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1987 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z - Old Blue

Laura Wilson’s ’87 IROC-Z is Far From Your Average “Chick” Car

Matthew Jones Jan 9, 2013
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Going against the grain is generally a bad idea, but it’s the danger and excitement of doing the opposite of what society–and our friends—expect us to do that proudly defines us as car guys. Or in this instance, “car girl” would be the correct term as this immaculate ’87 not only belongs to a girl, but one who would be classified as a total “car freak” by today’s khaki pants, polo shirt-wearing culture we’ve been overly exposed to lately. Fitting in might be good for some people, but not Laura Wilson.

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Let’s start by going back to when this budding hot rodder purchased the car. “It was July 25, 1990, and I was just 18 years old. I traded my ’88 Toyota MR-2, which was the perfect ’80’s ‘girl car,’ for a blue 1987 IROC-Z Camaro,” remembers Laura. “The Camaro had 45,000 miles on it and was a one-owner Texas car. This was the most special car to me, but my friends and family all hated it. They all told me I should have never gotten rid of ‘my cute chick car.’ Needless to say, I highly disagreed. Besides, it was too late to turn back.”

Relying on the IROC as a daily driver for a few years, Laura soon realized it didn’t make a good “winter car,” and it gradually became her “good-weather” car. What started out as a simple paint, graphics, and wheel and tire swap, turned into a complex build taking years to complete.

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“My husband, Todd, was building show-winning cars and I was done sitting ‘shotgun’—I wanted my own ride,” recalls Laura. “It wasn’t long before my car was beating Todd’s in car shows. Suddenly, my friends decided that maybe I did make the right decision by trading my Toyota for the Camaro.”

At this point the car was pretty nice, but there was definitely room for improvement. With her hubby’s experience in piecing together quality, show-winning cars, he’d—for the most part—be in charge of the build, up to a point, anyway. “I got really tired of the old blue paint and was looking forward to getting the car redone in bright yellow,” admits Laura. “Todd, being the classic male, would have built the car with more cam, more converter, and more gear … I had to dial him back just a bit.”

The husband and wife duo got busy and together began assembly on the L98. Relying on the factory bore and stroke, the engine retained its original 350ci displacement. Keeping with a heavy dose of OE internals, the crankshaft, 10.25:1 pistons, and rods are all off-the-shelf GM goods. The Corvette L98 aluminum heads were treated to a good porting (bowls and runners), and a COMP Cams Xtreme FI roller comes in at .534/.529 lift and duration of 218/224 with a lobe separation of 113. Manley race flow SS valves and Crane LT1 valvesprings and locks converge with Summit billet roller rockers and COMP Cams high-energy pushrods.

It all sounds relatively tame until you follow the additional braided lines, which reveal Todd’s secret weapon: a 150hp NOS Fogger system.

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A Holley Stealth Ram intake armed with Holley fuel rails, Accel 24lb fuel injectors, and Holley 58mm throttle body induce the madness, and Hedman Elite Series ceramic-coated 15/8-inch primaries with 3-inch collectors force the tumultuous disturbance through a Catco 3-inch cat converter; or if Laura is in the mood to get loud, she’ll flip open the 3-inch electric cutouts. A 3-inch stainless steel exhaust system with Flowmaster mufflers finish the deal. The reward for the whole enchilada is 400 hp to the tires—sans juice.

Todd’s idea to harness the power comes by way of GM 700-R4 transmission with a TCI Breakaway 3,000-stall converter and Trans Go shift kit. A Driveline Shop driveshaft hands off the twist to a Borg Warner 9-bolt rearend, in which the 3.89 cogs and limited-slip call home.

Todd and Laura not only focused on performance with this build; aesthetics played a major role as well. The engine bay features more chrome and polished aluminum bits usually reserved for a first-gen show car, but this is Laura’s ride and she likes her stuff looking good. Mission accomplished thanks to the now defunct Advanced Plating in Republic, Missouri. Still in business, though, is Advanced Plating in Nashville, Tennessee. They did the plating on the intake and a few of the ancillaries.

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To tidy up the stance, Eibach Sportline Springs bring the car down about 2 inches all around and Lakewood rear control arms strengthen up the rear and are accompanied by KYB non-adjustable shocks to keep the ride in check. A 13/8-inch sway bar up front and a 7/8-inch rear bar keep body roll to a minimum, and Todd welded in a set of subframe connectors to manage the twist. Keeping it all in line is an adjustable Lakewood Panhard rod.

The stock IROC 10.5-inch discs handle stopping duties, while the Race Star Industries wheels (15x3.5 up front, 15x10 rear) are shod in Mickey Thompson Sportsman Radials all around (24x5-15 front, 28x12-15 rear).

The IROC’s interior plays homage to its roots where only the B&M shifter, Auto Meter gauges, Grant steering wheel, and a few unmarked buttons and switches lead on to some crafty go-fast wizardry wired in by Todd. Being the original seats were toast, Laura fancied a set of leather pieces from a ’99 Z28.

Laura’s “old school,” (her words) sound system features a Pioneer CD head unit powered by a pair of Coustic amps; one 4x60 and one 6x50 watt RMS. Altec Lansing tweeters and mids are strategically placed throughout and two 8-inch and two 15-inch Kicker subs provide ample bass when Laura’s favorite ’80’s band leads her through another solid Top 40 hit. She’s not afraid to twist the volume knob hard right when the ideal CD provides the perfect soundtrack to this stellar ’80’s-era hot rod.

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With the solid foundation fully in check, Todd showed more of his automotive mastery and executed the glass-like bodywork, then loaded his gun with DuPont Hot Hues Smooth Yellow and sprayed the Camaro’s exterior to a candy-coated brilliance.

He then bolted on a host of tasty aftermarket goodies including a Sports Car Concept SS Ram Air hood, APC 3-inch chrome driving lights, and a rear bumper emblem originally reserved for black Z28s. Custom nuances include an IROC rear spoiler with an additional 21/2-inch sweep in which Todd snuck a recessed third brake light. Not quite done, Todd shaved the IROC emblems from the rocker panel, grille, and nose.

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If ever there was a standard for third-gen builds, this ’87 IROC might just be the template for more to take notice. And with imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, Laura Wilson’s Camaro is definitely worth stealing a few ideas from. That is, if you want your Camaro to look and drive as good as this gem.

“It all sounds relatively tame until you realize those additional braided lines reveal Todd’s secret weapon: a 150hp NOS Fogger system.”



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