn't have been possible without the help of friends, Phillip Barras, Lee Burge, Mike Sims, and Rick Weatherbee. It was also nice to have the support of his wife, Melinda, and daughter, Ashley, throughout the process. And while most enthusiasts are stuffing LS1 engines in old Camaros, Mike did just the opposite and came up with a killer combination.