It’s not often that we get the chance to get all artsy-fartsy in a hardcore gearhead magazine like Camaro Performers. But there’s no denying that car building is its own art form. Ask Ben Abrams, born into a family of collectors — mostly art in the “proper” sense — whose traditional ideas have made the leap to four-wheeled exhibitions. “The cars take on the spirit of their builders,” he told us. “It’s similar to looking at a painting and seeing the soul of the painter.” And thus we interrupt the CP-style Art History lesson, because in the name of all that’s holy, we’re talking about a ’69 Camaro that’s packing 2,000 hp in an 800-rpm idling, A/C-blasting street cruiser that can go from Jekyll to Hyde on your ass with the twist of a knob and a stomp on the loud pedal. Need some perspective? The fuel-injected, twin-turbo, 572ci big-block Nelson Racing Engines Hot Rod Series powerplant under the hood makes substantially more peak power than the Allison V-12 put in the legendary P40 Warhawk fighter plane. Forget the .50-caliber machine guns, this thing flies fast enough to be terrifying without them.
Abrams already had a collection of about 25 cars, including such exotica as a Koenigsegg CCX (Top Gear fans know its handling prowess well) and a Shelby Super Cars (SSC) Ultimate Aero, capable of 257 mph. He confesses that the Camaro was a perfectly good 600hp ride when he got it, saying, “I didn’t need to do it, but that’s what I do; I go over the top.” Let’s not be coy here: “it” is all about the exquisitely crafted engine under the hood. Abrams didn’t take any half measures to achieve his vision, sending the car to Chatsworth, California–based Nelson Racing Engines for a major F-body re-composition. Tom Nelson relates the mission his patron of the arts handed down: “The idea was to build a car that you could start up and drive like a normal car, with the classic styling of a ’69 Camaro. And we wanted to have massive power, so we put a 572 twin-turbo Hot Rod Series engine in that makes 2,000 hp (800 more than anything else Ben owns) but can still be driven in traffic and lugged around at 1,200 rpm while the A/C is on. We wanted it to be able to go around a corner and stop well — so this is what we came up with.” Indeed.
The all-new NRE underhood creation was thoroughly built to handle the rigors of twin-turbo heat and quadruple-digit horsepower levels. The bottom end is fitted with a custom NRE 8-quart oil pan incorporating a 2-inch kickout and a high-volume Titan Speed Engineering gerotor-style pump, with oil cooling handled by an Earl’s unit. But the real foundation consists of a Dart 10.2-inch deck block with a 4.5-inch bore, filled with a Callies Magnum 4340 forged crank swinging 6.585-inch Oliver 4340 billet con rods through a 4.50-inch stroke. They’re topped with JE forged pistons fitted with Hell Fire rings that create an 8.8:1 compression ratio. A billet, NRE top-secret-spec mechanical roller camshaft utilizes a larger 55mm core (which allows more aggressive lift specs while maintaining stability), and bumps upsized .904-inch lifters and Smith Brothers pushrods. COMP roller rockers activate titanium valves in Brodix BB-3 xTRA lungs. NRE fully CNC ports the heads, but Nelson told us that, “we’re not after every last horsepower, it’s about reliability and heat transfer.” And when you’re making 1,400 hp and 1,295 lb-ft of torque at “only” 14 psi of boost, you probably don’t need to chase every last pony.