With the fifth-gen Camaro making its debut in the spring of 2009, the aftermarket was completely taken by surprise by the enthusiasm of the new breed of Camaro owners who were instantly willing to rip off many of the stock components in favor of bolt-on performance upgrades. Early on, it was obvious that the typical day-two wheel, tire, and exhaust upgrades would be first to happen. And that was the case, but what took most everyone by surprise was the fact that many new Camaro owners didn't hesitate to bolt on superchargers before the ink on the title had dried. That's a good thing, 'cause those who had dreams of turning the portly late-model hot rod into a serious performer were dealing with a major weight disadvantage, but the hardcore Camaro enthusiasts were up to the challenge and willing to attack with a vengeance. In stock form, the automatic trans car comes in at a little over 3,900 pounds. Add on a supercharger and we're talking two tons of fun. Sure, with a blower the car feels quite a bit lighter, but it's still a heifer compared to its lighter, more nimble rivals in the staging lanes.
It was going to take a lot more than a "minor" weight disadvantage to keep Francis Johns away from the Camaro. "I was looking at the fifth-gen Camaro as an eye-catching hot rod that would allow me to build a 10-second, reliable street car," says Francis. The week he took delivery of his Camaro was probably the most memorable seven days of his life. Besides purchasing the Camaro in August of 2009, he opened up FJ Performance in Export, Pennsylvania, to showcase what his shop was all about, and he celebrated his 23rd birthday-a busy week, indeed.
At that time there wasn't as many aftermarket parts available for the fifth-gen like there are today, so he was commissioned to prototype parts for quite a few companies. This worked out great for Francis as it kept his shop on the forefront of the late-model Camaro scene; having these new parts debut on his Camaro didn't hurt, either.
Being a drag guy, Francis first ran the car in stock form, and all the way up to where it is today. "We started out running low 13s in the quarter-mile, and got into the high 12s with just bolt-ons," says Francis. "Once we installed the Magnacharger 2300 kit, it propelled the car to 12-second e.t.'s at 120 mph on stock tires and wheels."
A few more upgrades, including a smaller 3.6-inch pulley, an AEM water/meth injection kit, and some minor weight loss incentives, resulted in 11.3-second quarter-mile times at 124 mph. At this point the car was dishing out 580 hp to the tires. Was Francis happy at this point? Almost.
There's only so much horsepower a stock Camaro drivetrain can take, so from that point on, the weak links began to cause issues. Due to the confines of space on these pages, we can't possibly list all the carnage, but there was plenty. Many fixes and a few more upgrades later advanced the car to 657 hp and 668 lb-ft of torque to the tires!
Francis and the crew at FJ Performance realized the limiting factor of the stock heads, so they dove in and bolted up a set of Precision Race Components LS3/L92 CNC heads with 0.675 lift springs. No cam specs were listed on the tech sheet; all we know is that the gang at Texas Speed Grind whittled a custom stick. The aforementioned Magnacharger is set at 7 pounds of boost, while twin 044 Bosch fuel pumps ensure the mill stays quenched during high-rpm escapades.
American Racing Headers command the spent fuel through the 2-inch primaries down to a custom X-pipe configuration finally dumping into a set of SLP Loud Mouth 3-inch mufflers.