Just a few short years ago, GM announced the return of America's favorite muscle car: the Camaro. No doubt every enthusiast was hopeful that the fifth-generation Camaro would offer more muscle and style than where its predecessor left off in 2002. That being said, the car would have to be something very special, since the fourth-generation SS's were certainly no slouches in the horsepower department. The SS was conservatively rated at 325 tire-shredding hp, but big power alone wasn't enough to lift the Camaro's declining sales numbers. Were Americans getting tired of late-model muscle cars, or were they just tired of the Camaro?
That question was answered in 2009 when GM offered Camaro enthusiasts a new top-notch hot rod with tons of horsepower and a restyling overhaul that featured retro cues from its distant, first-generation cousin. Those features, combined with the handling and functionality of a late-model sports car, and it was obvious the Camaro was back-and sales have proven so.
Jerry Noonan is a late-model Camaro guy through and through. He has a number of special edition fourth-gens in his garage that include some serious Berger/GMMG monsters. In fact, his '02 GMMG-built Dick Harrell Edition Camaro Supercar graced the cover of our August 2007 issue. If you remember that cover image (massive burnout photo), you'll realize this guy drives his cars like he stole 'em.
With the '10 production Camaro finally available, Jerry knew he'd have to have one in his garage, but it would need to be something special. "I knew within a short period of time a huge number of car builders would be coming out with upgrade packages for the new Camaro, but I was curious to see how they would compare to the Berger upgraded cars. With Berger's long history in the Camaro performance world, they would be hard to beat. While bouncing around on the Internet one morning, my wife walked by and noticed what I was up to and said, 'Just get it from Berger. You're happy with the other cars.' She was right, so I called Matt Berger and Dick Jacques at Berger Chevrolet in Grand Rapids, Michigan."
Informed that Berger would only be building 20 Camaros for 2010, Jerry wanted in. He went for the standard upgrade package knowing there would be color change involved, too. The difficult decision then became figuring out exactly what color to go with. Owner of Noonan's Auto Center in Monroe Township, New Jersey, Jerry is very particular about the looks and quality of his hot rods, so he and his son Michael, who happens to own a couple Camaros himself, went back and forth discussing what color combination would best fit the car. In a past life Jerry was a Corvette guy and, in his mind, there was something about Jet Stream Blue (a Corvette color) that he thought would look great on his new Camaro. It was settled.
With the upgrade process in full swing, Berger's two top painters, Chris Wirgau and Keith Wilkerson, expertly applied the Dupont waterborn pigment. The custom black SS stripes and blacked-out tail panel converted Jerry's garden-variety black 2SS paintjob into a standout, personalized scheme. The Berger ensemble also includes SS fender badges, a Berger numbered dash plaque, a "Prescribed by Berger" engine compartment decal, a chrome "By Berger" rear emblem, and a few other tasty nuggets that set it apart from the masses.
Ripe pickings for a Magnuson 2300 TVS supercharger, the 376ci LS7 comes in at 10.7:1 compression. GM rates the stock horsepower numbers at 426, but with the aftermarket huffer bolted on, this bad boy produces a stout 610 to the flywheel-an easy 184 hp jump. Translated to a chassis dyno, and we're talking a cool 524 hp to the tires. That'll bump the excite-o-meter up a few ticks.
Staying in tune with the Berger exhaust setup, Jerry skipped the long tube route and went with the stainless cat-back H-pipe-configured chambered system. It keeps to itself on the low rpm side, but has no problem announcing the Camaro's presence when he hammers the loud pedal.
For the Berger SS Stage II suspension program, Pedders' progressive rate springs and adjustable coilover shocks take up residence on all four corners. The stock Brembo binders on 14-inch rotors easily get the job done and are nestled comfortably behind the Forgeline SO3S three-piece rollers (20x9.5 front, 20x10.5 rear) decked out in a polished finish. A custom-machined center cap features the '10 SS logo. Pirelli P Zero rubber provide plenty of grip (274/40 R20 front, 305/35 R20 rear) while the Pedders front and rear sway bars keep the Camaro on the level. Urethane radius rod and rear subframe bushings ensure extra cornering support and confirm handling stability.
The interior retains a mostly stock format with only the Hurst Billet/Plus 2 short-throw shifter breaking up the norm. It's an old-school touch that enables Jerry to row through all six forward gears in quick fashion.
Completely happy with the outcome, the only change Jerry would have gone with is to add a houndstooth interior. "I like the idea of combining modern and retro as long as it's done tastefully," said Jerry. "Overall, I think Chevy did a great job with the fifth-gen Camaro-Berger just made it better."